Protecting the employment rights of seasonal staff

  • Posted

Every year, businesses across the UK take on additional seasonal staff. They are entitled to the same working conditions as permanent employees (in fact, they have some additional rights).

Seasonal employees are generally given fixed-term contracts and they obtain the same rights in law as their permanent counterparts working in a similar role. For example, they should receive the same pay, working hours, rest breaks and holiday entitlement as if they were a permanent employee of the business.

Here are some of the legal rights seasonal employees have:

  • They must be paid at least the national minimum wage
  • They must receive a wage slip, and the appropriate tax and National Insurance contributions must have been deducted from their earnings by the employer at source
  • Deductions cannot be made from their pay without their prior written authorisation
  • Their average working week must not exceed 48 hours unless they have consented to opt out of the 48-hour working week
  • They are entitled to rest breaks
  • They are afforded protection from discrimination
  • They are afforded protection from whistleblowing
  • They may be entitled to maternity/paternity leave

Seasonal employees are also protected against less favourable treatment, or being subjected to a detriment, compared to those of a comparable permanent employee. This means they are entitled to be paid the same remuneration, conditions and benefits as their comparable permanent counterparts and must be informed about any permanent vacancies that become available.

Contracts of employment

Even if seasonal employees are only employed for a short period, it is a legal requirement to provide them with a written contract of employment. This is a day one right and must be provided on, or before, the first day of employment.

Temporary contracts usually operate on a fixed-term basis. As an employer, if you want to terminate the employment of a seasonal employee before the expiration of the fixed-term period, then you can only do so where this is specified in the contract. You will need to ensure that any termination is in accordance with the terms within the contract and, with regard to notice, this must be no less than the statutory minimum notice provisions.

Redundancy pay

To be entitled to redundancy pay, an employee must have worked continuously for a minimum of two years. They would, however, be entitled to be paid for any notice period and accrued but untaken holiday entitlement. In addition, depending on the terms of the fixed-term contract, they may be entitled to be paid for the remaining time left to run on the contract.

It is worth noting that it is unlawful to select a fixed-term employee for redundancy because of their fixed-term status. Whilst an employee with less than two years length of service does not have the right to bring a claim for unfair dismissal, care does need to be taken that selection for redundancy on grounds of length of service does not give rise to discrimination claims on grounds of age. Any selection would need to be objectively justified.

Holiday entitlement

Seasonal employees are entitled to be paid annual leave. Full-time employees are entitled to a minimum of 5.6 weeks’ (i.e. 28 days) paid leave each year. This could be 20 days plus 8 bank holidays or 28 days including bank holidays, whichever the employer prefers to include within the contract. The full-time equivalent holiday entitlement is pro rata’d for part-time employees, depending on the number of hours they work. If a business offers more generous holiday entitlement than the statutory minimum, then fixed-term employees are also entitled to receive this.

If you have any queries regarding this or any other employment matter, please do not hesitate to contact a member of the team.