Seasonal Employment

bartender pouring a beverage during her shift as a seasonal employment at a restaurant.
Geri Lavrov / Getty Images

Seasonal employment provides the employer with needed temporary helpers during high volume, busy times of the year. Employers hire seasonal employees to do the work necessary to supplement the performance capacity of their regular employees to produce products or serve customers. Examples of seasonal employment time periods and venues include:

  • The fall and winter holiday seasons when customers flock to retail stores, restaurants, grocery stores, hotel banquet rooms, entertainment venues, and bars;
  • Summer’s seasonal employment in resorts, outdoor recreation locations, and parks;
  • Summer's seasonal employment to replace the work of full-time, regular employees as they take vacations and catch up with family;
  • Summer into fall when farmer’s markets open across the country, farmers harvest their vegetables and fruits, and food preservation is in top demand; and
  • Winter’s seasonal employment at venues dedicated to snow sports and recreation.

Seasonal Employment Advantages for the Employer

The advantage for the employer of hiring seasonal employees during their high volume, busy time periods is that you don’t have to spend the money to keep the temporary employees on your payroll year round. According to the National Retail Federation:

For some retailers, the holiday season can represent as much as 20-40% of annual sales.

This kind of volume creates the need for more employees than the employers can absorb year round. Employers also benefit from the fact that hiring seasonal employees also reduces the number of full-time, regular employees that they must employ to accomplish the work of the firm.

Seasonal employees are rarely paid benefits, which saves the employer on labor costs given that benefits can make an employee’s compensation a third higher than just the basic salary or hourly wages. They also bring employers new ideas, fresh energy, and buffer the schedule for employee vacations and holidays.

Seasonal Employees Are Covered by Law

Seasonal employees are covered by the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). They must be paid the Federal minimum wage or the minimum wage that was set by their state or local jurisdiction, whichever is more advantageous to the employee.

Seasonal employees can work part-time or full-time. Employers are free to schedule employees who are 16 years and older as needed by the business. Federal law does not limit the number of hours or the times of day for employees who are 16 years and older.

Please note that many states have more restrictive labor laws that give higher minimum standards that must govern employment practices. Take a look at the rules published by your state equivalent of the Department of Labor.

Seasonal employees are entitled to overtime pay at a rate of one and a half times their regular rate of pay if they work more than 40 hours during their standard work week. This law applies whether the employee is a temporary or seasonal employee or a full-time, regular employee.

How you schedule and pay seasonal employees may be affected by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, also known as ObamaCare. See more about how to schedule and pay seasonal and temporary employees including how to keep from paying for the health care coverage of your seasonal employees.

How to Obtain Seasonal Employees

Employers obtain seasonal employees by estimating the extra help they will need and then, posting the jobs using their normal methods for recruiting employees. Employers can contact temporary employment agencies to contract for seasonal employees. The agencies charge a fee, but some employers find the process less costly than recruiting, interviewing, and hiring seasonal employees on their own.

People use seasonal employees to provide services or products to customers during high volume business times. They make much more sense than to employ people who are not needed year round.