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What Is Casual Labor?

Many retail stores hire temporary, at-will personnel to help handle the hectic Thanksgiving and Christmas season.
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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Shereen Skola
  • Last Modified Date: 05 October 2014
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Casual labor refers to part-time or temporary workers who fill an immediate need for an employer and are not part of the regular staff. Such workers are subject to a number of legal protections, such as the right to receive wages. They are less protected than formal part- or full-time employees. Their treatment under the law can depend on regional policies, and it may be helpful to review employment law to understand all of the rights and protections available for casual labor positions.

Examples of casual laborers can include day laborers hired to work on farms, seasonal employees who handle the holiday rush in retail stores, and legal clerks brought on to provide support for a specific case. These laborers may work for a few days, hours, or weeks. Their status is temporary and this is made clear at the start of their employment. In some cases, a casual labor position may lead to an offer of more formal employment; a law clerk who excels, for example, could be offered a position with the firm.

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This is a form of at-will employment which can be terminated by either side without providing cause. A day laborer, for example, can decide not to show up for work, and a law firm can dismiss a clerk who is no longer needed. These workers are entitled to wages for any hours that they work, and also receive the benefit of breaks and other limitations on working hours while they are employed. Employers are required to withhold for taxes and provide employees with tax documentation so income can be declared on tax paperwork for the year.

Some regions have more protective casual labor laws that are designed to limit exploitation, usually in response to specific concerns. In others, workers have fewer protections. Government representatives can provide information about rights under the law for people with concerns about their workplaces. Casual laborers should be aware that tax authorities require declaration of all income, including so-called “under the table” wages paid by an employer directly to an employee with no record or withholding.

Numerous venues provide information about available casual labor positions. Companies may advertise in the newspaper, on their websites, or in their windows when they need temporary employees. Some communities have job centers or areas where workers can gather to meet up with employers, and where companies can advertise available jobs. Some of these facilities also maintain a staff of counselors who can help people seek stable employment and may provide information about government benefits and other services they may find helpful.

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