A guide to employing temporary workers

Employers hoping to take on temporary workers could benefit from downloading a solicitor-approved temporary employment contract template that highlights your obligations to temporary workers as outlined by employment law.

The benefits of temporary working

Temporary workers are those employed on a short-term basis to fulfil certain duties, perhaps within a given time frame. One of the main benefits of employing a temporary worker is that they can be used to help companies meet demand for products or services during busy times of the year, for example at Christmas.

Employers must ensure that the worker has the appropriate qualifications required for the role where necessary.

The legal aspects of employing temporary workers

Temporary workers may be employed on a fixed-term contract which allows them to work either until the task is complete or up until a specified termination date. This matter will be decided when the employment contract is drawn up and the employer must comply with the agreement.

As such, employers would not be within their rights to terminate the contract ahead of time if the understanding was that the worker would continue to an end date. That is as long as they had no valid reason to terminate the agreement, such as in instances of misconduct.

Fixed-term contracts may also end when a specified event does or does not take place.

The employment rights of temporary workers

Unless there are outstanding circumstances, temporary workers on a fixed term are entitled to the same working conditions as their permanent employee counterparts after 12 weeks in the job. This means that they should receive the same pay, holidays, rest periods and working hours as everyone else employed by the company.

According to the Fixed-term Employment (Prevention of Less Favourable Treatment) Regulations, any employee on a fixed-term contract for four or more years is typically defined as a permanent employee by law if their contract is renewed or they are given a new fixed-term contract to fulfil by the same company.

There are exceptions to this provision, such as if the company needs to lengthen the extent of the original contract beyond four years under a collective or workplace agreement.

Fixed-term employees are subject to the same tax arrangements as permanent employees and in instances where the employers employ the worker directly, it is up to the employer to ensure that all the relevant paperwork is in order.

Employing temporary workers through an agency

If you employ a temporary worker through an agency, there are other pros and cons regarding quality, pay and paperwork.

Because the agency has hired the candidate itself, it means that they have been subject to their levels of scrutiny. This could mean that their suitability to the role is not within the same standards set by you. For this reason, it is a good idea to shop around with agencies and uncover the one you feel has exercised the most rigorous recruitment procedures. This would mean questioning the agency about the process and perhaps seeking evidence of their procedures.

The agency is responsible for ensuring that the temporary worker receives their rights under the Working Time Regulations and national minimum wage law. This reduces the onus of responsibility on you.

You will not pay the temporary worker directly but will pay the agency instead, who will take into account national insurance payments and holiday and sick pay on their bills. It could prove a more costly expense than employing the worker directly, after administration fees and profit margins are added to the expenditure.

As the employer, you need to forward your work and pay conditions to the agency which will ensure that these rights are passed on to the employee.

As employment law does not distinguish between permanent and temporary workers, they are entitled to the same pay and working conditions as those in the same or similar roles, qualifying for certain employment rights once the minimum period of continuous employment has been reached.

For more information about temporary workers, download Lawpack's temporary employment contract form.

Other information


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Published on: October 17, 2011

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