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Paul Brown: It's important to follow the rules when it comes to seasonal workers

Seasonal workers are often transient, but the requirement to follow the correct rules in employment law are not, writes Paul Brown

Published: August 8, 2016

It is the height of the summer season which bring multitudes of tourists to Scotland and it is also the height of the growing season.

Both of those mean the employment of seasonal workers in the hospitality and food and drink sector.

The food and drink sector in Scotland is one of our success stories and is still growing. Seasonal workers have become an essential part of tourist and agricultural organisations. From “planting to plate”, the food and drink sector in Scotland is served by a large number of workers from overseas.

It is not just the hospitality sector where foreign seasonal labour is used. Farmers increasingly rely on labour from other parts of Europe. While these may not be high skilled jobs, they do require hard work and often long hours.

Even before the Brexit vote, using foreign labour was not without its considerations. As with all employees, it is essential for employers to check that workers have the right to work in the UK.

Whilst there is currently free movement of labour in the EU, workers from certain parts of the EU may have restrictions on their ability to work as will workers from elsewhere and students who happen to be studying here. Of course, that is the situation as it currently exists. It remains to be seen what will happen in due course.

Seasonal workers are often transient, but the requirement to follow the correct rules in employment law are not. Employers will still be fined for not following the rules - and this could be long after the worker has gone.

These types of workers are still entitled to the benefits of the minimum wage, holiday pay, working time regulations and where accommodation is provided, as often the case, there are certain legal health and safety standards for such accommodation.

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Employers often complain of concerns in finding local people to carry out certain jobs, particularly in rural areas. Are these problems solely related to skills or willingness? This is part of the debate that is currently taking place in Scotland.

However, not all workers from overseas are transient and it remains to be seen how this would change post-Brexit. It also remains to be seen whether or not they can identify those skills and experience which are necessary for the labour market and whether or not there is a local population who also can be encouraged to become more involved in this critically important Scottish business sector.

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Paul Brown is an Employment Partner at Scottish law firm Anderson Strathern and leads its Food & Drink Sector Group

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