As your business grows you may need to employ temporary workers when you have a staff shortage or (hopefully) more work than you know what to do with.
In this situation temporary workers can give you the flexibility to cope with any sudden or temporary changes in your business. They can cover for your permanent staff should one of them be holiday or on sick or maternity leave, for example.
A temporary worker can be employed for a limited period, either through an agency or directly.
But where do you stand as an employer? How do temporary workers’ rights differ from those of permanent employees?
UK employment law makes no distinction between a ‘permanent’ and a ‘temporary’ worker. However, to qualify for certain employment rights, employees must have served a minimum period of continuous employment.
Temporary workers can give you the flexibilty to cope with changes in your business
Sometimes a temporary worker might accrue a certain period of employment and will then qualify for some employment rights. Temporary workers who are not employed on fixed-term contracts may have the same rights to notice of termination as permanent employees.
Certain rights have no minimum service qualification. Everyone has the right not to be discriminated against on the grounds of race, religion, age, disability or sexual orientation, for example.
In recent years the European Commission has worked out a draft EU directive designed to protect temporary agency workers. However, it has been continually blocked by certain member states and it is unclear as to whether it will be implemented in the future. Trade unions, such as the European Trade Union Confederation, are lobbying hard to push through the law and protect temporary agency workers across the EU.
Temporary workers are sometimes hired on fixed-term contracts. A rule came into force in October 2002 granting employees on fixed-term contracts the right to be paid the same as permanent employees.
Any business that is unsure of its legal obligations or employment law should seek legal advice.