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University guidance on the appropriate use of hourly paid workers

When it is appropriate to use an hourly paid worker and a step-by-step approach on how to engage an hourly paid worker.

When it's appropriate to use an hourly paid worker

An hourly paid worker is someone who is employed on an ad-hoc basis with no firm advance commitment of ongoing work or an agreed pattern of work, for example, if an employee is employed as an hourly paid worker, their roster/hours change to suit the university needs and they can refuse or swap shifts. A person on an hourly paid contract, accepts the offer knowing that there is no firm commitment to ongoing work.

Hourly  paid contracts are useful where work demands are irregular or where there is not a constant demand for staff. They can also provide a level of flexibility for the individual, which allows them to work around other commitments such as study or childcare.

Some types of work are driven by external factors that are out of the University’s control as an employer and this can happen in a range of sectors including, for example, hospitality, leisure and catering.

The following are all examples of when an hourly paid contract might be appropriate, but it is not an exhaustive list:

  • New business
  • Seasonal work
  • Unexpected sickness
  • Special events
  • Testing a service

When it's inappropriate to use an hourly paid worker

Hourly paid contracts allow flexibility for both employers and individuals. However, they should not be considered as an alternative to proper business planning and should not be used as a permanent arrangement if it is not justifiable.

Hourly paid contracts might not be appropriate if the job offered will mean the individual will work regular hours over a continuous period of time. For example, if an individual is asked to work from 9am to 1pm, Monday to Wednesday for a 12 month period, it may be more appropriate to offer that worker a permanent part time contract or even a fixed term contract. This is different to the situation where a student on an hourly paid contract is appropriately offered different hours dependent on their varying availability to work.

Hourly paid contracts are rarely appropriate to run the core business of a service, but might be useful for unexpected or irregular events such as leave and absence by staff, to deliver sufficient customer service during peaks in demand, or when preparing to open new or different services.

If you are contracting hourly paid workers you must review the hours that they are working each month to identify if these have become regular and predictable. If this is the case you should seek advice from your HR Business Partner or Advisor on different arrangements that may be more appropriate such a fixed term or permanent contract.

Alternatives to hourly paid contracts

If you are considering offering an hourly paid contract you should consider whether it is the best type of contract for the work requirement that you are looking to meet. Depending on the work required and business need, alternatives might include:

  • offering additional hours or overtime to permanent staff to ensure experienced staff deal with temporary fluctuations in demand
  • recruiting a part time employee or someone on a fixed term contract if regular hours need to be worked to adapt to a change in the business needs
  • offering annualised hours contracts if peaks in demand are known across a year for a permanent need
  • using agency staff can be a quicker and easier way to hire someone if staff are needed temporarily or at short notice

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