Casual employees are also called temporary employees or independent contractors. The term is often used primarily by universities in the US, and it is used more commonly in Australia, New Zealand, the UK, and Canada. In Australia, a worker in this category is defined by the fact that he or she does not receive vacation or sick time, and generally does not get to participate in pension plans.
In the US, in most cases, casual employees and independent contractors do not receive sick time or vacation. They also do not receive health benefits or have access to pension plans. Some universities have made an effort to convert some such employees to regular positions, however, if they work a certain amount of hours, normally at least 1,000 hours in a calendar year. For example, Princeton University allows casual employees to have access to their pension plan if they work the required hours in a year’s time.
Casual employees and independent contractors do have some distinct advantages. They often have very flexible schedules that allow them to work from home, or to work only a few hours a week. In some instances, however, large companies may seek to make employees work "casually" in order to avoid paying benefits or offering paid sick and vacation time.
In Australia, new laws have allowed for casual employees to challenge their casual status. The government found that only about 2% of these employees actually petitioned to have their status changed, however. In many cases, they are considered rewarded by making a higher hourly wage.
Employees in this category often must experience the double-edged sword of freedom and extra money versus security. An independent contractor usually simply doesn’t get paid if he or she is sick and doesn’t complete work. These people may still work many hours, but time off often means no pay.
Many permanent, part-time workers are offered both sick time and vacation pay based on hours worked. Casual employees, by not having permanent status, remain unprotected should they become ill. Many independent contractors work out their vacation time by working extra hours prior to or after being away.
Some companies offer insurance to employees who do not quality for company-based benefits. For a monthly fee, the employee can receive compensation for injuries or illnesses that prevent him or her from working. For some people, however, it is difficult or too expensive to get insurance unless they own their own company or belong to an organization of employees of a specific type.