EurWORK European Observatory of Working Life

Casual work

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There is no legal definition of casual work, although the European Parliament, in a 2000 study on atypical work in the European Union, provides a working definition of ‘work which is irregular or intermittent, with no expectation of continuous employment’. The European Parliament’s report also notes that, during the European-level cross-sector social partner negotiations on part-time work, it was not possible to find a definition of casual workers at European level and so it was decided to leave this to national legislation or to collective agreements.

Eurofound’s 2015 study on new forms of employment noted that, according to 2001 EU Labour Force Survey data, the ILO reported that about 7% of people in employment who were interviewed in four Member States (Finland, the Netherlands, Spain and the UK) and Switzerland had a casual employment contract. More recently, the 2014 European vacancy and recruitment report from the European Commission and Eurofound's ERM annual report for 2014 highlighted a decline in recruitment for full-time positions from the end of 2007 to early 2014, with a higher share of part-time arrangements in the older Member States compared with the newer Member States. The increase in part-time employment since the crisis is seen as involuntary, based on the fact that in the Member States least affected by the recession, the growth in part-time employment was modest. The evidence is that employers tend to take a cautious approach to employment during a period of economic uncertainty, and hence there is a fall in permanent recruitment.

In its report on new forms of employment (cited above), Eurofound distinguishes between two types of casual work:

  • Intermittent work: this involves an employer approaching workers on a regular or irregular basis to conduct a specific task, often related to an individual project or seasonally occurring jobs. The employment is characterised by a fixed-term period, which either involves fulfilling a task or completing a specific number of days’ work. This employment form was found in Belgium, Croatia, France, Hungary, Italy, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia.
  • On-call work: this involves an on-going employment relationship between an employer and an employee, but the employer does not continuously provide work for the employee. Rather, the employer has the option of calling the employee in when needed. This employment form has emerged or has been of increasing importance over the past decade in Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Sweden and the UK.

Eurofound notes that casual work may overlap with other new employment forms, such as voucher-based work.

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

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