Q&As on Temporary Workers

Temporary Workers

Question: In our forestry operations, our policy is to give work to as many people in the surrounding communities as possible. Therefore, we hire lots of people for short periods of time (around 20). What are your standards, guidelines, suggestions in this type of situation concerning contracts, PPE, insurances and age for work?

Answer: All workers should have contracts, even those engaged for only 20 days. International labour standards protect all workers equally and do not set different conditions for workers with short-term contracts, including conditions regarding:

  • Working time: maximum hours of work permitted, minimum rest periods required during the day, as well as the weekly day(s) of rest required should be the same for workers hired for short periods as for other workers.
  • Safety and Health: Adequate personal protective equipment (PPE), and training on why and how to use the PPE and maintain it properly, must be provided even for workers engaged for short periods as forestry is one of the most dangerous occupations. It is the responsibility of management to devise a system for ensuring the PPE is returned in adequate condition. The ILO MNE Declaration (paragraph 40) also encourages companies to “cooperate fully with the competent safety and health authorities, the representatives of the workers and their organizations, and established safety and health organizations. Where appropriate, matters relating to safety and health should be incorporated in agreements with the representatives of the workers and their organizations.”
  • Insurances: Workers, including those engaged for short periods of time, should also be provided social protections as prescribed by law; in particular, they should be ensured against accidents at work.
  • Minimum age for work: The situation described would be consistent with ILS if the work is not hazardous. What constitutes hazardous work may vary from country to country, as the relevant ILO Conventions require ratifying countries to adopt "hazardous work lists". In determining what work would be acceptable for 16 and 17 year olds, we would recommend referring to ILO Recommendation 190. It is important to note that even work that by its nature may not be considered hazardous, such as planting, may be hazardous if it is done for long hours or in other conditions (such as night work) that would make it hazardous. If the work takes place in logging camps especially it would be important to assess such conditions of work. It is also important to note that if the minimum age for entry into work (non-hazardous) in the country is 15, not 16, the policy of restricting young workers to only non-hazardous activities should apply to 15-18 year olds, to ensure that 15 year olds are not discriminated against.
The ILO MNE Declaration encourages companies to provide stable employment for their employees and observe freely negotiated obligations concerning employment stability and social security, and to assume a leading role in promoting security of employment, particularly in countries where the discontinuation of operations is likely to accentuate long-term unemployment (See, MNE Declaration, paras. 13-20) Providing more stable employment would likely reduce challenges around many of the issues raised regarding the costs associated with providing written contracts and PPE, insuring workers, etc.

The MNE Declaration also encourages companies to invest in skills development of their workforce, both directly and through participation in government training programmes.