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Employing seasonal staff


To cope with seasonal peaks in demand, employers in sectors such as tourism, leisure and hospitality often take on temporary staff during the busy summer months.

Although you might term these helpful short‐term members of your team as “casual workers” it’s important that you don’t take a casual attitude to their employment rights.

Don’t assume that because people are working for you on an informal basis, clear employment terms aren’t necessary. You and your workers still need to know what your obligations are to each other so that everyone is clear about what’s expected.

If your casual workers have a contract – written or verbal – to undertake paid work or services for you and are contractually obliged to turn up for work, then they also have employment rights.

These rights include getting paid the National Minimum Wage, protection against unlawful deductions from their pay and not having to work more than 48 hours per week if they don’t want to.

By law casual staff must also be allowed to take the statutory minimum length of rest breaks and the minimum statutory paid holiday entitlement, which is 28 days. Like employees, they are also protected against unlawful discrimination and from “whistleblowing.”

Bear in mind too that in some circumstances seasonal workers can also qualify for the same SSP statutory sick pay as employees if they reach the Lower Earnings Limit and are paid at least £118 per week before tax.

Zero hours contracts, where workers aren’t guaranteed set hours or a fixed income, are controversial but might be an appropriate solution in some sectors. For those workers who don’t mind not being able to plan their hours of work, such contracts can offer flexibility, choice and the chance to gain employment experience.

If your business’s work demands are irregular, you might decide to use zero hours contracts. However, if you do, remember that despite the variable nature of these working arrangements the same employment legislation applies, without exception. All workers on zero hours contracts must receive at least the National Minimum Wage, get paid annual leave, have rest breaks and be protected from discrimination.

If zero hour contracts aren’t for you, there are various other ways you can meet spikes in demand at busy times and plug staffing gaps during holiday periods.

These include providing fixed term contracts, offering overtime to permanent employees, using self-employed freelancers and hiring agency staff.

According to a recent ONS Labour Force Survey, the number of agency workers in Britain is predicted to reach one million by 2020, so it’s an option that remains popular with employers. Like other workers, agency staff have employment rights such as paid holiday and the National Minimum Wage, but their employment contract is with the agency hiring them.

Whichever temporary worker route you take, you need to plan for seasonal changes and recruit the right people, so your business doesn’t suffer. You must also ensure that everyone you take on – for however long and on whatever basis – is treated fairly.

For more advice on employing seasonal workers and temporary staff, please contact us on 01455 444222

Angela Clay

A qualified employment law solicitor and our managing director, Angela has unparalleled legal expertise and decades of experience and knowledge to draw from. She’s a passionate speaker and writer that loves to keep employers updated with upcoming changes to legislation, and is a regular guest speaker on BBC Leicester Radio.

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