Will you hire temporary employees this summer, either to fill in for vacationing staff or meet a higher seasonal demand? If so, then you should be aware that temporary summer workers can bring increased risk of making costly mistakes or winding up with workplace injuries. That's the word from Stephen Carlson, CPCU, vice president, workers compensation at Travelers.
You can keep those risks to a minimum by following a few simple precautions.
1. Don't assume you have to hire a student.
Yes, the typical summer worker is a college or even high school student earning money while school is out. While it's great to give young people that opportunity, consider whether the job at hand is one that would benefit from greater know-how. If yes, then check out your options before posting the job to a local school listing.
For instance, there may be a former employee currently unemployed or self-employed who would be available to fill in. Or someone who's retired but still knows the job well. "Inexperience is the biggest challenge," Carlson says. "If your business has the ability to bring back someone who's worked for you in the past, that's a benefit."
2. Don't skimp on training.
If you do hire a student, or even someone who isn't familiar with how your particular company does things, make sure he or she gets adequate training, especially around special equipment. Make sure the temporary employee gets adequate practice time with any such equipment.
3. Look at your workplace through new eyes.
Of course you know your workplace--you spend most of your waking hours there. But now try to see it as someone would who's never been there before. Is it loud and distracting? Are people rushing or under pressure? Is it likely that someone unfamiliar with your environment could damage goods or equipment, or get hurt? Does the temporary job involve heavy lifting or any other strenuous activity, and if so is it being done safely?
4. Review your insurance policies.
If your staff size grows and shrinks throughout the year in response to seasonal changes, make sure to discuss this with your insurance agent. The reason is that workers compensation insurance premiums are based on the number of people on your payroll, so depending on how many employees you had at the moment your policy was written, you may be paying too much. Or you may be paying too little and find yourself owing a lot extra at the end of the year. You can avoid these hassles by figuring out how many employees you have over the whole year, and paying the correct premium.
Equally important, if any of your summer workers will be driving in the course of doing their jobs, make sure your auto insurance will cover them. If they'll be using their own cars, make sure it cover incidents involving vehicles you don't own. Keep in mind that temporary summer workers, especially if they're students, may not have very high liability coverage. "If you ask a young person to run an errand and that person gets into an automobile accident, it can have a profound effect on your business," Carlson says.