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What Is Seasonal Employment?
Seasonal employment refers to work that is temporary and only exists during a specific time of the year. Organizations often need extra help from workers during certain seasons, but not all year round. Since seasonal employment is different from regular employment, there are many aspects of it that are less well known and may be difficult to navigate.
What Kinds of Companies Hire Seasonally?
There are many types of companies that require workers seasonally. The need could be related to industry demands, traffic increase, financial reasons or something else. Here are a few examples.
Agriculture has always required seasonal help. This sector needs seasonal employees because different duties, such as sowing, tilling and harvesting, need to be done at specific times of the year, creating a busy season and a slow season.
The holiday season is especially busy for delivery services and often requires these companies to hire temporary employees to help meet their demand. Examples of these delivery services include UPS, Amazon, USPS and FedEx.
Many businesses specific to a certain season of the year hire seasonal employees. Obviously, ski resorts require snow to function, so they’re a common example of this. This creates a high demand for workers during their peak season and a low or non-existent demand during the off season.
The Benefits of Hiring Seasonal Employees
There are numerous benefits of hiring seasonal employees. Some may be more applicable than others, but all should be taken into consideration when looking at this option for an organization.
- Flexibility. Hiring seasonal employees allows employers to be flexible with their workforce. It offers the ability to choose when employees are hired, how many are hired, the duration of their employment, and more.
- Cost effective. It doesn’t make much sense to hire full-time employees when they’re only needed for a specific period of time. Hiring seasonal employees can eliminate unnecessary costs that come with hiring full-time employees and keeping them after the busy season.
- Employment trial. Hiring seasonal employees can serve as a trial employment period to see if the employee would be a good fit for the future.
The Disadvantages of Hiring Seasonal Employees
While there are many advantages to hiring seasonal employees, there are several disadvantages as well. It’s important to evaluate these possibilities as you consider hiring seasonal employees.
- Less training. Since seasonal employees aren’t employed for a long period of time, there is less time for training. There may also be a lack of quality in the training, as employers know these employees are only temporary and investing in them may not seem cost-efficient.
- Less commitment. When employees work for an organization on a temporary basis, they are typically less committed to the company. This can be a disadvantage as it can affect employee productivity and performance.
- Potential legal trouble. The nature of seasonal employment is different from that of regular employment, and creates possible legal issues.
What Laws Apply to Seasonal Employment?
As an employer, it’s vital to know the laws surrounding seasonal employment. When hiring seasonal workers for the first time, it can seem daunting, but doing the necessary research can absolutely help you succeed.
Minimum Wage and Overtime
According to the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), there is potential for seasonal employees to be exempt, depending on the nature of their employment (click here to learn about exempt and non-exempt employees). Based on FLSA requirements, employees of some seasonal businesses are exempt from federal minimum wage and overtime requirements. Review the nature of seasonal employees carefully when determining minimum wage and overtime for these employees.
According to federal laws, employers are not required to offer seasonal employees the same benefits they offer regular, full-time employees. However, depending on the length of employment, these employees may be entitled to some benefits. Review the Affordable Care Act (ACA) to see if specific benefits need to be offered to these employees.
Classify Workers Correctly
It can be hard to know how to classify seasonal employees. For example, you may want to classify them as independent contractors. Be sure you thoroughly review the circumstances of their employment, because incorrectly classifying someone as an independent contractor opens you up to possible legal issues.
Tips for Hiring and Managing Seasonal Employees
There are many best practices for hiring and managing seasonal employees. Although seasonal employees are temporary, they are valued team members, and should be treated as such. It can be hard to navigate this process for the first time, but learning what works for other organizations will help you start strong.
Set Clear Expectations
When hiring seasonal employees, it’s important to set clear expectations regarding the length of employment and responsibilities. Clearly state this in the job description, throughout the hiring process, and within the contract. Obtain written acknowledgment of this when hiring employees to keep on record.
Make sure managers are properly trained on how to work with and manage these employees. As most rules still apply to these employees, managers need to be aware of how to handle accommodation requests and avoid discrimination and harassment claims. Managers should also be familiar with company-specific policies regarding the nature of their seasonal employees.
Treat Seasonal Employees Well
Everyone knows that seasonal employees are temporary, and that may affect how they are treated by an employer or fellow coworkers. Treating seasonal employees as well as you do regular employees:
- Supports their mental wellbeing
- Increases productivity and satisfaction with their work
- Avoids the possibility of discrimination claims
- Encourages them to speak well of your company
- Increases the chances they will want to return next year
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Natalie graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Human Resources Management in 2020. Following her schooling, she completed an additional HR internship and is currently an Associate HR Operations Specialist. She loves working in HR and fully intends to further her education alongside her career.
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