Temporary staff

  • Employment Law
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Peninsula Group, HR and Health & Safety Experts

(Last updated )

What are the rights of temporary workers in your business? Our guide explains all the essential legal requirements you need to keep in mind.

In some cases, you might want to hire someone for a certain period of time. Maybe you need them for seasonal work, or only until a project is complete.

For these situations, you might consider hiring temporary staff. For these workers, you need to apply the correct work requirements and legal entitlements.

If you neglect any right or procedure needed for temporary employees, you could end up facing contractual breaches and tribunal claims.

In this guide, we’ll look at what temporary staff is; what legal rights they have; and how to manage them in your workplace.

What is temporary staff?

Temporary staff are workers hired for jobs which have an end date that’s been mutually agreed to.

There are several temporary employment roles which a company may offer. These can range from casual employees to agency workers.

What contracts are used for temporary workers?

It’s important to provide the right type of employment contract to your temporary workers. This will depend on your business sector, as contracts will vary between them.

Here are different types of contracts used for temporary employment:

Fixed-term contracts

A fixed-term contract is used for jobs which have a set length and end date. Both parties will have already mutually agreed to the job requirements beforehand.

Fixed-term contracts can be used to cover staff on parental leave (like adoption or maternity leave). Or you might use them when hiring specialist employees for short-term projects.

If you offer these contracts, you must include equal pay and entitlements, like statutory sick pay (SSP) and notice periods. But these ultimately depend on employment status and contractual terms.

Zero-hour contracts

Zero-hour contracts are used for jobs with no minimum number of working hours. People choose these jobs because they require flexible hours. However, they may suffer from irregular shifts and a neglected work-life balance.

Workers on a zero-hours contract may be hired for jobs in the delivery or gig-economy sector.

Zero-hours contracts do have their own legal requirements compared to other temporary positions. For example, they include things like national minimum wage.

Agency work contracts

Agency work contracts are used for someone who relies on temporary employment agencies to find job vacancies.

They don’t classify as an employee, but as ‘agency workers’. And can be hired for jobs in the retail or hospitality sector.

Under the Agency Workers Regulations, an agency worker is allowed certain work entitlements, like rest breaks and annual leave.

(It’s important to provide the right type of employment contract to your temporary workers).

What are the positives and negatives of offering temporary roles?

There are so many benefits you gain from offering a temporary role. Here are some positive points:

  • Meet current demands within your business realm.
  • Quick and efficient customer satisfaction.
  • Avoid being understaffed during peak seasons.
  • Avoid being overstaffed during quieter times.
  • Allow full-time staff to take leave entitlements (like paid annual leave).
  • Provide opportunities for permanent work.

Whilst we have listed a handful of valuable points, there are downfalls to offering a temporary role. Here are some negative points:

  • Expensive to hire a high number of new staff (all at once or over a long period).
  • A lack of morale and understanding.
  • May lack basic skills required for jobs.
  • High level of turnover due to motivation, engagement, and commitment.

Legal rights for temporary employees

In the UK, there are certain employment rights which apply to temporary workers. These regulations apply to anyone who categorises as a seasonal or fixed-term contract worker.

Under the Agency Workers Regulations 2010, the rights of temporary employees depend on whether they:

  • Have employment status.
  • Categorise as a ‘worker’.
  • Have continuous work service needed to qualify.

Are temporary workers protected against discrimination?

Under the Employment Equality Act 2010, temporary workers are protected from discrimination in the workplace.

If they’ve suffered from less favourable treatment, they could raise grievance claims to an employment tribunal.

If you’re found guilty, you could be asked to pay compensation and overall legal costs. But it’s not just payments you need to deal with. You could also suffer from business losses and reputational damages–both of which may be significantly difficult to recover from.

How long can you hire temporary employees for?

You can hire someone as a temporary employee for up to four years. After this, they automatically become permanent staff. Unless there is an outstanding legal reason why they cannot.

If you cannot guarantee a minimum number of work hours, consider offering a zero-hours contract.

This will highlight minimum hours aren’t part of their contract–and are only paid for the hours they’ve worked. This also provides you with flexibility, especially when work is unpredictable.

Can you end a temporary employee’s contract early?

Yes, you can end their contract earlier than agreed to–but only if this doesn’t breach contractual terms.

