You may find your business is subject to seasonal fluctuations in demand. For example, December is a busy time for many businesses, particularly retailers who have to deal with a spike in demand as the Christmas period approaches.
Other areas of work that may be influenced by seasonal differences include farming, construction and gardening.
The simplest strategy is to try to make do with the existing workforce. Increasing overtime and offering weekend or evening work may be enough to bridge the gap. However, if more labour is needed, new people will have to be brought in. See employing staff for seasonal businesses.
There are various options available to deal with this seasonal rush.
Using agency workers is one possibility. Employment agencies take much of the administrative burden of finding appropriate staff, and can respond quickly to fluctuating demand.
However, employers also need to be aware of the Agency Workers Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2011, which give workers entitlements to the same employment conditions as permanent employees after a 12-week qualification period.
Read more on recruiting agency workers.
Zero-hours contracts can give great flexibility to employers and workers. Normally these contracts create an employment relationship in which there is no obligation for one side to offer work, nor the other to accept it.
They avoid the cost of agency fees and make it straightforward to take on extra staff when needed. But it's important to point out that zero-hours workers have the same rights and protections as other workers, such as annual leave, the national minimum wage and pay for work-related travel.
Read more on zero-hours contracts.
Short fixed-term contracts
It may be more appropriate or effective to use short fixed-term contracts and buy in labour for a particular project or period.
Fixed-term work terminates after a specified period, but contract workers are entitled to the same pay and conditions as permanent staff, equivalent benefits, information about permanent vacancies, and protection from unfavourable treatment.
It's good practice to make notice provisions in fixed-term contracts in case employment needs to be terminated early.
Read more on understanding fixed-term contracts.
Pensions for seasonal and temporary workers
Like other staff, seasonal and temporary workers must be assessed to see if they qualify for automatic enrolment into a workplace pension. Assessing these types of employees can take more time because of varying hours and earnings.
Employers who know their staff will be working for them for less than three months can use postponement. This postpones the legal duty to assess staff for three months. During this postponement period, employers will not need to put staff into a pension unless they ask to be put into one. See the Pensions Regulator's guidance on employing seasonal or temporary staff.
Know your legal responsibilities
- Do you need a licence?
- Get the right business insurance
- Comply with the law when providing goods and services
- Know your customers' rights
- Distance and online selling rules
- Understand pricing legislation
- Buying goods from outside NI
- Selling goods outside NI
- GDPR compliance checklist
- Pay your business rates
- Understand staff contracts and your responsibilities
- Taking on contractors and subcontractors
- What you need to do about health and safety
- Know your legal obligations on pensions
Understand tax and VAT
Sell and market your products or services