Your Rights as a Temporary Catering Employee

Temporary jobs are popular in the catering industry both for businesses and workers. Short term temporary jobs give employees the flexibility to fit the hours around other responsibilities as well as giving them the chance to experience what it is like working in different catering establishments. For businesses, having temporary catering employees enables them to manage staff availability across different shifts and busy periods.  

When working in catering as a temporary employee, it is important that you know your legal rights when it comes to working hours, pay rates and kitchen health and safety. You should also know what to expect when working in a commercial kitchen so that you are fully prepared.

As an agency worker you are entitled to worker’s employment rights from the day you start work. These cover your work hours and rates of pay. You will also have the same rights as your permanent colleagues when it comes to shared facilities and services at the work placement. 

After 12 uninterrupted weeks working in the job you are entitled to equal treatment, meaning you have the same rights as someone employed directly by the business. 

Working Hours

The Working Time Regulations state that you are entitled to:

  • Take a minimum of 20 minutes break if you are working longer than six hours.
  •  An uninterrupted 24 hours without any work each week
  • An interrupted 48 hours without any work each fortnight
  • Take 11 hours rest between working days

Rates of Pay

If you are aged 16 or over, the law states that you must be paid at least the National Minimum Wage (NMW). 

If you are aged 23 or over, then the law states that you must be paid at least the National Living Wage (NLW).

The current minimum rates of pay are:

  • £10.42 per hour for ages 23 and over
  • £10.18 per hour for ages 21 to 22
  • £7.49 per hour for ages 18 to 20
  • £5.28 per hour for school leaving age to 17
  • £5.28 per hour for apprentices

These rates are reviewed every year.  

Health & Safety

Working in the fast paced environment of busy kitchens and restaurants means there can be a lot of potential hazards, so it is important that as a temporary catering employee you know your rights when it comes to kitchen health and safety.

The day to day responsibility for health and safety during a temporary assignment lies with the business where you are placed. They must ensure your safety in the same way as for their permanent employees. 

A safe and healthy work environment requires:

  • good housekeeping practices
  • well maintained equipment
  • good lighting
  • good ventilation
  • adequate workspace
  • no obstructions in the walkways
  • clean and safe food storage and handling
  • suitable first aid arrangements and a fully stocked first aid kit

As a temporary catering employee you should be aware of the following:

  • You are entitled to work in an environment where the risks to health and safety are properly controlled
  • You should have appropriate food hygiene training and health and safety training relevant to the specific workplace
  • You should have supervision as appropriate for the tasks you are expected to carry out
  • You should inform your supervisor or employer about any health and safety concerns you may have
  • You should take care of your own health and safety and that of other people who may be affected by your actions 
  • You must be provided with suitable protective equipment such as heat proof gloves to protect you when carrying out your job. It is your responsibility to use what is provided correctly and to inform your supervisor if anything is lost or damaged.

All businesses should have a policy for managing health and safety and as a temporary employee, you are responsible for making yourself aware of this. Any incidents, however big or small, should be reported to your supervisor and they will report it appropriately as with any permanent employee. 

Under Health & Safety Law, an employer has the responsibility to protect their workers and others from any risks to health and safety and must carry out a full assessment, taking action to eliminate or control risks. This law is enforced by either the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) or the local authority, depending on the type of workplace. 

Under civil law if someone is injured or made ill through the negligence of the employer or establishment not meeting their health and safety responsibilities, that person may be able to make a compensation claim against the business. This could be anything from an injury to a member of staff in the kitchen to a food poisoning allegation by a customer. 

The business can also be found liable if someone who works for them is found to be negligent, causing harm to someone else. A successful claim can result in the employer paying compensation. All employers must have employers liability insurance, which enables them to meet the costs of any compensation.

If you have any concerns about health and safety in your workplace you should first discuss them with your supervisor. More information about the health and safety rights for temporary workers can be found on the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) website. 

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