Christmas is nearly here and that can mean many things for small businesses. But for many SMEs, Christmas can mean a seasonal spike in sales and productivity. While that’s obviously a great way to end the year, it’s important that you have plans put in place to cope with the increased demand.
One way to cover this peak time is by hiring seasonal workers, on a short-term, temporary basis. However, you need to make sure you do it right.
To help, here are our dos and don’ts of hiring seasonal workers. Consider it an early Christmas present from us to you.
Four things you need to do when hiring seasonal workers
1. Realise you’re offering the same statutory rights
Remember that if you employ seasonal or casual workers under a contract of employment, they are employees, and enjoy the same statutory rights as your other employees.
2. Supply a contract of employmentProvide your casual workers with a contract of employment in the first two months of their employment.
3. Offer a clear contract
Make sure the contract is clear, that it is for a specified purpose and that once complete the contract will end. Ensure it is clear that the Unfair Dismissals Acts, 1977-2015 will not apply where the only reason for terminating the contract is the expiry of the specified purpose.
4. Make sure a contract is in place
Remember that if there is no contract in place, their status may not be clear, and in the event of a dispute, it will be for the courts to decide whether they are classed as employed or self-employed.
Three things you shouldn’t do when hiring seasonal workers
1. Forget staff can claim continuous employment if working intermittently
If someone works on an irregular basis but over a period of time, they may be able to claim continuous employment, under an implied contract of employment or a contract that has lapsed with no communication to the employee.
This means the employee has an expectation that work will be provided and they are effectively a permanent employee.
2. Forget you can offer a fixed-term contract
Don’t overlook the fact that if you wish to employ casual workers at certain times of the year, you can offer a fixed-term/specified purpose contract, which confirms a fixed, limited period of employment.
Employed casual workers are protected by the Protection of Employees (Fixed Term Work) Act 2003, which requires that employees on fixed-term contracts are treated no less favourably than similar employees on indefinite contracts.
3. Forget to confirm a contract has endedIt’s important that you let an employee know when their contract has come to a conclusion.
Final thoughts on hiring seasonal workers
They key to any kind of employment, including seasonal workers, is to clearly define the terms and conditions in a written contract of employment.
In doing that, you’ll reduce the risk of any kind of dispute, meaning you and your employees, whether temporary or permanent, can enjoy a productive Christmas season.
Editor’s note: This post was originally published in October 2012 and has been updated for accuracy and relevance.