HR Improve: Workforce Planning

In the second of our HR Improve articles we consider the importance of effective workforce planning and the options available to employers to help meet the current challenges in recruitment and building a workforce with the right skills for the future.

Effective workforce planning enables employers to align their staffing requirements with their strategic direction for the business. In other words, it involves planning ahead to make sure you have the right people in place when you need them. 

Workforce structures and recruitment methods have changed significantly post-pandemic. Employers are dealing with gaps in the workforce and skills shortages. Certain sectors such as logistics, retail and hospitality are struggling to recruit at all. As a result, employers may look to more atypical workers to fill those gaps whilst aiding flexibility in the face of uncertain economic climates. 

We have considered some of the alternative solutions and what to watch out for in each case. 

Casual Workers

One of the most flexible arrangements is with casual workers who are particularly useful when managing peaks and troughs in business. The main benefit of hiring casual workers is the lack of obligation on the employer to continuously provide work. Having a bank of casual workers available means that you can more easily fill any gaps as and where needed.

Considerations for hiring casual workers:

  • Be clear about the employment status of the individual – are they definitely a worker or could they be considered an employee? Employees have a higher level of rights which, if not being met, could lead to potential and costly complaints and legal action against employers
  • Make sure there is a clear process for communicating assignments or shifts to the individual and that it is clear how long that assignment will run for, how much is payable, who they will report to and what their duties are
  • Consider carefully how holiday entitlement will be calculated. Casual workers are still entitled to the statutory 5.6 weeks’ holiday per year which can be a complicated calculation if they are only working for part of the year 

Contractors or consultants

Independent, self-employed contractors or consultants can be an ideal solution if assistance is required on a specific project. In addition, contractors often provide specialist skills and knowledge which employers may not be able to source internally.

Considerations for appointing contractors:

  • If the IR35 ‘off-payroll working rules’ could apply because the contractor is supplying services via an intermediary, then the business will need to carry out an employment status assessment to determine whether the engagement will fall in or outside of those rules. This will help to determine which party is responsible for ensuring that the appropriate tax is paid on any fees due under the engagement 
  • Employers only have a limited amount of oversight of a contractor so consider if additional protections need to be built into the contract. This can include the requirement to have a certain level of insurance, indemnities in case of loss, intellectual property assignments and data protection obligations 
  • Again, be clear about the employment status of the contractor. If the contractor is required to be or becomes ‘part and parcel’ of the business, or if the business has a high level of control over the contractor, there is a high risk that the contractor could cross-over from being self-employed into being a worker. Such situations have led to large awards of unpaid holiday pay that a worker would have been entitled to and so can be hugely costly to a business   

Young Workers

More and more young people are actively seeking work to help support their families during tough financial times. This brings fresh opportunity for employers who are looking for people that they can develop internally. 

Considerations for hiring young workers:

  • A ‘young person’ is someone over 16, who is no longer required to be in school, and under the age of 18. Anyone younger than that is classed as a child. It is prohibited to employ anyone under the age of 14 years’ old (with limited exceptions)  
  • Certain industries may have age restrictions in place that prevent young people carrying out certain duties (for example use of machinery, driving, selling alcohol). In which case, be mindful of any specific restrictions that will apply to your business and consider if there are other duties that a young person may be able to fulfil instead 
  • Different working hours’ rules apply to young people (and also for children). Young workers may not work more than 40 hours per week or more than 8 hours per day. There are longer periods of daily and weekly rest required and more frequent and longer rest breaks during the working day are needed


Apprenticeships are a good way to attract new recruits with a view to developing occupation specific skills. This route can also be cost effective for businesses, particularly if they are eligible for government funding. This option is suitable for longer-term recruitment plans, as the apprentice will often be starting with little or no previous work experience and will need to complete the relevant training over a period of time. The benefit is, once the apprenticeship is complete, the business will have a fully trained individual ready to step into a substantive role.

Considerations for apprentices:

  • Specific rules govern apprenticeship agreements, they should not be given standard employment contracts
  • The circumstances in which an apprenticeship agreement can be terminated are more limited than with a normal employee
  • Training is the primary purpose, at least 20% of a 30-hour week must be spent on off-the-job training

For detailed advice on any of the above, or to discuss other options that might be available, please do get in touch. 


This information is for educational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. It is recommended that specific professional advice is sought before acting on any of the information given. © Shoosmiths LLP 2024.


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