Get to grips with temp workers' rights

3 mins read

New research released has highlighted that three in four senior and HR managers do not know the rights of agency workers. The figure is even higher for manufacturing firms, which is concerning as the news runs alongside insights that suggest temporary work is set to surge. As firms struggle to effectively plan in the wake of a worsening pandemic, Kit Glover, UK MD of digital staffing platform Coople, explains how temporary workers can help you through the uncertainty.

Today, on average just one in six firms (15%) rely on a flexible workforce; with 1.5m temporary employees working in the UK. It’s three in four in manufacturing and logistics; and this figure is set to rise to deal with constantly shifting priorities. More than 50% of manufacturing and logistics firms stated that they either hired more agency workers due to the COVID-19 epidemic or did not but would have liked to.

The ability to effectively plan for the business long-term is long-gone, market conditions change on an almost daily basis now and we’re all struggling to keep up.

On average, half of businesses across the UK told us that COVID-19 has led to their profits slightly or significantly declining. The figure was even worse for organisations who don’t use temp workers; they reported losses of almost double their competitors who do use agency workers. It’s time to relieve that financial pressure.

When demand uncertainty is high, the right staffing strategy can make or break a business. If you staff for low demand, you might miss out on much needed revenue. If you do the opposite and demand is low, costs can quickly become prohibitive. This is particularly relevant for businesses who need to staff irregular shift patterns or shifts during unsociable hours, as is the case for most factories and warehouses.

Responsive staffing is a solution. It means you can hire flexible staff with very short lead times to meet planned or unplanned absences and headcount restrictions. The benefits are clear. Businesses who have a pool of flexible workers available can react to changes much quicker; avoid hiring too early or committing to fixed numbers of hours; particularly relevant right now.

Even with these benefits – there are potential pitfalls when implementing responsive staffing.

Finding the right workers and motivating them is crucial, alongside ensuring admin and payroll don’t get out of hand with a fleet of flexible workers. Here’s how to avoid those pitfalls:

Don’t take any risks with right-to-work, wages and benefits

From day one, workers automatically have a legal right to minimum wage, statutory holiday pay and the statutory minimum length of break times. You need to ensure they don’t exceed 48 weekly working hours and they are entitled to protections, including from discrimination. It is important to track their length of service, because after 12 weeks they become entitled to additional benefits. Before hiring, you need to complete all relevant right-to-work checks.

It’s worth spending time deciding whether to hire directly or work with a staffing agency. Using an agency means you can outsource the HR risk. You pay the agency like any other vendor and sign over responsibility for any of the above. You can also avoid the admin cost of running a potentially complicated payroll.

The downside? You need to pay their fee. Working with an agency that charges via a multiplier on each hired hour to avoid flat fees or retainers could work best – it’s worth doing the math because an agency fee can work out cheaper than doing payroll in-house.

Get access to a large enough pool of flexible workers

How large a pool is large enough?It depends. Is your factory or warehouse easy to reach on public transport? Do you have complicated or unsociable shift patterns? Do your workers need to have specific qualifications, like forklift driver licenses or food safety certificates? A yes to more than one of these questions would mean that you need a larger pool of potential candidates to reach enough relevant people when you need staff.

Especially when hiring large pools, working with an agency can be beneficial. Attracting candidates is their bread and butter and their business model allows for more investment in recruiting, to make their worker pools available to more than one client.

Provide an environment where your workers can succeed

Our research with more 3,000 flexible workers told us, that when choosing a shift, the top three priorities for them are work environment, pay, and distance.

Providing a good work environment means setting workers up for success. In manufacturing this can be as simple as providing very specific instructions to find your location. If you hire for manual jobs, it means providing guidance in several languages to ensure that your workers understand them. Make sure that you have the right manager or the right agency; to ensure they invest enough time to understand the needs of your flexible workers.

Responsive staffing is a powerful tool, provided it is used correctly and organisations behave ethically towards those they hire. A third of the businesses we spoke to have implemented a strategy for hiring agency workers. Can you afford not to?