Protection when hiring temporary workers
Employers need to be weary of the potential pitfalls that come with employing employees on a temporary basis. It may seem like a shrewd decision to only employ workers on a temporary basis, renewing a contract monthly or every couple of months, to avoid potential headaches brought by having to comply with labour legislation. However, doing so would be illegal.
If an employer employs someone on a fixed-term contract for more than three months, that person automatically becomes a permanent employee and, as such, all labour law legislation is applicable. One cannot get around this provision of the Labour Relations Act with fixed-term employment contracts that only run for three months and then renew them, as the total period of employment – and not the period for which the employment contract runs – that is considered.
But, as any lawyer worth his salt will tell you, the decisive aspect to a law is not the provision itself but rather the exceptions to the provision, and the above is no different. If the employer can prove that the nature of the work for which the employee is being employed is limited in nature and only for a definite duration or that there is another justifiable reason for the limited duration of the employment. Such reasons could include the person being employed replacing someone who is sick for an extended period of time, or the employee only being required for seasonal work. There is no closed list of reasons.
It would be advisable that employers ensure that their employment contracts are complicit with the applicable legislation and not attempt to circumvent the applicable legislation as the penalties that they would suffer would far outweigh any perceived benefits.
Author: James Bush