Many small business owners are all too familiar with the holiday rush. Just as most of the country is starting to wind down and think about how they’ll spend the festive break, many in retail and hospitality are facing their busiest times of the year.
Making the most of the holiday shopping and festive season frenzy often means bringing more hands on deck. And that’s where it can get complicated.
There is more than one way to hire temporary staff. So how can small businesses hire the right sort of help while keeping up with any compliance requirements?
Temps vs casuals: What’s the difference?
Employsure Senior Employment Relations Adviser, Michael Wilkinson, says small businesses need to be aware of the different requirements and responsibilities when hiring temporary workers and casuals.
“When you use the word temp, you need to understand what that actually means,” he says. “It’s usually referring to a temporary contract, meaning a fixed-term employment agreement for a set period of time.”
Employment New Zealand says a temporary employee is someone who is hired for a specific time period or when a particular event occurs, for example, a worker covering for another employee’s parental leave or a person engaged for a seasonal peak to complete a project.
A fixed-term agreement must include a “genuine reason based on reasonable grounds” for the shorter-term contract, which must be made known to the employee. For example, this could be the end of the holiday period or the completion of a project.
On the other hand, a casual worker is one who is employed on an intermittent basis, without regular shifts or the obligation to accept the work.
Under New Zealand employment law, casual workers need to know their work hours will vary and that they’re not obliged to come to work whenever the employer might need them.
By law, all employees – whether casual, fixed-term or permanent – must also have a written employment agreement. This should explicitly state if the employment has a fixed term and why, or whether it is of casual nature with an expectation of varying hours.
Unemployment at historic lows
Employsure’s Wilkinson says small businesses should assess their staffing requirements for the holiday season and the predictability of their work flows, before hiring staff.
He says, amid increasing unpredictability in retail trading, some employers choose the flexibility of casual staff so they can meet fluctuating customer demands.
But if the work flow is predictable, he says small businesses can engage a fixed-term worker to meet demand – provided they have a reason for the role to end.
But he advises employers to consider what they are “locking themselves into”.
“A casual employee you don’t have to roster. There’s no obligation to do that, whereas a permanent or fixed-term employee needs to be provided with the hours guaranteed in their employment agreement.
“There are always trade-offs.”
The time to act is now
Kirk Hope, the CEO of small business peak body BusinessNZ, says there are already many employers searching for workers and finding skilled staff is a “top concern” for small businesses.
“The labour market is currently very tight in New Zealand,” he says.
“Unemployment is around 4% – an historically very low level. There are many casual job openings in retail in Auckland and in horticulture in regional areas, along with other types of casual vacancies, in the pre-Christmas period.”
Wilkinson says given the approaching peak trade for the retail and hospitality sectors, employers should act immediately to recruit and train their additional staff. Finding yourself short of staff during a peak trading period can very easily mean you leave potential profits on the table.
Need to ramp up your staff numbers ahead of the summer season? Talk to Prospa about how a small business loan could help provide cash flow support, so you can meet extra wage demands.
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