Summer Workers

It’s summertime (not really) and our thoughts naturally turn (again not really) to summer students, interns and other temporary employees. Some of these indentured servants, er, temporary workers, will return to their studies in the fall, some will wander off to other jobs and others may even become permanent employees. For those employers thinking of bringing on some short-term help, here are some things to keep in mind:

Regardless of a worker’s status, they have the same ability to expose you to liability as any long-standing employee. Make sure short-term workers are fully aware of their confidentiality and privacy obligations, and any other policies and procedures applicable to the workplace. Have them acknowledge consent in writing – if your workers are not working for ordinary remuneration, as in the case of volunteers or unpaid interns, you will have to be very careful about making sure that written agreements document the legal consideration that binds employees to their part of the contract; this is not something that should be done without legal review. Failure to do this right may leave you with an ambiguous agreement, or, worse yet, an entirely unenforceable contract.

Make sure temporary workers understand the limits of their authority. The law of agency may leave you on the hook for any agreements or obligations that they enter into on behalf of the business.

Remember that the Employment Standards Act mandates minimum notice periods (or pay in lieu thereof) for without cause terminations. These apply even in the event of a short-term employment situation and cannot be contracted out of. Make sure you’re aware of the notice periods appropriate to your staff in the event of a termination. Make sure you’re very aware of the common law notice periods and remember that these often can be contracted out of.

Supervise and manage your short-term employees properly. They may not have the same commitment to the workplace that you’re used to and that could be a huge problem. There are issues much more problematic than time theft to worry about.

Lastly, as always, if you have any questions about any of these issues, give us a call.

Scott R. Young