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Casual worker


A casual worker is a worker on a temporary employment contract with generally limited entitlements to benefits and little or no security of employment. The main attribute is the absence of a continuing relationship of any stability with an employer, which could lead to their not being considered ‘employees’ at all. Casual workers differ from other non-permanent workers in that they may often possess fewer rights and less protection.

This can be seen in Council Directive 91/533/EEC of 14 October 1991 on an employer’s obligation to inform employees of the conditions applicable to the contract or relationship of employment. Article 1(1) defines its scope: ‘This Directive shall apply to every paid employee having a contract or employment relationship defined by the law in force in a Member State and/or governed by the law in force in a Member State.’ Article 1(2)(b) states that the Directive applies to casual and/or specific workers, but there is a provision: ‘unless its non-application is justified.’

The coverage of the Directive is dependent not on classification, but on justification. The casual and/or specific nature of work does not preclude it being an employment relationship (or even a contract). The Directive clearly excludes the possibility that the parties themselves could subjectively decide to exclude the relationship from the scope of the Directive. Its non-application must be justified by ‘objective considerations.’ Objective reasons must be stipulated and excessively wide definitions could be challenged.

In sum, employment may be casual and/or specific and still fall within the scope of the Directive. The European Court of Justice has developed a definition of ‘objective justification’ in the law on ‘indirect’ sex discrimination (Bilka-Kaufhaus GmbH v. Karin Weber von Hartz, Case 170/84, (1984) ECR 1607, paragraph 37): ‘the means chosen for achieving that objective correspond to a real need on the part of the undertaking, are appropriate with a view to achieving the objective in question and are necessary to that end.’ Again, non-application of the Directive might be justified if other means are adopted to ensure that casual workers are informed of the conditions applicable to their contract.

The Framework Agreement on part-time work concluded by UNICE, CEEP and the ETUC allows for the exclusion (wholly or partly) from the scope of the Agreement of ‘part-time workers who work on a casual basis’, though only ‘for objective reasons’ (Council Directive 97/81/EC of 15 December 1997 concerning the Framework Agreement on part-time work concluded by UNICE, CEEP and the ETUC). Member States and/or the social partners may make such exclusion by collective agreement.

See also: atypical work; contract of employment; employee; undeclared work.


Please note: the European industrial relations dictionary is updated annually. If errors are brought to our attention, we will try to correct them.
Page last updated: 12 March, 2007