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Get your temp to come and work at your yard beforehand so that they can familiarise themselves with the routine

Holiday staff

Get your temp to come and work at your yard beforehand so that they can familiarise themselves with the routine
Get your temp to come and work at your yard beforehand so that they can familiarise themselves with the routine

[dropcap]W[/dropcap]e all look forward to our holidays and can’t wait to lie back, relax and soak up some sun. How many of us actually get to relax though, when we have horses to think about back home? Not only do we have to find a suitable ‘horse sitter’, but we often have to worry about having temporary staff while our trusted grooms are away on holiday too.


Holiday checklist

  • Leave contact numbers for all important contacts.
  • Advise your vet, farrier, insurance company or medical aid and even your feed merchant that you will be away and who your horse sitter is.
  • Make sure that the stable routine is clearly posted.
  • Have all passports and medical history available.
  • Have plenty of food, bedding and hay in stock.
  • Make sure that your grooms or head grooms have airtime for emergencies.

Horse sitters

Finding a horse sitter often involves word of mouth references from friends, your vet, farrier or instructor. Meet the person and discuss your expectations; for example, will they be staying on your property or checking in twice a day?

Make sure that they know what your horse’s normal behaviour is – if your horse sleeps flat on his side every day for a few hours, explain that this is nothing to be concerned about. Let them spend a few hours with you, interacting with your horses, while you ask the questions that are important to you. Introducing them to your staff is vital.

Big decisions

Prepare for the worst. It is vital to have a person who is nominated to make ‘life or death’ decisions for you, in the event that you can’t be reached. Your vet should know who this person is, and that they have your permission to make serious decisions. Your vet also needs to know that you are away and that you will honour bills should your sitter have to call them in.

It is also very important to list who your doctor is (for staff members in the event of an accident), the nearest clinics, numbers for your security company, fire department, plumber, electrician and Eskom, for example.

Temporary staff

Finding trustworthy caregivers during the holiday can be a challenge

Most horse owners find temporary grooms through their existing staff, very often family members or friends. It is a good idea to get them to come and work at your yard to become familiar with your routine and your permanent staff before you leave. In this way they learn your horses’ individual quirks and habits. You also have a chance of observing how they handle your horses and if you are happy with them.

Keep a photocopy of their ID and if they are not South African, ensure that they have a valid work permit.

Most horse owners adhere to the old manner of employing temporary staff by paying them cash for the period that they are employed. South Africa has been updating its labour laws and as of 1 January 2015, there are stricter rules in place regarding temporary employment: “The Labour Relations Amendment Act came into operation on 1 January 2015 and places significant restrictions on the use of ‘non-standard’ employees, including fixed-term and part-time contracts. Employers would be amiss if they do not take note and adapt their employment policies and practices accordingly.”

A limited duration (fixed-term) contract is one entered into for a temporary period. It terminates due to effluxion of time on:

  • the occurrence of a specified event
  • the completion of a specified task or project
  • a fixed date (other than normal/agreed retirement age)

There are a number of risks for employers associated with making use of temporary employment. Some of these risks always existed, however, specific statutory protection has now been added in respect of certain categories of employees, according to Judith Griessel on the Labour Guide site.

The single most important take-home message when employing temporary staff is to make absolutely sure that they understand the boundaries within which they are being employed. To be covered by South African law, an employer has to be 100% clear to ensure that there is no expectation of further employment.

Text: Mandy Schroder