Are You a Seasonal Worker?

Five things Xmas seasonal workers should know about their employment rights.

This winter, the Royal Mail set out to recruit over 19,000 seasonal workers to deal with the Christmas postal surge. Other well-known employers such as Argos, Amazon and Boots have done the same. So if you’re one of the many Britons who have taken seasonal work at Christmas, what do you need to know about your employment rights?

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According to one study in 2013, around 28,000 temporary jobs are created each week in the run up to Christmas in the UK. These jobs trigger a considerable volume of employment disputes. At the UK’s leading online site for free legal advice lawontheweb.co.uk, its email inbox and legal advice phonelines receive may queries because of the blurred nature of seasonal workers’ employment status and consequent employment rights.

According to lawyers at DAS Law, who provide telephone legal advice via the site’s Instant Law Line, here are five key points regarding seasonal working and employment law.

  1. There is no legal definition of ‘seasonal working’. Many seasonal workers will be employed on fixed-term contracts or so called zero-hours contracts.
  2. A seasonal worker’s legal rights are dependent on what their employment status is. The contract they work under may set this out if one exists. They will be one of three following things: an employee, a worker or a self-employed. Employees have the most rights.
  3. Seasonal workers on zero-hours contracts are not guaranteed any work and in return do not have to commit to taking work offered. Generally such workers are employed as workers or self-employed rather than being employees and so do not have the same rights as fixed term or permanent employees.
  4. If you are employed on a fixed-term contract you are protected against being treated less favourably than permanent employees. Common forms of less favourable treatment include exclusion from the pension or bonus scheme, not providing benefits such as contractual sick pay, not being given access to promotion opportunities or being selected for redundancy because of their fixed-term status.
  1. In addition to the manner in which their employment is described, other key points a seasonal worker should check in their contract are: the right to rest breaks, how any annual leave is calculated, the pattern of working hours – i.e. shifts, evenings – and whether they are due notice of termination of their contract.

Catherine Almeida, solicitor at DAS Law, said:

“Many businesses are reliant on seasonal workers at this time of year and like many areas of employment law, the legal issues can be complex when determining the employment status of a seasonal worker. 

“The contract is critical, if one exists, but if a dispute does escalate, courts and tribunals will also look at how the contract has been performed in practice. For example, a long-standing contractual relationship could be construed as an employee-employer relationship even if the contract says it’s not.” 

If you would like to speak to one of the DAS Law team about the employment issues related to seasonal working, please contact FWD Consulting on 020 7623 2368 or email adrian.beeby@fwdconsulting.co.uk.

Royal Mail workers

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