HR considerations when preparing for seasonal workers

  • Leave and Absence
Seasonal workers
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Peninsula Team, Peninsula Team

(Last updated )

As the days start to get longer, for businesses where work fluctuates because of seasonal peaks and troughs, how the busy summer season will be staffed may be a consideration many are now starting to think about.

Examples of sectors that may need seasonal workers include:

  • Agriculture and farming
  • Hospitality and tourism
  • Retail to help with Christmas and summer sales.
  • Events and festivals
  • Outdoor recreation, for example, campsite staff and outdoor activity leaders.

What type of contract can employers offer to seasonal workers?

To help with increased demand, employers may choose to take individuals on as an “atypical worker” so that they have more staff just for their busiest periods.

Offering a fixed-term contract is one type of “atypical” contract. This is where employment is for a fixed period with a defined end date or with an event that will signify the end, for example, when all the summer stock has been sold. An individual on a fixed-term contract will be classed as an employee so they will have full employment rights (subject to having the requisite length of service, where applicable). They will be entitled to, for example, the right to an itemised pay statement, minimum wage, and paid annual leave.   

However, a key point to be aware of when it comes to fixed-term contracts is that when successive contracts are offered and accepted, continuity of service may be established in a couple of ways. This is important because some employee rights, like the right to not be unfairly dismissed, arise when an employee has two years’ service.

Continuity of service could arise with fixed-term contract where there is an umbrella contract that covers the time from the first day of work, even though work is only done for a couple of months in the summer. This is also known as a permanent part year worker. Alternatively, the gaps in work could be covered by a ‘temporary cessation of work’ provision, this means that even though the contact has ended, the periods in between work still count.

Can a fixed term employee ask for a permanent contract?

How do I calculate annual leave for my irregular hours worker from April 2024?

Do zero hours staff accrue annual leave?

Another type of “atypical” contract that may be used by some businesses for seasonal workers, is a zero-hours or casual contract. This is where, even during periods of work, there are no guaranteed hours. Employers have no obligation to offer work if none is available, and the individuals themselves are not guaranteed pay as a result.

Remember that whichever type of contract is entered into, right to work checks must still be carried out.

Other considerations when taking on seasonal workers

Given that they will only be with the business for a short period of time, it is still important to ensure that they receive a strong induction programme, and any required training, to welcome and settle staff quickly. Good first impressions count, so, employers need to be organised and ready.

It is also important to make sure that seasonal workers have the opportunity to integrate with other staff and that a welcoming and inclusive environment is created so that they all feel part of the same team. Also, remember that that seasonal workers should have access to benefits that permanent employees have, wherever possible.

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