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What Is a Seasonal Employee?
A seasonal employee is an employee hired on a temporary basis only for certain times of the year.
Seasonal vs Temporary
A seasonal employee works for a period of six months or less during the same period each year.
These employees are protected by the same laws as full-time employees, such as discrimination and harassment. Educate your seasonal employees that they are protected and you are there to support them as much as you do any other employee.
If a seasonal employee works more than 30 hours a week, you may be required to offer benefits; we will discuss this in a later section.
Temps may work either full-time or part-time and may be sourced through a staffing agency or hired directly by the company. Temporary employees most often work on a project basis, and their employment ends when the project is finished. Benefit requirements are different for temp workers because they may be covered under the temp agency, be independent consultants with no benefits at all, or maybe hired by the company.
Some federal and state laws apply to seasonal employees. We’ll discuss two here, but be sure and review local and national regulations that apply to your company.
Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA)
The FLSA is a federal law regulating minimum wage, overtime pay, recordkeeping, and child labor standards for private and governmental employers. Click here to learn more about it and if your company is covered by it.
If you are, you are required to pay seasonal employees at least the minimum wage, and overtime pay for all hours worked over 40 in a workweek. Specific workers, such as tipped employees, have additional regulations.
Affordable Care Act (ACA)
The ACA requires Applicable Large Employers (ALE)—employers with 50 or more full-time employees—to offer benefits to full-time and seasonal employees. Seasonal employees who work more than 30 hours per week must be offered healthcare benefits.
There is one exception to this rule. If your company employs 50 or more full-time employees for four months or less, and those employees take you over the threshold of 50 full-time employees, you are not considered an ALE and do not have to comply with the ACA.
Examples of Seasonal Employees
Seasonal employees can look different for different companies. Consider the examples below.
A ski resort hires instructors and lodge staff during the winter months to support the increase in customers looking to ski and snowboard.
A brick-and-mortar retail store hires additional associates in late September in order to have them trained and ready for the holiday season from November to December.
A nonprofit organization hires counselors to work at a campsite from May to August to support at-risk youth.
The owner of an apple orchard hires employees during August and September to help pick apples and prepare the apple trees for the winter months.
Why Hire Seasonal Employees?
Seasonal employees provide unique benefits to your organization in your busiest time of year. Before you hire a full-time employee, consider seasonal employees.
- Cost. Hiring full-time employees to support an increase in volume increases operating costs without a reasonable ROI. Seasonal employees allow you to handle increased volume without holding onto extra employees you don’t need afterward.
- Flexibility. Seasonal employees do not have the same expectations as your full-time employees. As your full-time employees request time off, you can offer those shifts to your seasonal employees.
- Better employee engagement. Regardless of whether there is a company layoff or if the holiday season kicks off, the demands of the business still need to be met. If your company is understaffed, leaders risk burning out their current workforce, which could lead to higher turnover. Seasonal employees help leaders balance the workload in busy times.
How to Create a Great Employee Experience for Your Seasonal Employees
Seasonal employees can become great brand ambassadors for your organization. Follow these tips to make sure there is no doubt they will speak highly of you and your company.
Connect to the Vision
Onboarding seasonal employees should be the same as your full-time employees. Introduce them to your organization, company leadership, and show how they will help the company accomplish its vision. This validation from the company will result in motivated seasonal employees.
If it is possible for seasonal employees to become full-time employees, inform them of the opportunity. This may inspire them to work harder. Also, managers can see these seasonal employees as more than limited support and get to know them better. (Conversely, if ongoing employment is not possible, let them know that directly so they are not disappointed later.)
Give Credit for Good Work
Seasonal employees need to be recognized the same way as anyone else. Invite them to the company holiday party, give them handwritten thank-you notes, and let them experience your company culture. Seasonal employees who experience your company culture may be motivated to become full-time employees and tell others about their great experience with your company.
Flexibility Is Key
Ask your seasonal employees their preferred schedule, and do your best to match what they are looking for. At the very least, respect their personal time and do not assume they can jump in to help at a moment’s notice. When your seasonal employees leave, they become brand ambassadors and tell others about their experience; make sure that experience is a positive one.
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Ryan is an HR Director with four years of experience and three masters degrees. One accomplishment he is proud of is the design and launch of a learning and development program for 800+ employees.
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