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30th October 2018

Temporary workers’ rights

With the busy Christmas period just around the corner, employers across the UK will be looking at their staffing requirements and will most likely be looking to take on temporary staff to handle increases in workload.

Temporary workers are those employed on a short-term basis to carry out certain roles. In the case of seasonal workers, it is important that any temporary workers are introduced into their new positions early enough that they are able to get up to speed with their duties before the demand on the business increases.

Temporary workers can be, and very often are, employed on fixed-term contracts allowing them to work until a date agreed with the employer, or the contract can be open-ended and will only come to an end when there is no longer a requirement for the role or when a project comes to an end. This should be detailed clearly in the worker’s contract.

Under the Fixed Term Employees (Prevention of Less Favourable Treatment) Regulations) 2012 if a worker is given a contract that will last for fewer than three months, the temporary work is entitled to one week’s notice to terminate their contract before the expected expiry date provided they have achieved at least one month’s service. However, if the contract is for a period in excess of three months, the employer cannot terminate the agreement before the end of the fixed term if there is no valid reason to do so (such as gross misconduct) unless the contract provides for earlier termination during the fixed term (usually by one party giving notice to the other).

It is important to remember that workers on a fixed-term contract are entitled to be treated no less favourably than permanent employees. They are entitled to the same protections from discrimination as any other worker and are also protected from any less favourable treatment if the reason for that treatment is because they are a fixed-term worker. The rights derived from the Working Time Regulations 1998 in relation to rest breaks, working hours and holidays apply equally to temporary employees as to permanent employees.

Difference between temporary workers/employees and agency workers

Employing temporary or fixed-term workers is not the same as using temporary staff through an agency. Agencies may be able to provide staff to cover during busier times, and some employers find this option preferable to employing fixed-term workers directly.  

If agency staff are being used, the agency would be acting as an “employment business”, meaning that they would be the employer of the temporary worker. As such it would be the agency’s responsibility to ensure that the worker receives their rights under the Working Time Regulations and the national minimum wage. The agency workers in this case would not be directly employed by the employer who is using them.

If this approach is used then the employer would pay a fee to the agency, who would then be responsible for paying the temporary worker. In many circumstances, this may be a better alternative to engaging the temporary worker directly, but ultimately it will depend on the needs of the particular business.

*All information is correct at the time of publishing

Chris King

Employment Law Specialist

Chris is one of our Employment Law Specialists from Napthens Solicitors. Read more

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