There are circumstances in which the use of temporary staff may be appropriate for an employer. These would include situations such as cover during holiday periods and short to medium-term sickness; maternity leave; provision of specialist skills on a short term basis; or extra cover during peak periods. Temporary workers can offer employers the flexibility to cope with short term changes in the business or transitional periods.

However employers must be aware of the rights of temporary staff and be sure not to fall foul of the law when employing workers on a short-term basis. If the period that a temporary worker is employed extends to 12 months or longer, temporary staff will be given more employment rights.

Understanding employment status

If an employer is unsure about which specific employment status their staff fall under, they should refer to the parameters laid out by HR advice services such as Acas. For instance, the rights of a member of staff are usually dependent on their status as a worker or as an employee, so it’s important to know the difference.

It’s also crucial that employers understand many employment rights that apply to permanent staff also apply to temporary employees. A good example is that they have the right to a written contract within two months of starting employment. Perhaps even more importantly though is the employee’s right to take a discrimination claim in relation to areas such as age and race. It is important for employers to treat temporary staff in the same way as they would do a permanent employee to avoid any issues arising.

An employer can run into problems if they keep the temporary arrangement running for a year or more. On the first anniversary of employment the employee obtains the right to claim unfair dismissal, even though their employment is still intended to be temporary in nature.