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Employing Seasonal Workers – What You Need to Know

As the Christmas season is nearing, many employers engage in employing seasonal workers to provide additional support to deal with the Christmas rush. The benefit of seasonal workers is that they are there for the busy times and in January when things take a natural slow down their contact is concluded. There are many pros and cons of hiring seasonal workers, however we are more interested in protecting your business so we have summarised an employer’s legal obligations when hiring seasonal workers on fixed term contracts.

Need to have a genuine reason for issuing a fixed term contract

It is important the employees hired are aware that they are only being hired for the specific purpose of being a Christmas temporary worker. The Protection of Employees (Fixed-Term Work) Act is very clear that there must be a genuine business reason for a fixed term contract, and even though they may only be employed for two months they are still entitled to receive a contract of employment explaining that employment is temporary and also to receive a copy of the company handbook.

What do I need to do when the contract date expires?

The contract will naturally come to end on whatever date or event is specified in the contract. The employee should on this date return any company property such as access cards, uniforms etc. and the employers should issue any outstanding payment owed to the employee in their final pay.

Training on company policies and procedures

It is important that training on company policies is provided so that seasonal employees are aware of what they must adhere to. This is especially the case in respect of policies relating to health and safety, working time etc. Despite the temporary and short nature of the work, employers are still susceptible to claims under the Organisation of Working Time Act, the Equality Acts, and Health & Safety legislation. It is important that they are aware of company policies and procedures with particular focus on bullying and harassment procedures.

Can I keep on an employee that is a hard worker?

Quite often employers will find that a temporary worker that they hire for seasonal work is a good fit for their organisation and they may wish to keep them on. It is very possible for an employer to do this however they will need to be careful about how they proceed. If there is a position for that particular employee to fill they should be offered a permanent contract unless there is a justifiable reason as to why to you are issuing them with another fixed – term contract. If a tribunal was to find that an employer has abused the use of a fixed-term contract then they face a maximum award of two years’ salary.

Recruitment and Selection

Recruitment and selection is an area that many of our clients can find themselves in hot water over. Employers should be aware of the nine grounds of discrimination and ensure to keep records of applications and interview notes on file for one year. This is to minimise the risk of an equality claim on any of the following grounds; gender, age, race, sex, civil status, sexual orientation, family status, disability, membership of the traveler community.

What has to be taken from the above is that it is critical that a fixed term contract is only set up when there is a genuine reason for doing so, such as the completion of specific project or a time associated task. If you are planning on taking on some additional staff this Christmas please phone the 24 Hour Advice Service on 01 8555050 and one of our experienced HR experts will be happy to assist.

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