Philip Richardson: hiring Christmas temps? Know their rights

Rights of seasonal workers

With the festive season upon us, many companies are now looking for workers to ensure that they have sufficient cover for the busy Christmas period. According to the British Retail Consortium, 36 per cent of retailers have plans to increase staffing over Christmas.

While this is down on last year’s figures, there is still a healthy demand for seasonal staff. Supermarket giant, Sainsbury’s revealed there were 11,500 roles available in its stores, while the online giant, Amazon made 20,000 Christmas vacancies available this year.

The nature of temporary work during the holiday season can be fast paced, with businesses looking to hire and train people as quickly as possible. This ultimately means that employers often fail to comply with employment regulations, leaving them exposed to action from employees.

If you’re an employer looking to hire seasonal workers, it is extremely important that you don’t neglect their rights. While it may be the season of goodwill, conflicts between employer and employee at this time of the year are unfortunately not uncommon. However they can be managed, or avoided all together, if people are aware of their rights and responsibilities.

Here, we shine a light on the options open to employers and how to best manage the legal requirements surrounding seasonal working.

Identify their employment status: There are several options when looking to recruit extra staff for the festive period. You must ensure that you identify the employment status of the new recruits as this will impact upon their employment rights. It is best practice to identify their status in a written contract to reflect the arrangement chosen.

The two most common arrangements are employees and workers. Employees perform work under a contract of employment and are obliged to do this work (save for illness, holidays etc), and employers are obliged to offer work to the individual when it is available. Workers are employed on a more casual basis and have the ability to refuse work, being paid only for the work done.

Legal Rights: Employees have more legal rights than workers, however both are entitled to basic legal protections, including:

Being paid at least the national minimum wage. This is currently:
– £7.83 for workers aged 25 and over;
– £7.38 for workers aged between 21 and 24;
– £5.90 for workers aged between 18 and 20; and
– £4.20 for workers aged 16 or 17.

They are entitled to a pay slip, and you must ensure that they are paying the relevant tax and national insurance on their earnings; They cannot work more than 48 hours a week on average, unless they have opted out. You cannot end their employment because they have chosen to opt out. Temporary workers or employees are, like permanent employees, entitled to rest breaks; Protection from discrimination; Whistleblowing protection; Protection from unlawful deduction of wages.

Employees: Employees, depending on their length of service, have additional rights, including: Protection against unfair dismissal; Statutory notice entitlements; Maternity/paternity leave; Right to redundancy pay; and Fixed term employment protection

With regards to the last right noted above, you may choose to hire the employee on a fixed-term contract so that their employment ends at the end of the peak period. An employee on a fixed term contract is protected against less favourable treatment compared to permanent employees. This means that they must get: The same pay and conditions as permanent staff; Same or equivalent benefits package; Information about permanent vacancies.

Workers: Employers must be aware that after 12 weeks (from their first day of employment), the temporary worker will qualify for the same rights as someone who is permanently employed to do same job. It may be that at 12 weeks you end their contract, however, if you choose to keep the worker past this period, you must keep in mind that: They should receive the same wage as a permanent employee carrying out the same role; They are entitled to be enrolled onto the pension scheme; They are entitled to be paid annual leave.

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Philip Richardson is a Partner & Head of Employment Law at national law firm Stephensons.

Phil became a Partner in 2014 and has been the employment law team leader since 2008.

He studied law at Lancaster University, spending a year abroad studying law and German at Trier University in Germany. After the completion of his degree Phil went on to attend the College of Law in York before commencing a training contract with Stephensons in 2002, qualifying into the employment law department as a solicitor in September 2004.

Phil remains the employment department’s team leader at its Middlebrook office, servicing clients on a nationwide basis from Stephensons’ offices in London, Manchester, Bolton, Wigan, St. Helens and Leigh. He has particular expertise in advising employers on a range of contentious and non-contentious issues.
Phil is a regular guest speaker at regional business network seminars and a member of the Employment Lawyers Association.
Phil is also a regular media commentator on employment issues and was recently quoted in The Times. He was recently involved in an employment media campaign which gained numerous pieces of coverage.


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