How to keep your rural workers casual

The popularity and use of zero hours contracts has increased rapidly. It is important for employers to assess whether any individuals working for them under a zero hours contract are deemed to be employees, as this may entitle them to additional rights and protection, such as from unfair dismissal legislation.

To determine whether casual staff could be deemed to be an ‘employee’, or whether they fall into another category, such as a ‘worker’ can be tricky. Even if the individual’s zero hours contract states that they are not an employee, the situation will be assessed on the true relationship between parties.

Make it clear in any job adverts that the contract will not guarantee any set hours of work and that it is not suggestive of an employment relationship. Put in place a comprehensive zero hours contract whereby there is no obligation on the employer to offer work to the individual and, crucially, no obligation on the individual to accept work that is offered. The individual should be free to accept or turn down offers of work made by the employer. Ensure that the individuals are responsible for their own tools, equipment, clothing etc, where this is possible.

While workers are not entitled to the same employment law protection as employees, they are still entitled to some basic rights, such as paid statutory holiday and statutory sickness pay. Therefore, employers should ensure that they still cover these basic rights when engaging casual workers.

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