Correctly Classifying Seasonal Employees


There are several different classifications of employees and identifying an employee incorrectly can have major repercussions. Seasonal employees and temporary employees may seem as one in the same, but in fact, there are differences.

Seasonal employees are ones who work around the same time each year, based on an increase in business during that time. For the Affordable Care Act purposes, seasonal employees are ones who work six months or less while other suggested time frames bring that number down to four months.

The season is usually a pre-determined amount of time (retailers who hire in November and December and then let the extra staff go in January) and does not fluctuate year over year.

Required Provisions
Seasonal employees receive the same workplace protections that any other employee receives. These include protections from discrimination and sexual harassment to name a few. They are not treated differently in these categories simply because they are seasonal. Your policies around these areas should specify that they cover all employees regardless of employee type. They should also receive any relevant training that may be required by law or given to regular employees around these topics.

In some states that have sick leave laws, those laws also apply to seasonal employees. For example, in our headquarter state of California, any employee who works more than 30 calendar days in a year should receive sick leave equivalent to 1 hour for every 30 worked. Employers can restrict how long before an employee is eligible to use their sick leave, but they can not restrict who is eligible to earn it. Make sure that your sick leave policy clearly states it is for seasonal employees and that they can see the accrual on their pay stubs.

As a competitive advantage, many of the seasonal businesses we work with do offer sick leave whether they are in a state that requires it or not. They do not treat seasonal employees any different than regular employees in that respect. It is unreasonable to expect someone to work for months at a time without a sick day, especially during cold and flu season.

Finally, overtime rules apply to seasonal workers just as they do to regular employees. Any hourly employee who works over 40 in a week, or 8 in a day in California, should receive overtime pay at a rate of 1 1/2 times their regular rate of pay.

Not Legally Required
As mentioned, seasonal workers are not entitled to specific benefit plans unless they work for a period of 6 months or more. Businesses can legally deny seasonal workers from participating in company-sponsored benefits, but they will want to make sure that their benefit documents clearly spell out who is eligible and who isn’t. They can also deny seasonal workers from participating in time off plans outside of any required sick leave and other perks and bonuses that regular employees receive.

Companies who have a heavy reliance on seasonal workers may decide to offer more provisions to these employees as a competitive advantage and as a turnover reduction strategy. It follows that a seasonal employee who was offered more of the benefits and perks of a regular employee may feel more loyal and likely to stay throughout the entire seasonal period.

But that is really up to the company.

Spell it Out
The most important things businesses can do is spell out very clearly in recruitment documents, offer documents and the company handbook what constitutes a seasonal employee and what company policies and procedures apply to them. Some companies even go the route of having a separate handbook for seasonal employees. Certainly, if your company is seasonal employee heavy that makes sense.

These employees need to know how long the season will last, what they can expect during the season and what is expected of them. There is little difference between this and how we treat regular employees. The only change is that seasonal employees typically know the approximate end date before they begin work.

Put it all in writing and get a signature that they understand and agree. That way there is no question later.

Seasonal employees can be a real boost to companies who need some additional help for only a short period. Just because they are seasonal certainly doesn’t mean they should be treated as less. Employers should take care to ensure the right protections are in place, that they are classified properly and that they are given what they can in order to feel valued and appreciated.

Originally posted on Acacia Solutions blog.



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