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Swot up on seasonal workers’ rights this Christmas

Swot up on seasonal workers’ rights this Christmas

Martin Stephen

Published by
Martin Stephen

28th November 2019

As many companies gear up for their busiest time of year, employers are urged to make sure they are up to speed on seasonal workers’ rights.

The festive season sees a spike in the number of workers entering into temporary contracts, as Christmas markets, pop-up bars and ice rinks start to appear in big cities.

Temporary, seasonal, agency and zero hour contracts bring a great deal of benefits to both workers and employers, with added flexibility for both parties and a speedier hiring process.

However, Martin Stephen, employment law specialist at Wright, Johnston & Mackenzie LLP is warning employers to make sure they know the dos and don’ts of temporary contracts.

“A difficulty which can often arise is discrimination. There are various types of seasonal workers – part time, flexible and zero hour contracts to name a few. Every worker has the right to be treated fairly, no matter their job title.

“For instance, an employer can’t treat a part time worker less favourably than a full time member of staff. This could result in a discrimination claim and could ultimately be very damaging to a business.

“The other thing to bear in mind is that there’s no upper limit on the amount of compensation that a worker or employee could claim in relation to unlawful discrimination so it’s essential that you know your obligations inside out and don’t leave yourself vulnerable to a claim.

According to the Office for National Statistics, there are around 1.42 million temporary workers currently employed in the UK.

There are key differences between hiring someone as a worker or as an employee – and knowing the difference is vital.

“An employee is a person who is under a contract of employment and a worker is someone who undertakes work personally for another party,” he explains.

“Employees have far greater employment rights than a worker. For example, after two years an employee has the right to not be unfairly dismissed - a worker doesn’t have that right.

“Workers have the right to minimum wage and they aren’t allowed to work more than 48 hours a week. They also have the right to minimum wage as well and the right not to be discriminated against - whether it be by age, sexuality, disability or other protected characteristic.

“During Christmas, employers are more likely to hire workers as there’s greater flexibility.

“To safeguard the rights of both employer and employee, it’s advisable that there is some form of contractual documentation in place so there is no ambiguity.”

Best practice can limit the problems that arise – but Martin says if an issue does come to the fore it’s wise to seek legal advice at an early stage before a problem escalates.

Martin Stephen adds: “At WJM, we like to be able to head things off before they become big problems. We often offer employers advice before they take action against an employee or worker to minimise the risk of claims.”

The information contained in this newsletter is for general guidance only and represents our understanding of relevant law and practice as at November 2019. Wright, Johnston & Mackenzie LLP cannot be held responsible for any action taken or not taken in reliance upon the contents. Specific advice should be taken on any individual matter. Transmissions to or from our email system and calls to or from our offices may be monitored and/or recorded for regulatory purposes. Authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority. Registered office: 302 St Vincent Street, Glasgow, G2 5RZ. A limited liability partnership registered in Scotland, number SO 300336.