Author: Jim Riley Last updated: Sunday 23 September, 2012
Employing temporary workers
What is a temporary worker?
A temporary worker is someone employed for a limited period
whose job is usually expected by both sides to last for only a short time.
Temporary workers may be employed directly by the employer or by private
agencies. Agencies will recruit, select and sometimes train temporary workers
and hire them out to employers.
Temporary workers are sometimes employed on fixed
term contracts. A fixed term contract is a contract of employment
for a definite period, set in advance.
Employment ends when the contract expires and no notice need be given by
the employer. Employment contracts may also be agreed which end on the completion
of a particular task rather than on a specific date.
What are the legal aspects
of temporary working?
UK employment law makes no distinction between ‘permanent’ and ‘temporary’ employees.
To qualify for various employment rights, however, employees must have served
a minimum period of continuous employment with their employer.
workers will have insufficient service. However, some employment
rights – such as the right not to be discriminated against on the grounds
of race, sex or disability – have no minimum service qualifications.
Employees on fixed term contracts have the right to
be paid the same rate as similar permanent employees working for the same
and in general terms should not be treated less favourably than permanent
employees. This means that employees on fixed term contracts will have
broadly the same rights to statutory redundancy payments, written reasons
and the right not to be unfairly dismissed as permanent employees.
Advantages of Temporary Working
- Temporary workers can provide
greater flexibility because the number employed can vary to take account
of changes in demand for the product or service
- Temporary workers can also
provide cover for permanent staff on holiday, maternity leave or sick leave
- Temporary employees can provide specialist
skills to carry out specific projects
- Some businesses use
temporary fixed term contracts as a screening device for potential recruits
to the permanent workforce
Disadvantages of Temporary Working
- Some employers
find that temporary workers lack motivation and commitment
which use agency ‘temps’ depend on the screening and testing
methods used by the agency
- Agency workers can sometimes receive
pay than their
permanent counterparts, which can cause resentment amongst employees
and trade unions.
Making a Success of Using Temporary Workers
There are several things a business should do if it is
to make temporary working a successful part of its workforce planning:
using temporary contracts when the job is in reality permanent
the likely cost of using temporary workers compared to permanent workers
with managers to determine their views on the possible effects of
employing temporary workers
- Agree proposals to use temporary workers
with recognised trade unions
- Where temporary workers are recruited through
an employment agency, contact several agencies to compare the services
screening and testing methods
- Provide temporary workers or
the employment agency with job descriptions and information on company
benefits, rules and
- Give temporary workers a written statement of
their main terms and conditions of employment.