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Many businesses in New Zealand make great use of temporary or fixed-term employees to plug gaps, fill vacancies and complete specific projects. However, a common question from businesses in these situations is how to approach training and development for their temporary staff. There are various aspects to consider, including legal obligations and commercial implications.

This article sets out three tips for training temporary staff, including:

  • having targeted and purposeful training; 
  • adopting a ‘shadowing’ strategy; and 
  • making sure to include required health and safety training.

Have Targeted and Purposeful Training

Your temporary workers will likely be performing a particular role or completing a specific project with your business. Therefore, you should have a clear idea of the skills and knowledge required for that role or project. Accordingly, you should tailor training around those skills. This may be a separate kind of approach than you may take with permanent employees. Whatever the training method you employ, remember it must still fully equip the new staff member to do their job. 

A common mistake from businesses is to assume that temporary workers do not need any training. Another mistake is trying to save money by not training temporary staff who will not be with your business permanently. Unfortunately, this is a short-sighted approach. It is just as crucial that temporary staff have the skills to perform their job well as it is for permanent employees. 

Remember, most people do need some level of support to succeed in their role. Temporary staff are no exception.

You also cannot predict the future. It may be that the temporary staff member ends up with a permanent role and makes a huge contribution over the long term to your business. They are more likely to make a strong contribution if they feel valued and part of the team. Hence, this also supports the benefits of purposeful and inclusive training.

Learning by Shadowing

A common strategy for quickly getting new temporary staff up to speed is to get them to shadow someone with the same role. This is particularly useful if the temporary worker is covering for another employee while they are about to go on a vacancy. The benefit of this kind of system is that the temporary worker can get a better sense of the day-to-day work they will soon complete. In some instances, this is a better learning approach than what you can teach in a simulated environment like a training workshop. 

Additionally, shadowing will not necessarily give a new temporary staff member all of the preparation they need. For instance, they may still need dedicated health and safety training. There is also the possibility that they cannot shadow anyone who is doing the particular roles or tasks they will be completing. For instance, they may be filling in for a vacant employee who has already left the business. Therefore, keep an open mind to the possibility of training by shadowing but remember it is not a silver bullet solution to giving a new staff member all of the preparation they may need. 

Don’t Forget Health and Safety Training

Importantly, temporary employees have the same protections under health and safety laws in New Zealand as permanent employees do. Similarly, your business owes obligations to them as a PCBU. Therefore, depending on the specific circumstances of your business and industry and the requirements of the new temporary staff member’s role, you must tailor health and safety training to the employee so that they can perform their job safely. 

For instance, your temporary employee may need to operate certain equipment or machinery as part of their role. In that case, you must provide proper training to handle those devices safely and also provide access to the same protective equipment as all other employees. 

Key Takeaways

It is vital to ensure that temporary staff are prepared and equipped to perform their role to a high standard. Likewise, ensure that your business is also complying with its obligations under the law. Your new staff member may only stay with your business for a limited period. However, this does not mean you should fail to provide meaningful training for their role. Shadowing can be a useful technique to allow them to see what the day-to-day work in their new role may entail. You should also provide them with the right health and safety training to ensure they can perform their job safely. 

For more information about training temporary staff in New Zealand, contact LegalVision’s employment lawyers on 0800 005 570 or complete the form on this page.

Frequently Asked Questions

Should my business train its temporary staff?

Yes, it is vital to train temporary staff to (at minimum) ensure they can perform their role safely. This training should include using equipment and machinery your temporary employee may need to use. In general, training temporary staff is also a good idea to ensure they can hit the ground running in their role.

Does a business owe health and safety obligations to casual or fixed-term employees?

Yes, businesses owe health and safety obligations to all of their workers under health and safety law. 

What is training by shadowing?

Training by shadowing is where a new employee follows or ‘shadows’ an existing employee in the same or similar role that they will be working in. This usually lasts for a day or two to see what the day-to-day work entails.

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