Short-term additions to the workforce can ease the staffing burden on SMEs but what rights do temporary workers have? Should they be treated the same as permanent employees? Should those in interim positions be offered a contract of employment? Here we take a look at the benefits and implications of hiring short-term workers.
Why employ temps?
The need for an extra pair of hands could be due to a seasonal increase in workload, some limited funding, uncertainty about the work requirements or perhaps to cover peak holiday times e.g. over the Summer. Having access to a temporary workforce makes it easier to manage predictable demand fluctuations and staff shortfalls in challenging times.
You may have seen recent cases relating to the gig-economy (Uber, Deliveroo) making the distinction between employee and worker; in the simplest of terms, employees are likely to have a commitment to weekly contracted hours whereas a worker has a much more casual relationship but still works under the control of the employer. Workers have less rights than employees (e.g. no right to claim unfair dismissal), but there can be a very fine line between the two employment statuses so it is often best to err on the side of caution or take some expert advice before making any potentially risky decisions. Workers are protected in that they should earn at least the National Minimum/Living Wage. Like employees, they also enjoy protection against unlawful wage deductions, the provision of the statutory minimum length of rest breaks, the minimum level of paid holiday (even if only employed for a short time), and the option to opt out of the 48+ hour work week. In addition, workers have legal protection against discrimination as well as statutory rights under health and safety legislation.
The legal bit
There is specific legislation to ensure part-time workers (including agency workers) and fixed-term workers are treated no less favourably than equivalent full-time or permanent employees. The employment rights of short-term agency workers are covered in the Agency Workers Regulations which came into force in October 2011 and any agency you use for resourcing your organisation will advise you on pay and benefit parity between agency staff and their directly employed comparators.
Should I draw up a contract?
The Employment Rights Act says an employee should be provided with a written statement of terms and conditions of employment within 8 weeks of starting. But what if the employment is for less than that? An advantage of having a written statement or contract is that doubts can be eliminated surrounding the basic terms and conditions of employment, expected hours of work and the worker’s rights, responsibilities and duties. Consideration should definitely be given to offering a written contract, including for work of a short-duration, indicating how long the temporary work is expected to last, an end-date, relevant notice periods and how grievances are handled. This enhances the employer reputation as well as managing expectations on both sides. In the event that there are no written terms, a contract will still be established by the act of the worker starting work and ‘accepting’ the conditions they work to.
Get in touch
If you’d like any more tips or useful information on how to prepare contracts for short-term workers this summer, we’d like to hear from you. Please feel free to contact us at your convenience.