Careers advice

What are the pros and cons of working a casual job?

Interested in a casual job? You need to read this.

Last updated: 25 July 2023

What you’ll learn:

  • What is a casual job?
  • What are the benefits of working a casual job
  • Some examples of casual jobs listed on Trade Me Jobs right now

You might have heard of people talking about working ‘casual jobs’ but not quite be familiar with what the term means, and what it would be like.

It’s important to fully understand how these working arrangements function in reality, and what it would mean for your career, work-life balance and everything else that goes into making decisions about your future.

What is a casual job contract?

A casual contract is a mutually convenient arrangement for both the employer and the employee. When you're on a casual contract, the organisation is not bound to offer you a fixed number of hours per week or month. Similarly, you have the freedom to decline work when it's offered without any obligation.

When it comes to your employment agreement, it’s essential to have a clear statement that outlines your casual employment status. Additionally, though not mandatory, it's advisable for the agreement to include details of how the employer will communicate work opportunities to you and to acknowledge that the work will not be continuous or constant.

There are usually heaps of casual fruit picking jobs on offer through summer.

What are the benefits of casual jobs?

1. Flexibility

Casual contracts provide a higher degree of flexibility compared to full-time or part-time roles. You’ll have a good degree of control over your working hours or days, which not only can help you strike a good work-life balance, but also to pursue other career interests or pastimes.

2. Variety

Working casual jobs provides you with the opportunity to experience different sectors, companies and projects. As well as keeping things interesting, this can enable you to build a broad base of experience and skills.

3. Higher hourly pay rate

Casual employees often receive a higher hourly wage compared to their full-time counterparts. This is because it’s often not practical for casual staff to take paid holidays, so employers can pay them an extra 8% in lieu of this.

4. Testing different career paths

Casual contracts offer the opportunity to test a number of different career paths before committing to a specific one, so it can be a particularly beneficial arrangement at the start of your career. It can be particularly valuable for recent graduates or career changers seeking to explore a variety of options.

5. No long-term obligations

Casual contracts don’t come with long-term commitments, meaning you have the freedom to move on to different opportunities if you want a change.

What are the disadvantages of casual jobs?

1. Low job security

If you’re working in a casual job, your employer can end your contract or reduce your hours with minimal notice, leaving you uncertain about your income and future employment. This is the flipside of the flexibility benefit, your employer has flexibility too.

2. Unpredictable income

Casual employees are paid based on the specific hours worked in a given pay period, meaning your income can vary significantly from one week to another.

3. Limited access to benefits

As a casual employee, you typically don’t get the same benefits as full-time or part-time employees like paid annual leave or sick leave. So, if you’re ill and can’t work, you just don’t get paid.

4. Limited career progression

Casual jobs often provide fewer opportunities for career advancement or professional development, as employers are more likely to favour full-time staff for training opportunities or promotions.

5. Inconsistent work hours

It may be possible for you to find a casual job with regular work patterns, but many of those roles have changeable shift patterns, which can make it hard to plan your week in advance.

Catering businesses tend to hire casual staff so they can call on them when required.

Sectors that commonly offer casual jobs

Hospitality and tourism: Restaurants, hotels, resorts, and tourist operators frequently rely on casual staff to meet fluctuations in customer demand, especially during peak seasons and events.

Retail: Retail stores, particularly during busy periods, for instance, in the run up to Christmas, often hire casual employees to cope with increased foot traffic and sales.

Agriculture: Farming and fruit picking employers often need casual labourers for seasonal tasks.

Events and Entertainment: Concerts, festivals, conferences, and sporting events frequently hire casual staff to manage things like crowd control, health and safety and retail.

Healthcare: District Health Boards (DHBs) in Aotearoa New Zealand employ casual workers, like nurses and healthcare assistants to cover shifts or handle increased patient loads.

Call centres: Companies with fluctuating call volumes often employ casual call centre agents to handle busy periods or special campaigns.

Construction, roading and trades: Casual labour is sometimes employed in the construction, roading and trades industries to deal with short-term projects or fill in for absent workers.

Event catering: Catering companies frequently hire casual staff for events and functions to accommodate varying client needs. Because catering businesses aren’t like restaurants, they don’t want to retain staff every night, so a casual system tends to work for them.

Cleaning and housekeeping: Cleaning companies often hire casual workers to meet clients' sporadic cleaning requirements.

Childcare and aged care: Some childcare centres and aged care facilities employ casual workers to cover staff absences and vacation periods.

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Al Hall
Al Hall

Al Hall is a regular contributor at Trade Me Jobs and Trade Me Property. He’s dedicated to helping people succeed in their aspirations to find their dream job and place to live.