By Sally Togher of Raworths Solicitors, Harrogate
As the seasons change, so do the work levels for most rural businesses. In farming, clearly there are busy periods such as the lambing season or harvest time, likewise in related industries such as rural tourism there are seasonal fluctuations.
These fluctuations in the workforce can present numerous challenges for many rural businesses and it’s important to understand the best ways of managing them. It is worth thinking outside the box in terms of how and on what terms you hire staff. However, it is also crucial that you are clear about employment status as there are significant legal complications and penalties if you are not.
Generally, there are three types of staff:
The benefit of an employee is that they are committed to working for you with set times and hours. They are also required to conform to your working methods meaning you have more control over how a role is carried out. If you get the relationship right, you can generate loyalty and commitment, qualities that are crucial in the labour intensive roles you might find in farming.
However, employees come with a whole raft of rights, including protection from unfair dismissal which other categories of staff don’t have. Also, you are committed to providing work even during quieter periods.
The status of worker is a halfway house between an employee and a self-employed person. Although there are many different types of worker, generally they are required to provide personal service but have more flexibility as to when they work. Workers are entitled to many rights including holiday pay but have no claim to unfair dismissal.
3. Self-employed/independent contractors
Independent contractors do not have unfair dismissal protection or the various rights and protections which employees and workers have. Generally, contractors have no set hours or obligations and can send a substitute to do their work. They also usually use their own equipment and account for their own tax.
It is crucial that you carefully consider employment status when you take on new staff (and that you also consider this for existing staff). It is also essential that you get the correct documentation in place to ensure the employment status is clear, avoiding confusion and cost at a later date.