newton software season employees

Seasonal hiring is one of the most cost-effective solutions to solving the common problem of a predictable influx of customers that puts stress on a company’s workforce.

And this dilemma exists in practically every industry: from hospitals to manufacture to construction—all companies at one point or another will need to consider if hiring seasonal employees is right for them.

This article will cover important regulations surrounding seasonal employment, why companies should consider seasonal employees over other kinds of employees (e.g., full-time, part-time, etc.) and how companies can build a seasonal workforce of their own.

What is a Seasonal Employee?

A seasonal employee, as defined by the Affordable Care Act (ACA), is “an employee who is hired into a position for which the customary annual employment is six months or less”. Additionally, the position must also begin and end at roughly the same time each year except under a few circumstances.

Take your typical ski resort: peak season for many ski resorts in the U.S occurs between October and March (5 months); however, if the resort experiences an unusual amount of snow that year, and the season is extended to 7 months, the resort still may not have to classify the seasonal employee as a full-time employee. This helps the company avoid having to register as an Applicable Large Employer (ALE).

Employers must be careful about their status, because once they’re classified as an ALE, they will be responsible for providing certain benefits for their eligible workforce, such as health insurance.

It is important to note that the phrase “seasonal employee” is often used interchangeably with the phrase “seasonal worker”; however, this should not be the case as they mean different things.

A seasonal worker is as an employee who performs no more than 120 days (4 months) of work, in which case, if the employer’s workforce exceeds 50 full-time employees (including full-time equivalent employees) for 120 days or fewer during the calendar year, then the employer does not need to be classified as an ALE.  

Why Hire Seasonally?

Seasonal workforces are popular because it’s one of the most cost-effective solutions to handling predictable large influxes of customers.

While companies might be tempted to hire part-time or full-time employees, there are some important caveats to remember. First, hiring a team of full-time employees is not an efficient solution to seasonal influxes because the company will no longer need this increased level of production once the season ends. Once the season does end, the company will be forced into a situation where they will need to continue paying the employees while also providing benefits like health care.

Second, part-time employees have restrictions when it comes to how many hours they can work. In the United States, you are considered a part-time employee if you work less than 35 hours a week. This can be a problem for some companies, especially during times of immense consumer demand, like the holidays.

However, seasonal employees have no restrictions when it comes to the number of hours they can work, which means that they can work an excess of 40 hours of week and still qualify as seasonal and not full-time.

How to Hire for Seasonal Employment

Before the decision to hire seasonal employees can be made, companies must first evaluate whether there is an actual need for them.

While seasonal employees may be a cost-effective solution to influxes in demand, seasonal employees still cost money; therefore, the company must first decide if their workforce will benefit from seasonal hires, and if so, how many seasonal hires will need to be brought in.

So how does a company hire for seasonal employment?

Like hiring for any open position, recruitment should start with the job description.

Write Targeted Job Descriptions

Most job listings contain a description that contains items like job responsibilities, company details, compensation, work schedule, qualifications, etc.

However, for seasonal hires, it’s important to clearly state within the text of the description or within the heading that the position is, in fact, a seasonal role; otherwise, you’ll end up wasting both the company’s and candidate’s time.

Also be sure to include the expected start date for the position, and when it is likely to end.

Where to Find Seasonal Employees

As with all recruitment efforts, companies must consider where they will be sourcing candidates, as this will directly affect the quality and type of hire.

When companies need to hire a large seasonal workforce, like a shipping warehouse, many companies turn to outside recruiting agencies that specialize in bringing on workers in that industry.

However, some businesses, like a ski resort, may prefer to hire candidates who are fresh out of school or on break, in which case the business will want to focus their efforts on places where those types of job seekers are likely to be such as local job fairs and campus career centers.

Advertising the company’s hiring needs on online job sites is also a viable option; however, this can lead to a large number of applicants, so it is important to have the necessary tools at your disposal to be able to deal with the large influx of resumes (like an Applicant Tracking System).  

Hire Early

Seasonality is defined by a predictable pattern of rising and falling public interest. By using this information, companies can better prepare for their peak hiring seasons and make sure they aren’t left understaffed.

Having an applicant tracking system in place at your business can make all the difference. By allowing you to have all seasonal job openings already on your dashboard you can rest easy knowing your jobs are ready to be posted at a moment’s notice.

Evaluating the Candidates

For most companies, a hiring need doesn’t exceed more than a handful of open positions.

However, companies who rely on a seasonal workforce often hire hundreds of employees at once. Adjusting your interview process to deal with this large influx of candidates is a necessity.

Usually candidates will be brought in for a group interview, where basic information about the job will be shared (e.g., responsibilities, qualifications, start and end time, etc.) with the entire group at once. These are often referred to as an “open house”.

Once this orientation is completed, candidates are brought in 1 by 1 for a quick in-person interview, which usually consists of a few direct questions and an assessment if it makes sense for the role the company is hiring for.

Finally, although seasonal employees are so crucial to company’s success during the busiest times of the year, it’s important to also hire for cultural fit. A bad hire will not only disrupt the entire workforce, but also can leave a bad impression with customers, which will have long-lasting effects on the success of your business.

After The Season

Deciding whether to keep a seasonal employee can be tricky. By bringing in so many new faces, you’re bound to encounter a few top notch candidates who are great candidates for full-time employment.

However, it’s important to remember that the decision to promote a seasonal employee to a full-time employee must only be made if there’s an actual hiring need and if your company can afford it.

Before your company builds out its seasonal workforce, sit down and discuss what the company’s plans are after the season ends. If the company does plan on keeping some seasonal employees, decide how many and what skill sets will be most desirable so you can search for candidates that fit the bill without having to go through the entire hiring process twice.

Even if your company is not interested in hiring after the season has ended, it is still a good idea to add any potential prospects to the company’s candidate pool just in case an open position does become available. Having a healthy candidate pipeline will make all the difference when it comes time to hire again.

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