A small business guide to hiring and managing seasonal employees

Published

Seasonal employees are employees who are hired on a temporary basis—either for part-time or full-time positions—during high-traffic seasons. Commonly, seasonal hires work fewer than six months at a time for their employer.  

It’s important to understand what seasonal workers are and how their role in the business functions, even if they’re only there for a short time. Businesses of all sizes, from across industries, can benefit from seasonal employees. 

Small businesses, in particular, can still utilize seasonal workers during busy seasons who can provide multiple benefits to the company. However, employers should keep in mind essential information about managing these workers before hiring them. 

 

How seasonal employees can help small businesses 

As mentioned, seasonal hires are meant to assist during high-traffic periods. For retail businesses, for example, this might coincide with the holiday season. For amusement and entertainment, this typically coincides with the summer months. Construction work, farming, and other industries also have various high-traffic seasons throughout the year that could benefit from additional workers. 

Many small businesses need employees to work longer hours to accommodate a higher volume of sales during these seasons. And whether workers are there for the short-term or the long haul, they present certain benefits. 

  1. Seasonal workers can lower payroll costs. Hiring more workers may seem counterintuitive to reduce payroll costs, but more workers mean less overtime. Without seasonal employees, permanent employees may clock more hours and overtime than anticipated, increasing payroll costs.

    The more people to take shifts, the less likely those people will be working more than 40 hours a week. This can also allow permanent employees to strike a better work-life balance. They may even experience less burnout and have more time to enjoy those busy holiday or summer seasons.

  2. Seasonal workers can be valuable long-term employment candidates. Seasonal employees aren’t always meant to turn into permanent ones. But you can use seasonal positions to test the waters with new hires. Currently, there are more jobs than candidates to fill them, so don’t miss out on a loyal worker. If you find seasonal workers are a great fit, offer them a permanent position at the end of the season. If you can’t hire them after the season ends, keep their contact information and reconnect with them in the future. 

As great as an extra pair of hands is, managing seasonal hires can have disadvantages. Since these employees aren’t with the company on a long-term basis, they could be less motivated to perform or meet specific metrics. Offering them the opportunity to apply to a more permanent position may help keep them motivated. Additionally, they will have less experience than permanent employees, so hiring ahead of time (especially in holiday retail positions) will help.

 

Wage and hour laws that apply to seasonal workers 

Many seasonal employees are subject to the same wage and overtime regulations as permanent employees. However, there are some exceptions outlined in the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). 

Some seasonal employees are considered nonexempt and covered by the minimum wage and overtime provisions described in the FLSA. Others aren’t covered. For example, the FLSA exempts employees at amusement parks or recreational establishments from minimum wage and overtime provisions. Businesses that meet exemption qualifications: 

  • Are only open for seven months or fewer during a full calendar year.
  • Make no more than 33.3% of their yearly revenue during a six-month window. 

Many states have laws regarding overtime and minimum wage requirements that can further complicate an employee’s exemption status. It’s always best to check with an employment law specialist or HR expert regarding a temporary employee’s status.

Additionally, recordkeeping for seasonal hires is just as important as it is for permanent employees. Keep thorough and accurate records of their employment information, hours worked, pay rates, and other essential information.

 

Wage and hour laws that apply to workers under 18 

As you think about hiring seasonal workers, keep underage worker laws in mind. Seasonal employees can consist of many different demographics, but one common group is teenagers who look for seasonal employment during school breaks. Teens commonly work in seasonal food service positions, at resorts, or within entertainment parks.

The FLSA establishes standards for workers under 18 in several occupations. Standards include not scheduling workers during school hours and not hiring them for manufacturing or jobs deemed hazardous. 

The FLSA also restricts workers between the ages of 16 and 17 from working in hazardous roles like coal mining and power-driven woodworking. Otherwise, they are granted employment freedom, as they may have fewer academic obligations. 

 

Changing seasons, changing employees

As peak seasons approach, there are many little tasks that small business owners need to consider. Hiring seasonal workers can help alleviate staffing stresses that your business may feel as demands and sales add up. Keep hiring standards in mind as you bring on seasonal employees, and enjoy the benefits without worrying about making critical labor law mistakes.