Temporary workers offer the perfect short-term staffing solution for many small businesses – without the financial and legal obligations of taking on full-time employees. Here we look at your legal responsibilities when you take on different types of staff – agency, fixed-term and zero-hours workers.
Ultimately, your responsibilities depend on how temporary workers are engaged with your business, and if there are any other companies involved in employing them, as follows:
- An agency worker will be employed by a third party, often a recruitment consultant or temp agency. Here you will pay the agency, and they will pay the employee. You will not be the employer of these people, but you will still have responsibility for their health and safety. Agency workers are entitled to the same terms and conditions (pay, breaks, childcare vouchers, pension) as permanent staff after 12 weeks, but it will be agency that must provide this. You are legally required to ensure you communicate what terms your permanent staff have so that the agency can mirror this.
- A fixed term worker is someone who works for you for either a set period of time or on a specific project. The contract will end either at the defined date or once the project is complete. You will employ these people directly and therefore will have full responsibility for meeting their employment rights and paying all tax and NI through your payroll. As with agency workers after 12 weeks they are entitled to the same terms and conditions as permanent staff.
- A contractor/consultant/freelancer is usually self employed or employed by another Company; they provide you with a service, and take responsibility for their own tax and national insurance. They are not usually an employee or worker, and therefore don’t have the same rights. You are however still responsible for their health and safety whilst working for you.
- A zero hours worker is employed for short periods of time on an ‘as and when’ basis, they usually have periods when they do no work, therefore continuity of service does not start; however if they were to be employed for 12 weeks then they would be entitled to the same employment rights as any permanent staff. There is no guaranteed number of hours of work and the employee doesn’t have to accept work you offer them. You would still be responsible for meeting their employment, health and safety rights.
Kirsty Burgess, who kindly provided this advice, is co-founder and Director of citrusHR, the UK’s most comprehensive employment support service for new and smaller businesses. You can read Kirsty’s advice on dismissing an employee (and the procedures you must follow) here.