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Philip Tromans

de Poel

Operations Director

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Seasonal workers – How to ensure many happy returns


Many organisations look forward to the festive season as a time of generating major revenues – and, despite the difficult economic climate, it appears that business was brisker for many in November than had been expected.

To ensure that things run smoothly during this busy time, however, most rely on temporary labour to help them cope.
The use of temporary workers generally rises by about 30% over the festive period, especially in the retail, distribution and supply chain industries. And this year demand for such personnel is being driven by a huge rise in online shopping.
For employers, this seasonal peak is seen as crucial to hitting revenue targets. It also presents an opportunity to showcase services to new customers to try and encourage them to return in future.
But this situation generates huge pressure to satisfy orders and ensure that they are correct and delivered on time. To achieve this, a robust strategy for managing their temporary labour needs is essential.
The first step is to put together a plan and related timeframe. To do this effectively, it is important to predict your requirements and ensure that you abide by legislation every step of the way.
Forecasting and planning
Some companies start on this process as early as August in order to ensure that they have the correct staffing levels in place by the time the Christmas season arrives.
In terms of gauging your requirement, meanwhile, evaluate business growth over the last few years, coupled with projected turnover during the festive period.
To this end, work with internal and external stakeholders in order to understand exactly which areas of the organisations require additional resources so that you can form a strategic plan. It is always better to overestimate rather than be stuck with unhappy customers during an already-stressful time of year.
Also bear in mind, however, that workers will need to be bedded in before any sales surge to ensure that they are familiar with your company, its processes and their role.  
Moreover, because your temps can take holidays at any time, it makes sense to overestimate requirements and undertake a continuous recruitment drive in order to ensure that you have back-up options and can plug any gaps.
Ensuring that your temps are vetted in line with legislative requirements, which includes criminal record checks, is also key. Failure to do so could make the organisation liable for huge fines. 
As a result, you must check whether any migrant workers have the appropriate visas, while drivers must be assessed to ensure that they have the correct driving qualifications and licenses.
But an understanding of the Agency Workers Regulations is just as crucial. The Regulations stipulate that any individual who works for 12 weeks in the same role with the same hirer is eligible for what is known as ‘pay parity’.
Preparation and organisation
This means that, once this qualifying period has been completed, they must, in most cases, be paid the same hourly rates as permanent hires. One alternative here is to only take on workers who are engaged on employment contracts that comply with Regulation 10 of the AWR, otherwise known as the ‘Swedish Derogation’.
The Swedish Derogation stipulates that, in return for a worker foregoing their rights to pay parity after 12 weeks, their employer – which in most cases will be the temp agency that they work for – will give them “pay between assignments” for a minimum of four weeks, as long as they are available for work.
But whichever approach you take, you will still need to plan in advance and undertake a sensible and detailed forecast of your staffing needs over the festive period.
If your business does need extra help this winter, the time to act is now as Christmas is only a handful of weeks away. But the key to success really is preparation and organisation.
You will find it much easier to plan proactively for your recruitment needs rather than scramble around at the last minute trying to find more staff – even if there are a lot of people looking around for temp work at the moment.
If you suddenly realise that you don’t have enough personnel and everything could go pear-shaped, however, it is vital to act immediately. Gather as much information as you can and establish your business priorities so that you can plug gaps in the most crucial areas at least.
So the motto in true Boy Scout fashion is ‘be prepared’ so that you can put your organisation in the best place possible to reap many happy returns of the year.

Philip Tromans is operations director at temporary labour procurer, de Poel.

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Philip Tromans

Operations Director

Read more from Philip Tromans

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