If you’re taking on any staff, it’s important to use proper contracts to define your relationship and safeguard your business. If you’re hiring casual workers, this is particularly important because you’re legally required to provide them with certain basic terms of their employment on or before their first day of work. This guide explains what a casual contract is, what terms it should include and provides a casual contract template that is customisable to your business and your new hire.
- Casual contracts
- What to include in a casual contract
- What information must I give new casual workers when they join my business?
- Can I ban my casual workers from working for anyone else in a casual contract?
- Can I insist my casual workers accept any work that I offer them?
- What rights do casual workers have?
- How do I ensure I do not discriminate against my casual worker?
What is a casual contract?
It’s a contract used to engage a casual or zero hours worker. Casual or zero hours workers are typically used where the demands of your business fluctuate from time to time. For example, you might have a delivery company and need a bank of drivers you can call upon depending on how busy your business is, or you might engage casual workers for a one-off job. If you make no promises about offering a minimum amount of work to a casual worker (eg per month or per week), your casual contract will be a zero hours contract. In this situation, you must not try to stop your staff member from working for another business (see below). A casual contract might also be called a casual worker contract or a zero hours contract.
Do I need to use a casual contract?
You are legally required to provide every casual worker with a written statement of the basic terms of their employment (eg pay, hours, holidays) on or before their first day of work (see below for guidance about what information you need to provide). If you fail to do this, your casual worker can apply to the Employment Tribunal for a finding of what their basic terms of employment are and compensation, which can be time consuming and expensive to deal with. These written terms do not have to be in the form of a worker's contract, although in practice it will be helpful for you to use one to provide all the required information. Equally, it is helpful to ensure that the casual worker is engaged on a contract which clearly explains the commercial agreement you have reached with them (for example, how you will offer them work and what they will be paid when they do work) and has wording in it to protect your business (such as confidentiality obligations and wording to make clear that both you and the casual worker intend that they are a casual worker and not an employee). Note that casual workers also have the right not to be discriminated against (see below for what you need to be aware of).
How do I create a casual contract?
- Select our casual contract template
- Fill in the questionnaire to customise the contract to your new hire
- Download your completed contract
- Ensure that the contract is signed properly by your casual worker and someone on behalf of your company
- Give a copy to your casual worker and retain a signed copy for your records
- Ensure your new casual worker sends you back the completed New Joiner Form attached to the template contract before they start working for you
What to include in a casual contract
What information must I give new casual workers when they join my business?
You must give your casual worker a written statement of certain terms of employment on or before their first day of work.
The law only requires basic information to be given; it does not require all the terms and conditions between you and your casual worker to be written down (although in reality, this is best practice).
Our template casual contract contains all of the information you are required to provide as well as additional terms and conditions it is sensible to include.
The following are the minimum particulars that you must give in writing to your casual worker:
- the names of the employer and worker;
- the date the engagement starts;
- how much the worker will be paid, or how their pay will be calculated, and how regularly they will be paid (eg weekly or monthly);
- hours of work, including what their normal working hours will be, which days of the week and whether these hours or days vary (and if so, how);
- holiday entitlement and holiday pay (including their public holiday entitlement);
- the worker’s job title or a brief description of the work;
- place of work (if the worker will work in various places, this must to be stated along with the employer’s address);
- terms about absence due to incapacity and sick pay (you can refer the worker to other documents for these details if it is easier eg your staff handbook or absence policy document);
- details about any other paid leave the worker is entitled to (besides sickness and holiday pay) (you can refer the worker to other documents for these details if it is easier eg your staff handbook);
- the notice period that the worker must give to end their employment and the notice that you must give them if you want to do so (you can simply say that your notice periods are those required by law if you are happy to adopt the legal minimums);
- terms as to pensions and pension schemes (you can refer the worker to other documents for these details if it is easier and this information can be provided within two months of your worker’s start date, rather than immediately);
- terms relating to whether the worker may be required to work outside the UK for a period of more than one month, including how long it will be for, and additional benefits they will receive in compensation for working abroad, the currency in which they will be paid and any terms dealing with their return to the UK;
- if the contract is temporary, how long it is expected to last and when it will end;
- information about disciplinary and grievance procedures or where these can be found, saying who they can appeal to if they want to appeal a disciplinary decision and who they can raise a grievance with. Note that this information can be provided within two months of your worker’s start date rather than immediately. You should be cautious about subjecting your casual workers to your formal disciplinary and grievances procedures (which will typically be contained in a staff handbook) and only do so to the extent that it is appropriate for you to do so, as this can lead to an implication that they are your employees rather than casual workers. Consider instead including basic information in their contract, reserving the right to apply your formal procedures where appropriate;
- details of any collective agreements with trade unions directly affecting the worker’s engagement eg an agreement reached by trade union representatives for a pay increase (you can refer the worker to other documents for these details if it is easier and this information can be provided within two months of their start date rather than immediately);
- details of any other benefits not specifically mentioned above;
- information about any probationary period, including any conditions attached to it and how long it lasts; and
- details of any training entitlement, including whether it is mandatory and whether you will pay for it. Note that you are permitted to provide details about any non-mandatory training in a separate document if this is easier and that information can be provided within two months of your worker’s start date, rather than immediately.