You might need to let an employee go because of circumstances beyond your control. For example, facing cancelled work or having insufficient funds. Here, you’ll need to provide them with a notice period, in accordance with their completed service.

But remember, temporary employees, are entitled to redundancy pay after two years’ service. They’re also entitled to redundancy pay and rights, the same as an employee on a permanent basis.

How to hire and manage a temporary worker

Now that you’ve read about the rules around temporary employees, let’s discover how to hire them:

Outline your reasons for hiring temporarily

Before you think about background checks or a suitable notice period, think about why you want to hire temporary employees.

Even if you hire someone for half a day, you still have a provide a healthy and fair workplace, which valued equal treatment. Make sure you pick the right people for the right reasons.

Hold interviews before the work starts

You should hold interviews before the start of your work placement or season. This grants you a good amount of time to find suitable candidates. You can recruit them through internal recruitment or temporary work agencies.

You can also provide trial shifts where you can test potential workers beforehand. Just make sure you offer at least the national minimum wage for any trial shifts completed.

Create sufficient and fair employment contracts

For any temporary employee, you need to ensure your contracts are sufficient and fair.

Before they start, create a written statement of employment particulars. This should include what their job involves and, more importantly, when it will start and finish.

Contracts will be similar to permanent employees doing the same job, working in the same role. This includes things like providing equality entitlements and employee liability insurance.

However, there are some exceptions you need to consider. For example, employers:

  • Must add an end of employment date, as this is a fixed position.
  • Cannot end contracts early unless a notice clause is agreed to.
  • Must outline that a temporary work agency is responsible for workers’ rights (under the Working Time Regulations).

Carry out Right to Work checks

As an employer, you have legal obligations to ensure your staff have the right to work in the UK.

That means, carrying out right-to-work checks before hiring them. All employees–temporary or otherwise–must possess the right documentation to work.

From July 2021, all EU nationals (excluding Irish nationals) must provide evidence stating they’re allowed to work in the UK. This status is given through two methods:

  1. EU Settlement Scheme.
  2. UK VISA (under Immigration Rules).

This might be a meticulous task to do, as most positions may be for a short period. However, this is both a legal and moral obligation. These checks provide security for you and your business. But they also protect people from unlawful working conditions, like unfair pay or modern slavery.

Provide appropriate notice periods

Workers and employers have separate requirements regarding a notice period.

For workers, a notice period will depend on the length of their service (and their contractual terms). The legal standard is as follows:

  • Service between one month to two years: One week’s notice period (legal requirement).
  • Service over two years: One week’s notice period per service year.

You may have already provided an end date for the temporary worker. This means you don’t need to provide a notice period. However, you must ensure you don’t cause an unfair dismissal.

Notice periods must be given to any employee who has worked for at least two years. At this point, they have accrued unfair dismissal rights. This is because their end date would count as a form of dismissal, under employment law.

Do you need to auto-enrol temporary workers?

Yes, you must auto-enrol all temporary workers. This means you need to assess them every time you pay them–even if they’re only working for a short time.

This is judged based on their contract length, wage, and any potential gaps in their work hours.

If a temporary employee works for less than three months, you can delay auto-enrolling through postponement.

Do you need to provide temporary employees with holiday pay?

Yes, all temporary employees must be provided with holiday pay, just like their permanent colleagues.

They should receive a minimum of 5.6 weeks’ holiday annually. And they also accrue holidays on a pro-rata basis–from their first year, until their last.

Get expert guidance on managing temporary staff with Peninsula

When it comes to temporary employees, you need to ensure all legal issues are met.

With this, employees will work to the best of their ability, knowing they’re secured, respected, and valued. Not to mention, it’ll increase motivation and engagement with fellow permanent workers. The more you invest, the better the outcome–for all parties.

Remember, your business could meet financial and reputational consequences if you fail to provide legal entitlements.

Peninsula offers expert guidance on managing and hiring temporary staff. From managing agency workers to dealing with temporary work entitlements–our team offers HR documentation and contract services for all.

And our 24/7 HR advice is available 365 days a year; with multi-lingual support and fully trained counsellors ready to help.

Want to find out more? Book a free consultation with one of our HR consultants. Call 0800 029 4385


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