What You Need to Know About Hiring Seasonal Employees

by Suzanne Kearns

4 min read

Summer is right around the corner, and if you own a seasonal business, you are probably already thinking about increasing your staff in the months to come. But hiring seasonal employees can be a challenge if you don’t know the ins and outs of the process. Here are three key areas you need to understand to make the smartest hiring decisions for your seasonal business.

Labor Laws and Employee Benefits

Employment laws, including those related to discrimination and workplace safety, apply to seasonal employees just as they do to regular employees. To understand federal employment law in its entirety, consult the Labor Law Guide on the Department of Labor’s website. In addition, the Wage and Hour Division enforces the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), which states that you must pay workers at least the minimum wage and overtime when they work more than 40 hours in a week.

If your business employs young people during its peak season, there are some additional labor laws you should be aware of. For instance, you can hire 14- and 15-year-old minors, but only outside of school hours and for specific types of jobs approved by the Department of Labor. For a full listing of what jobs these young workers can do, see Child Labor Regulations title 259, part 570.34. If you want to hire older teens, you can legally employ 16-and 17-year-olds to do most tasks, except 17 jobs [PDF] the secretary of labor has defined as hazardous to them.

You must provide your seasonal workers with the employee benefits demanded by law, such as social security and workers’ compensation, unless you live in a state that makes exceptions for workers’ comp laws for seasonal employees. See this list of state labor offices to find out where to ask about the laws in your area. It’s entirely up to you to determine if you want to offer your seasonal employees any benefits that aren’t mandated by law.

When and How to Hire Seasonal Employees

As your busy season approaches, you don’t want to be caught without enough staff to handle it all. To ensure that you have the employees you need to serve your customers and make sales, follow these tips:

  • Assess your needs. Do you need additional salespeople on the floor, part-timers to package and ship products, or employees who are willing to work weekends? Based on your past records, determine which areas you need the most help in before you begin your search.
  • Start early. The longer you wait to begin your search for seasonal help, the more quality employees will sign on with your competitors. In fact, 60 percent of employers will begin looking for summer help in April.
  • Look to people who know your business. The first place to begin your search should be with current employees, qualified former employees, and anyone else who knows your business.
  • Once you have reached out to the known candidates, it’s time to expand your search. You can put an ad on Craigslist, in the local paper, or on sites that cater to seasonal workers, like SeasonalJobs.com, GrooveJob, and Snagajob.com.
  • Train them well. Thorough training will help you get the most from your seasonal employees. For instance, if you want them to work the sales floor, make sure they understand your product line enough to knowledgeably answer customer’s questions.
  • Keep their names on file. Remember, next year you will likely need seasonal help again, so be sure to keep the contact information for the employees who do a good job. And if you need to bring on full-time staff before then, you will already have a pool of qualified people to select from.

Protect Your Business from Theft and Fraud

The last thing you want to worry about during your peak season is employee theft or fraud, and because you don’t have a history with your seasonal employees, it’s smart to take a few extra precautions.

  • Run background checks. Before letting anyone work in your business, you should run background checks to ensure they don’t have a criminal history, especially with theft, fraud, or violence. In addition, you can require all applicants to take a drug screening test. States have varying laws about how much you can consider this information when hiring. Find out what your state allows by checking with your local State Labor Office.
  • Separate financial duties. Don’t allow the same employees to process and record financial transactions. For instance, the employee who is responsible for counting the cash drawer shouldn’t prepare the deposit or take it to the bank.
  • Restrict access. Don’t allow anyone other than trusted employees to whom you have given authority to access confidential information, cash, or other physical assets.
  • Take stock. Perform regular and surprise inventory audits to make sure employees understand that you are keeping an eye on your stock.

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