Note that, if you do not have any terms to set out on any of these subjects (apart from in relation to your disciplinary and grievance procedures), you must state that there are none rather than omitting any mention.
Can I ban my casual workers from working for anyone else in a casual contract?
If your casual workers are on zero hours contracts (ie you do not guarantee they will be offered any minimum amount of working hours), you cannot legally ban them from working for other businesses as well as yours. It may be tempting to insist that your casual workers can only work for you, especially if they sometimes refuse your offers of work because they are engaged by another business. However, you cannot legally enforce any provision in your contracts that requires your casual worker to only work for you, or even to seek your approval before working elsewhere.
Beware that if you do treat a casual worker differently because they have undertaken work for others by not offering them any further work, they can bring a claim against you in the Employment Tribunal. The Tribunal can award them compensation if the claim is proved.
Can I insist my casual workers accept any work that I offer them?
If you require your casual workers to accept any work you offer them, they are highly likely to have the legal status of employees rather than casual workers, with all the enhanced rights against you that it entails. For example, employees have rights to minimum notice periods before dismissal and can bring a claim against you in the Employment Tribunal if you dismiss them unfairly. Note that it does not matter if your contract refers to the person as a casual worker. It is the substance of the arrangement between you that matters.
Our casual contract template makes it clear that your business is under no obligation to offer any work, nor is your casual worker under any obligation to accept work offered.
What rights do casual workers have?
Casual workers have fewer rights than employees, for example they don’t have the right to a minimum notice period (other than what’s contained in their contract with you) or the right to claim unfair dismissal. However, they do still have some important employment rights that you must be aware of (eg the right to paid holiday and sick pay) and the right not to be discriminated against (see below).
For further guidance about what rights casual workers have under employment law, see our Q&A on Casual workers including zero hours workers.
How do I ensure I do not discriminate against my casual worker?
You must make sure that the casual contract does not discriminate against your casual workers either individually, or collectively as a group, based on age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex or sexual orientation.
For example, if you decide to pay younger casual workers less than older casual workers where they are in comparable positions simply because of their age, this will amount to discrimination.
Be careful not to discriminate indirectly by offering different terms to different groups of casual workers that disadvantage one group more than another. For example, if you have working hours that are particularly difficult for single parents to comply with, these are likely to be discriminatory against women, who form the large majority of single parents. There is a limited legal exception which permits you to discriminate indirectly if you can justify it as an appropriate and necessary way of achieving a genuine aim. For example, a contractual requirement to regularly work a full day on a Saturday rota could be discriminatory against those for whom Saturday is the sabbath. It may be justified if it is your main trading day and Saturday working is unpopular with your staff generally, such that any exception would create tension among them.
Before joining Sparqa Legal as a Senior Legal Editor in 2017, Frankie spent five years training and practising as a corporate disputes and investigations lawyer at leading international law firm Hogan Lovells. As legal insights lead, Frankie regularly contributes to Sparqa Legal’s blog, writing content across employment law, data protection, disputes and more.