Every year businesses in the UK take on seasonal employees. They may be employed for periods spanning just a few weeks to a number of months. This article considers the employment rights of such seasonal staff.
As we will see, seasonal workers have many similar rights to permanent staff and so it is important not to overlook this just because some staff are only with you for a short term basis.
Even if they are only employed for a short period of time, it is a legal requirement to provide them with a written statement of employment terms. This must be provided by the first day of work.
How do fixed term contracts work for seasonal workers?
Many contracts of employment for seasonal staff are described as fixed term contracts. This is often done on the basis that their employment is not intended to be permanent and includes a specific date when employment will end, based on when the business anticipates that there will be no further work for them.
Despite the “fixed term” title, the terms of such contracts can vary considerably and can include:
- Allowing either party to terminate during the fixed term at any time after giving a specified period of notice
- Allowing only the employer to terminate during the fixed term in this way
- Having just one point during the contract when either party can decide to end employment early; or
- Having a probationary period during which employment can be terminated on short notice.
What are seasonal workers entitled to in terms of breaks, holiday and pay?
During their employment seasonal workers are entitled to rest breaks and rest periods in the same way as permanent employees. This includes being entitled to an uninterrupted rest break of at least 20 minutes for each shift lasting six hours or more. It also includes having a daily rest period of eleven hours and weekly rest of 24 hours.
Seasonal workers are entitled to an itemised payslip for each pay period. It must show gross wages before deductions, any deductions and the reason for taking those deductions.
Seasonal workers are entitled to paid holiday, minimum of 5.6 weeks per holiday year. They will accrue holiday on a pro rata basis during their first twelve months of employment. There is a useful holiday entitlement calculator at www.gov.uk/calculate-your-holiday-entitlement.
Seasonal workers are entitled to be paid the relevant minimum wage for their age and employers who fall foul of this can face civil and criminal liabilities.
How to terminate seasonal employment contracts?
When it comes to ending the employment at the end of the season, seasonal workers will not be entitled to a statutory redundancy payment unless they have clocked up two years of continuous employment.
They will not have the right to claim unfair dismissal either, unless they have two years continuous service. This can avoid the need to go through any form of consultation process ahead of dismissals.
However employees should still be wary that some decisions could be open to challenge if they are tainted by unlawful discrimination or whistle blowing allegations, which do not require two years’ service. For example if decisions need to be made about letting some employees go early if there’s less work than expected, or offering extra work to others, then employers may need to demonstrate that their criteria for selecting employees was reasonable and not so tainted by discrimination.
There are other options to taking on seasonal staff than as temporary employees. If you do not know how much work you would be able to offer, an alternative option to consider would be to a zero hours contract. This gives you the flexibility to only offer them shifts as and when needed. Most zero hour contracts will give the worker the reciprocal flexibility, so allowing them to accept or reject as many offers of work as they so choose, without justification. So the flexibility works both ways and so needs to be suitable for your business.
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