Temporary working relationships are valuable resource for new and expanding small businesses. They help businesses expand incrementally without adding greatly to the coast and complexity of running the organisation at times of fluctuation and great change. You can find that the regulatory environment concerning funding, corporate governance and so on is complicated enough, without triggering the need to comply with numerous employment regulations when the business may not have the financial or human resources to deal with such compliance.
You can have too much of a good thing though. Although in general temporary workers don’t have the same rights as employees in the workplace, you still need to observe some ‘dos’ and ‘don’ts’. The Health and Safety Act Requirements, the Working Time Regulations and the Equality Act all apply to temporary workers, as does the National Minimum Wage Act. The Immigration, Asylum and Nationality Act, 2006 also requires employers to check documents that prove the right of people to work in the UK, and to carry out follow-up checks. This aspect may be especially relevant if a business hires temporary staff because the immigration authorities can regard their activities as ‘work’.
Here we take a look at the various types of temporary worker and different aspects to remember for each group.
You often bring in agency workers (or ‘temps’) when you have a short-term need for extra pairs of hands – for example, for a particular project or seasonal work.
The agency is in effect the employer. But you have to make sure that all agency workers are treated equally to your other employees after the temp completes a 12-week qualification period. Agency workers can’t ‘opt out’ of these provisions and are also entitled to any on-site facilities that you provide for your own employees.
To avoid the impact of the various regulations, limit the use of agency workers to a period of less than 12 weeks. Or you can use overtime for existing employees or self-employed contractors to avoid this problem. If the agency worker starts a new assignment that’s substantially different, starts a new assignment with a different client or has at least a 6-week break, the 12-week rule doesn’t apply.
An apprenticeship provides an opportunity for on-the- job training and for persons aged 16-24 to attain a nationally recognised certificate on completion. If you enter into a contract and its main purpose is to train the employee, in effect it’s an apprenticeship contract. These contracts are usually for a fixed number of years and can’t be terminated early other than for very serious cases of misconduct such as fraud.
The new and more common arrangement is an apprenticeship agreement as described in the Apprenticeship, Skills, Children and Learning Act, 2009. The Act sets out a ‘prescribed form’ for this agreement: it must include the skill, trade or occupation for which the apprentice is being trained. This type of agreement is a ‘service’ agreement and may be more helpful to you because terminating is easier in the event of misconduct on the part of the apprentice.
Next week we will focus on Interns and Zero-hours contracts.
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