In many countries across the world including the UK there is a trend towards the employment of seasonal, temporary or casual staff. This means anything from fruit picking or harvesting to helping out at summer festivals like Glastonbury to temporary office and retail jobs covering maternity leave or the festive period.
Some jobs which involve aspects of catering, for instance, require a worker – no matter how short a time they may be employed for – to have relevant and up to date hygiene certificates. A casual office job may need relevant IT or other qualifications.
But what about the other side of the coin – what obligations does an employer have towards seasonal and casual staff?
Duty of care
All employers in the UK know about the importance of health and safety training both from a legal and safety standpoint and most do their utmost to comply with the government’s regulations on health and safety training requirements. But there are some employers whose business relies on a high turnover of casual staff who perhaps aren’t as aware of the need for health and safety training for staff who may only be there for a short time. According to the government’s own figures workplace accidents increase with the hiring of new staff because newer workers are more at risk of injury. As such, a failure to provide the proper health and safety training could prove to be an expensive oversight.
New penalties introduced
On February 1st 2016 new sentencing guidelines were introduced in relation to corporate manslaughter as well as health and safety or food hygiene breaches. A seemingly simple failure to provide the proper personal protective equipment for a particular task would be an example of what constitutes a breach of health and safety law. Unsafe working practices can also lead to breaches of the law. In some cases the result could be death or serious injury and an organisation could find themselves handed a hefty fine, as with the owners of Alton Towers theme park following the serious accident which occurred in 2015. Any breach which resulted in a death could easily see an employer, manager or owner receiving a prison sentence. The increase in penalties outlined by the Sentencing Council is designed to better reflect the seriousness of any incidents and to restore the public’s faith in the consistency of the judicial system.
Reasons to provide health and safety training
The idea of health and safety training is primarily to keep staff, visitors and customers safe but there are several good reasons why an employer should provide it for all their staff, including seasonal and casual staff:
- Good for morale. When workers feel looked after and safe productivity increases.
- Protection against litigation. A business which is shown to take health and safety seriously has less chance of ending up in court.
- Enhanced company reputation.
Whether you hire staff for a week, a month or a year, the time spent on health and safety training is always time well spent.