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Yule be sorry: Christmas temps fuel tribunal fears

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Retailers and other businesses reliant on the heavy use of temporary staff during the festive season are being warned that less favourable treatment could wind them up at an employment tribunal.

This is the warning of law firm DWF. The company says that bosses who take on temporary cover should ensure those staff are given the same rights and privileges as other staff.

Matthew Yates, partner with DWF in Leeds, said: “Temporary workers other than agency staff are still considered as employees in the eyes of the law and cannot be treated any less favourably than permanent staff doing the same type of job.

“Employers should not use their fixed-term status to avoid issuing them with an employment contract, or giving them paid holidays and similar benefits. However you may be able to justify not giving them a company car or pension benefits.”

Yates offers the following guidance:

  • Carry out all the relevant pre-employment checks, for example health examinations, Criminal Record Bureau checks for workers who come into contact with children, and checking visas and work permits for foreign nationals.

  • Make sure that temporary workers understand your policies as you will still be liable for their actions, for example if their behaviour leads to claims of harassment or discrimination.

  • In general, temporary workers are entitled to paid holiday and the protection of the working time regulations. They must also be paid at least the minimum wage.

  • Employers are obliged to conduct risk assessments under the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999. Bear in mind that temporary, casual and seasonal workers may be especially vulnerable to injury if they are working in an unfamiliar environment without appropriate training.

  • Temporary workers can sometimes be less reliable than permanent staff, which can defeat the purpose of employing them. Put an absence management policy in place and inform them of your disciplinary procedures.

  • All employees working more than six hours are entitled to a rest break of at least 20 minutes.

  • Give temporary employees an exit interview – it’s a good way to gain feedback and learn how the company compares to others, including any competitors they have worked for, and also to check they have returned your equipment!

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Annie Hayes

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