Seasonal staff – how should they be treated?

Human Resources 16th December 2019

For most workplaces, Christmas is a happy time. Have you managed to foster a family atmosphere within your company or department? If so, then you’ll appreciate what a great time Christmas can be for your people and for your company. Excitement, parties, animated chatter. In moderation, all this can lead to positive outcomes, with a general feeling of bonhomie, contributing to an all-round positive vibe.

However, beneath the jollity and goodwill problems may lurk. Last Christmas, we posted two blogs on the issue – one was about office Christmas parties. In the other, we covered employee rights regarding time off at Christmas. In today’s blog, we’re going to focus on your seasonal, temporary staff and how you should be treating them.

Of course, the first answer is ‘lawfully’. How you do this depends on their employment status.

Agency workers

They are, of course, employees of the agency you hired them from. However, you still have obligations towards them. For example, you must provide full access to collective amenities that you provide for your permanent staff in similar work, such as the canteen, toilets, car parking, etc.

If they’re with you for twelve weeks working in the same role, they’re entitled to the basic employment conditions of permanent employees doing similar work – such as pay and allowances, rest periods and leave entitlement. It’s vital you make the agency aware of these rights.

You should also make them aware of vacancies for similar permanent work and how to apply.

Temporary employees

In spite of the temporary nature of their employment, they’re still your employees and deserve the same treatment as your permanent staff. You might engage them on a fixed-term contract that specifies a date when the contract expires or a particular project ends. More commonly, seasonal workers are engaged on a normal contract of employment that specifies the likely length of the work.

Don’t make the mistake of assuming that if you give them nothing in writing, no contract exists, and that you can treat them in any way you wish.  As long as they work for you and you pay them, a contract exists in law.  8 weeks into their employment, you should give them a written statement of their main terms and conditions of employment.

What about the Christmas festivities?

Of course, you’ll want to involve your seasonal staff in the Christmas festivities. Why wouldn’t you? If you employ a massive number, maybe your budget will be stretched. But for at least two reasons, involving your temporary staff will be a win-win –

1. Your seasonal staff will warm towards your company. It’s never easy to instil a sense of loyalty when their status is temporary. But it can really make a difference to their productivity and work ethic, if they feel you value them and their contribution, however short-lived.

2. What about the opportunities if vacancies arise within your business? Your positive attitude towards your seasonal staff will encourage them to apply. You never know – there may well be a golden nugget amongst them. And, of course, there will almost certainly be less required from you in terms of onboarding.

Here to help

As HR specialists, we have a profound knowledge of employment law and best practice. We also understand human nature and the importance of making sure employees feel they belong – whether permanent or temporary.

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