"Part-time work" and "casual work" may sound similar, but there are some important distinctions in the way they are classified, and sometimes in the way they are taxed, as well. Understanding these differences can help you make the most of the job opportunities in your field.
Work Every Day
Part-time workers tend to work every day, or for a set number of days each week. The schedule often remains the same throughout the year, with a set number of hours per week. Even when the schedule varies seasonally or the number of hours changes from week to week, there is a certain predictability in the job. For instance, a part-time worker might start every day at 9 a.m. in the morning and complete work by 1 p.m. in the afternoon. Another part-time worker might work an eight-hour day Monday through Wednesday and have the rest of the week off.
Work When Needed
Employers call upon casual workers when they need extra help during very busy periods, or when their regular employees are sick or on vacation. For instance, a school district might call in one of its substitute teachers when the regular teacher assigned to that classroom calls in sick, or when that teacher takes a sabbatical or goes on vacation. A trucking company or package delivery service might call on its stable of casual workers to drive trucks during the holiday rush. Many industries, from white-collar accounting firms to blue-collar trucking companies and manufacturers, use casual workers on an as-needed basis.
Many companies extend regular benefits to their part-time workers, even though those workers might be asked to pay more out-of-pocket costs for the benefits they receive. Casual workers, on the other hand, often work without benefits and have to purchase health insurance and disability insurance on their own. Casual workers often do not get vacation or sick time, either, and only get paid for the days they actually work.
The work you do as a casual or on-call employee might be as an independent contractor. Some companies might consider you to be an employee who is simply called in as needed, but others could classify you as an independent contractor. This is an important distinction, since working as an independent contractor means you are subject to the self-employment tax. When you work for someone else, you pay your half of the Medicare and Social Security tax and your employer pays the other half. But when you work as an independent contractor, you are responsible for both halves of that tax. That can significantly reduce the amount of your net pay, so always ask about your job classification before signing up for a casual or on-call position.