The dos and don’ts of employing seasonal staff

  • Employment Contract
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Peninsula Team, Peninsula Team

(Last updated )

In response to the need for extra workers, employers may take on seasonal staff.

And while that’s all well and good in the short-term, it still comes with its fair share of dos and don’ts. Here, we break those down for you…

Do confirm the specific purpose or termination date in writing

Seasonal staff should be aware that their employment is for a specific purpose and not indefinite. Make the period they’ve been hired for clear to them. Despite seasonal employment being short-term, you still need to provide a written statement specifying the terms and conditions of employment. In particular, the fixed-term, specific purpose or event that will trigger the termination of the temporary contract.

If you can’t say for sure when the termination date will be, a specific purpose contract will be more appropriate. In either case, include a short probation period in your written statement. Reserve your right to terminate the contract during that period, and make sure the employee signs a copy.

Don’t forget the prohibition on zero-hours contracts

Seasonal staffing must also take account of the ban on zero-hours contracts under the Employment (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2018 (the Act). The ban on zero-hours contracts might affect hospitality sector employers who sometimes relied on zero-hours type contracts to fill positions during busy seasonal periods.

Prior to the introduction of the Act earlier this year, certain employers relied on contracts which remained silent on the number of hours the employee would receive per day or per week. This required the employee to effectively be available on an ‘on-call’ basis. This approach is no longer permitted under the Act.

You will now need to review your manpower requirements and specify in writing the number of hours per day and per week that employees are required to be available.  

Do insert a waiver clause in the contract

It’s possible to agree with your seasonal staff that unfair dismissals legislation won’t apply in certain cases. These include either the expiry of the fixed-term or the achievement of the purpose specified in the contract.

This should be stated in a ‘waiver clause’. This clause should confirm that the contract comes to an end when the purpose of the employment no longer exists or the fixed-term expires. Then, the employee will be excluded from taking claims under the Unfair Dismissals Acts, 1977-2015.

Don’t expect seasonal employees to know how your business operates

Despite the fact that they’re short-term, you still need to provide your temporary staff with an induction. This will allow you to specify what you expect of them, and the standards your business adheres to.

It’s also unlikely that seasonal staff will understand your business inside out from the first day. So, give them some time, direction and assistance and operations should run smoothly for everyone.

Do let fixed-term employees know about vacancies in your business

The Protection of Employees (Fixed-Term Work) Act 2003 outlines that employers have to let temporary employees know about any permanent vacancies that come up during their employment.

The business intranet is a smart place to post vacancies, or an employee noticeboard. Wherever you advertise the roles, make sure temporary employees see them.

Don’t treat seasonal workers differently from comparable full-time employees

The Protection of Employees (Fixed-Term Work) Act 2003 states that temporary employees should be treated the same as permanent employees working in comparable roles.

If you do want to offer different terms, you need a justifiable reason. That reason can’t have anything to do with the fact that the employee is on a fixed-term contract.

When you think of tricky areas when dealing with seasonal staff, pay is where many employers trip up. It doesn’t need to be a grey area. In fact, it’s pretty straightforward. Seasonal, or temporary, staff should be paid the same as permanent employees who carry out the same work. The same applies to rights such as annual leave, maternity leave and provision of wage slips.

Fixed-term employees are also protected by employment equality legislation which has no minimum service requirement. Treating a fixed-term employee differently based on any of the nine protected grounds could also lead to an expensive discrimination claim.

These include:

  • Gender 
  • Civil status
  • Family status
  • Sexual orientation
  • Religious belief
  • Age 
  • Disability
  • Race (includes colour, nationality or ethnic or national origins)
  • Membership of the Traveller community

Need our help?

If you would like further complimentary advice on seasonal staffing from an expert, our advisors are ready to take your call any time day or night.

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