Question of the month – casual contracts post-Employment (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act



Question of the month


Can I hire staff on casual contracts if I only need the worker for a few hours per week?

Many employers have asked us this question since the Employment (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, 2018 (the Act) came into force in March this year.

The Act prohibits zero hour contracts except where a casual contract is essential to allow employers to provide cover in;

  • emergency situations, or
  • short-term relief work to cover routine absences for the employer.

What is a genuine casual contract?

Where the need for work falls into the situations described in (i) and (ii) above and is required to meet business demands, it is possible not to specify the number of hours the employee is required to work.  In such circumstances, the employer may contact a casual employee and offer him/her work which reflects the genuine business need for work to be completed.  Where the casual employee is available for work when requested, s/he may accept the offer of work but importantly s/he is under no obligation to accept the offer of work.

A refusal to accept the offer of work should not preclude the worker from being asked to carry out work at a future date.  The purpose of such a contract is to establish a genuine employment relationship with casual workers where the employer wishes to put cover in place for emergency situations and short-term relief work to cover routine absences.

Do not confuse a casual contract with a part-time contract

If an employee is required to make him/herself available for work as required by the employer and where there is a reasonable expectation that the employee will be required to be available for work on a regular basis, it will not be possible to rely on a casual employment relationship.

It is not permitted to rely on casual contracts where there is a requirement for employee(s) to make themselves available to work for the employer as and when the employer requires. In these circumstances, the employee should be issued with a part-time contract that reflects the number of hours that the employer reasonably expects the employee to work each week. Once there is mutuality of obligation, an employment contract is formed and the employee will benefit from employment law protections.

Our advice to employers

Review your contracts of employment and amend where appropriate. Since the commencement of the Act in March, employers have a legal duty to provide employees with a contract that specifies the daily and weekly hours of work. ‘As and when’ or zero hour contracts are strictly prohibited unless you can demonstrate that they are required for genuine, casual, short-term relief work.

Need help with ever-changing employment laws?

Please contact the advice line on +353 1 886 0350 to speak with a consultant on this or any other HR issue affecting your organisation.

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