MT Expert: How to manage your temporary 'elves' this Christmas

In order to keep the tills jingling this Christmas, many businesses will need to take on temp workers. Philip Tromans, operations director at temp agency de Poel, has these tips.

by Philip Tromans
Last Updated: 09 Oct 2013

Christmas is nearly here and soon consumers will throw off the shackles of the economic slump to celebrate and spend. To cope with the extra demand, the use of temps is set to rise by around 30% over the festive period, especially in the retail, distribution and supply chain industries. This is being driven by the huge rise in clicks over bricks, with estimates pitting festive spending at £465m on Cyber Monday alone – that’s £10,000 a second.

Whereas this level of spending may sound as though retailers are getting their Christmases all at once, it can actually be a huge headache if the businesses haven’t managed their temp worker requirement correctly. Getting the staffing level correct is key to ensure that the right orders are delivered to the right customers, on time. Get it wrong and the business doesn’t just lose revenue on one order, it can also ruin the opportunity to gain repeat custom in 2013.

In order to get your temporary labour requirement all wrapped up there are two things you need to get right – planning and legislation.  For planning, you need to forecast demand to gauge your requirement. Ensure that you are giving your temps time to get trained and up to speed on their roles, and that you also have a continuous recruitment drive in place. Your temps can take holiday at any time so make sure you have back-up options to plug any gaps.

When it comes to legislation, ignorance isn’t an excuse. As the employer you must make sure your temps are vetted according to legislative requirements. Failure to do so could make your business liable for huge fines – which will certainly dampen your festive cheer.  This means that you must check that migrant workers have the appropriate visas, and that your drivers have the correct driving qualifications and licenses. And if you work in a business where Criminal Record Bureau checks are required, then make sure they're all in order.

If you are planning on retaining your temps for over 12 weeks you also need to be familiar with the Agency Workers Regulations (AWR). This enables workers who attain 12 qualifying weeks working in the same role with the same hirer to get pay parity, meaning that once they attain this qualifying period with a hirer, they will, in most cases, see an increase in their hourly rate to a rate identical to those paid to directly engaged employees of the hirer.

Alternatively you can choose to only hire workers who are engaged on contracts of employment which comply with Regulation 10 of AWR, under what is popularly known as 'Swedish Derogation'.  Swedish Derogation provides that, in return for a worker foregoing their rights to pay parity after 12 qualifying weeks with a hirer, their employer, which in most cases will be the supplying temporary work agency, will pay that worker, where the worker is not working but is available to undertake work, 'pay between assignments' for a minimum  of four weeks. 

With the planning and legislation checked twice, you should be set for smooth sailing. However, if you are only just thinking about taking on your temps, or if you find yourself understaffed due to unexpected consumer demand, it is best to act immediately. Gather as much information in one place and pull together a proposal of business priorities. A professional recruitment agency supplier can help you immediately address short-term issues.

Philip Tromans is operations director at procurer of temporary agency labour de Poel

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