Whether or not a worker is engaged on a casual or zero hours contract, does not necessarily determine their employment status. Determining whether an individual is an employee, a worker or neither, will depend on the actuality of the nature of the relationship and, moreover, whether there is mutuality of obligation between the parties.
The terms “casual contract” or “zero hours contract” are often used interchangeably by employers and there can be elements of crossover between the two types of contract.
Casual Contract – Usually there is no obligation on the employer to offer work to the individual and, in particular, no obligation on the individual to accept work that is offered. The intention behind this is typically that mutuality of obligation does not arise and, therefore, the individual does not have employee status. However, if it can be demonstrated that over a sustained period, an individual has accepted all the work offered, even if they have had the contractual right to refuse it, significant risk arises that in the event of a claim, the employment tribunal would take a rational view of the arrangement and find that mutuality of obligation does exist and an employment relationship has been established.
Zero Hours Contract – will often (although not always) differ from a casual worker agreement in that while the employer is under no obligation to offer work, the individual is commonly obliged to be available and to accept work when it is offered. Employers who engage “bank” workers often engage this type of worker on a Zero Hours Contract. The Employment Tribunal may however, in certain circumstances, interpret this type of arrangement as being sufficient to fulfil the requirement of mutuality of obligation for an employment relationship to arise. An example of this might be where claimants are engaged under contracts titled “zero hours contract” but, in reality are working fixed hours on a regular basis and in some cases over a number of years such as in the case Pulse Healthcare Ltd v Carewatch Care Services Ltd and others EAT/0123/12.
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