Six considerations when employing seasonal staff

The festive season is fast approaching. For employees that means a few days rest and time well spent with loved ones. For employers however, it can mean longer hours, busier days and staffing headaches.

When it comes to staffing headaches, the common remedy is to take on extra, or seasonal, staff. If you’re an employer thinking of taking on seasonal staff, make sure you’ve considered the following…

1. Are you providing a written statement of key terms?

Whether an employee is full-time or temporary, you need to provide a written statement detailing the terms and conditions of employment. In it, state the termination date or the specific purpose your seasonal staff have been hired for.

The Employment (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2018 (the Act) requires you to provide all employees with a statement of five key terms of employment within five days of employment commencing.

Failure to comply with the requirement to provide a five-day statement attracts criminal liability.

2. No zero-hours contracts

The Act also prohibits the use of zero-hour contracts. This ban may affect hospitality sector employers who previously relied on zero-hours type contracts to fill positions during busy seasonal periods.

Before the Act came into effect earlier this year, zero-hour contracts were more common. An employee on a zero-hours contract may have been unaware of the hours they would receive in a given week, meaning they had to effectively be ‘on-call’ at all times.

That’s all changed. Now, employers need to specify the hours per day and week they need their employees to be available. And for employers in every sector, that means no more zero-hours contracts.

3. The use of a waiver clause

It is possible to agree with employees that the unfair dismissals legislation will not apply in certain specific circumstances. Agreeing upon this with your seasonal staff is an important step. Including a ‘waiver clause’ in your contract is how you do it.

A waiver clause confirms that the contract ends when the purpose of the employment no longer exists or the fixed-term expires. By including this clause, employees will be excluded from taking claims under the Unfair Dismissals Acts, 1977-2015.

4. Seasonal staff will still need time to adapt

No short-term employee is going to know your business practices from the word go. However, one way of ensuring they get the best possible start is to provide an induction. An induction will also allow you to outline what you expect of them and your business standards.

Once your seasonal staff begin work, give them time to adapt and your working relationship should flourish.

5. Are you informing seasonal staff about permanent vacancies?

If not, you have to, the Protection of Employees (Fixed-Term Work) Act 2003 states so. If relevant vacancies open up during their employment, let seasonal staff know. Advertise the roles internally on your intranet or your noticeboard. That way, seasonal staff have a fair opportunity to apply for permanent positions.

6. Treat seasonal staff the same as full-time staff

The Protection of Employees (Fixed-Term Work) Act 2003 notes that temporary and full-time employees working in comparable roles need to be treated alike. Paying seasonal and full-time staff differently is where employers commonly fall foul of this law.

That doesn’t need to be the case. Seasonal and full-time employees who carry out the same work should be paid the same. The same goes for rights such as maternity leave, annual leave, and provision of wage slips.

Employment equality legislation, which has no minimum service requirement, also protects temporary employees. Treating a temporary employee differently based on any of the nine protected grounds could lead to an expensive discrimination claim.

The nice protected grounds 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

So, if you’re taking on extra staff to cope with the festive season, consider what you’ve learnt in this blog. And as always, we’re also here to help.

If you would like further complementary advice on employing seasonal staff from an expert, our advisors are ready to take your call. Call us on 01 886 0350 or request a callback here.

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