3 Common Questions About Seasonal Employees...Answered

Does your business depend on the seasons? Do you own a business that caters to a tourist population during a portion of the year?

Or, do you bring on extra staff during the holidays?

Many businesses like retail, hotels and restaurants rely on a seasonal workforce. A seasonal employee may be a high school or college student, a teacher picking up extra work in the summer, or a stay-at-home parent working when the kids are in school. You’ll find there are many people who can fit your seasonal needs.

Whether you’re hiring first-time employees or seasoned workers, there are a few things to know when hiring a come-and-go workforce.

In this article, we look at three common questions about seasonal employees and answer them for you.

First, let’s define a seasonal employee.

This is a worker who works 120 days a year or less for you. These days can be worked at any time during the year, and they don’t have to be consecutive. For example, an employee can work January, August, October and December and be a seasonal employee.

Now let’s get to the common questions.

Do I Have to Offer Benefits?

If you’re hiring seasonal employees, yes, there are certain benefits you are required by law to provide. These laws can vary from state to state, so be sure and check with your state.

Here’s a list of the benefits you’ll need to take care of:

  1. Social Security/Medicare: Just like your regular year-round employees, you must withhold part of your Social Security and Medicare taxes from your employees’ wages. You also need to pay the matching amount. Take a look at your employee’s W-4 and read these IRS documents: Employer’s Tax Guide and Employer’s Supplemental Tax Guide.
  2. Workers’ Compensation: Even if all of your employees are seasonal, you still need to carry Workers’ Compensation Insurance. Visit the Small Business Administration for guidelines.
  3. Unemployment Benefits: The best way to learn if you need to provide unemployment benefits is to visit the United States Department of Labor. Here you can see the laws that apply to your state. Usually, you will not be exempt from this responsibility, but you might find an exception if you are a seasonal employer hiring employees for ten weeks at a time or less.

There are some benefits, however, that you are not required to offer your seasonal employees. These are the added benefits you may offer your year-round employees such as paid vacation, sick leave, health insurance, retirement plans and a discount at your business.

The choice is up to you. It’s your decision what types of fringe benefits you offer seasonal employees. Just be sure to let them know these things are or aren’t included during the hiring process.


Do I Withhold Taxes?

Absolutely. Your seasonal employees must pay the same withholding taxes as other employees. They are subject to the same rules. Visit the IRS website to view the regulations.

Do Labor Laws Apply?

Yes, they do. You should know what the laws say about discrimination, harassment and workplace safety.

Whether your employee is part-time, full-time or seasonal, the same labor law applies. Check out the federal Employment and Labor Law Guide for in-depth info.

You’ll also want to read through the Fair Labor Standards Act. This is where you’ll find information on minimum wage, overtime, child labor and record keeping.

Now that you know the answers to three common questions about seasonal employees, let’s look at some good practices when it comes to these hires.

Taking Care the Seasonal Employee

You’ll experience some of the same issues when your seasonal employees first start working as you would a regular new employee. Help them navigate the waters as you would any other worker.

Offer them the same standards when it comes to training. Since the majority of seasonal workers are employed in a customer service related field, be sure they have a rigorous training program so they can offer the same level of customer service as your full-time employees.

You’ll also want to train them on your product offerings. Continue to teach them throughout their tenure with your company.

Oftentimes, you’ll want to hire these same people back the following year. For example, let’s say your retail store or restaurant hires seasonal employees over the holidays to handle the rush.

Wouldn’t it be nice to have these same people return the following year? They already know your systems, so they’re great employees.

Final Thoughts

While it can be tempting to hire seasonal workers quickly and without much thought to their background and experience, we caution you against this tactic.
Take as much care with your hiring as you would when hiring a full-time staff member. Consider the possibility that your seasonal employees may come back the next year or ultimately want to work for you full time.

Some of the best full time workers come from the seasonal workforce, so treat them the same way you would your full-time workforce for the best shot at success.

What do you think? Do you have experience with seasonal employees? Share your thoughts in the comments below so we can share your tips with others.