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Hiring Seasonal Workers

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Hiring Seasonal Workers

By Stephen Morris, SBA Official
Published: May 10, 2011

By Tiffani Clements

Seasonal businesses may not operate 365 days a year, but that does not mean they are exempt from following business laws, including employment regulations.  If you run a seasonal business, here are some tips for hiring and managing your employees.

Labor Laws Apply to Seasonal Workers

Employment laws, such as discrimination and workplace safety, apply as much to seasonal workers as they do to permanent employees.  For a primer on employment laws and regulations, see the Labor Law Guide.

Extending Benefits to Seasonal Workers

Employers should understand that there are two types of employee benefits -those that you must provide by law (including social security and workers compensation); and optional “fringe” benefits that employers offer as a means of compensation (including paid vacation time and retirement plans).  Note: Your local employment laws may regulate compensation discrimination (including wages and benefits) where employees perform work of similar skill, effort, and responsibility for the same employer under similar working conditions.  Read more about the Equal Pay Act.

  • As an employer, you may decide that it is not possible or realistic to extend fringe benefits to temporary employees.  It is important to set clear expectations with your temporary workers so there is mutual understanding of what benefits they are required to receive (social security) and what benefits they should not expect to receive. 
  • Employers are generally not exempt from unemployment benefit obligations if an employee is hired for a brief or temporary amount of time.  However, exceptions may be considered for “seasonal employers” who because of the nature of their business require temporary employees for periods lasting 10 weeks or less.  Contact your state department of labor to understand your local requirements.

Tips for Hiring and Managing Seasonal Workers

  • Post your openings early.  This will give you a step up above other employers in choosing the best candidates for your position.
  • Use questionnaires or resumes to filter candidates.  To ensure that you do not waste time interviewing ineligible or inexperienced candidates, use a questionnaire or resume to filter out potential employees.  By asking a simple question, such as “How many years of experience do you have in the food service industry” you can quickly and easily narrow down your applicant pool.
  • Consider hiring activities as a business investment.  Plan to train your temporary employees as thoroughly as you would train permanent employees.  Not only will they be better prepared to do the jobs you hired them for, but you never know what circumstances may arise down the road – one day, you may need or want them to become a permanent full time employee.
  • If you don’t have time to recruit or interview potential workers, consider obtaining help from temp agencies or professional employer organizations.  If you prefer to do the work yourself, focus your search on audiences that welcome temporary positions, including interns, independent contractors, or retirees.

Protecting Your Business

Even if you are only hiring an employee for a short period of time, they are still representing your business and are responsible for fulfilling tasks that impact your livelihood.  As a result, employers must take the time to make careful hiring decisions.

  • Depending on the nature of your business, you may consider asking your seasonal workers to sign non-disclosure agreements.  If you have a need to keep your business processes or information confidential, you can use this legal contract to make sure temporary workers are not allowed to speak about or divulge covered aspects of the agreement to anyone else.
  • While good employers should not be suspicious of their employees, it doesn’t mean that they should turn a blind eye and leave the business susceptible to theft or fraud.  Consider these 6 Steps to Preventing Employee Theft and Fraud in the Workplace, which explain how to effectively use pre-employment checks and references.

Related Resources

About the Author:

Stephen Morris

SBA Official

Stephen Morris is online media coordinator for the U.S. Small Business Administration where he manages digital outreach to the small business community.


Hey There. I found your blog using google. This is an extremely well written article. I will be sure to bookmark it and return to read more of your useful info. Thanks for the post. I will certainly return.
Thank you for this post. SBA is such an invaluable resource. I am in the California tourism industry & need to hire 4-5 employees to work from Memorial Day to Labor Day this summer. I have a number of questions, namely what the definition of a seasonal worker is (is 15 months too long?) and how does unemployment insurance work for these persons? Is there a more in depth guidebook somewhere?
I’m not sure where you're getting your information, but good topic. I needs to spend some time learning much more or understanding more. Thanks for magnificent info I was looking for this info for my mission.
Seasonal workers are needed especially during Christmas when sales peak.
Many employers also rely on J1 visa seasonal staff from Russia, Bulgaria, and other countries. The program allows foreign college students from around the world to visit the United States and work here for up to 4 months. Many employers benefit from diversifying their staff with J1 workers. A few tips for hiring J1 visa seasonal staff: 1. Always interview before hiring. Use Skype, telephone, but do a live interview. 2. According to the program regulations, you have to pay J1s the same wages as you pay their American counterparts. 3. You have to reserve J1 staff at least a few months in advance before your busy season kicks in.

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