What You Need to Know Before You Hire Seasonal Employees

May 10, 2018

Estimated Read Time: 8 Minutes


  • You need to determine whether or not seasonal employment fits the needs of your organization
  • Evaluate the pros and cons of seasonal employees vs permanent staff
  • The cost savings of seasonal employment can turn into a negative if you spend a significant amount of time training seasonal employees year after year
  • Consider the labor laws that govern your seasonal employees and if/how they differ from permanent employees
  • Ensure that you understand the difference between seasonal employees and independent contractors

Summer is almost here! And like many organizations around the country, you’re probably in the process of putting together a plan to tackle the huge influx of business needs that tends to surge during the summer months. Whether you’re in manufacturing, ski resorts, summer camps, or retail, the need for seasonal employment has almost become second nature to your business’s hiring practices and you’re ready to dive head-first into the sourcing of qualified applicants for your seasonal positions.

But let’s pump the brakes for a second. Before you dive into the deep end full of seasonal job descriptions and recruiting agencies, there are a few things you need to consider.


Determining Your Organization’s Needs

Before doing anything, it would probably be a good idea to first make sure that you need seasonal employees and not permanent staff, right? Here are a few questions to ask yourself when considering the need for seasonal employees:

  1. Do we need additional staff due to an increase in business?
  2. Do we need additional staff due to a staff shortage (e.g. maternity leave)

If your answer is “yes” to either of those, consider the following:

  1. Does our business increase at the same time each year? (e.g. tourist months, holiday season, tax time, etc.)
  2. How much will our business needs increase during this time? 20 percent? 40?
  3. Does this increase in business require additional staff to manage?

There is no correct answer to any of these questions, but they are designed to get your mind thinking in the right direction. What are my actual staffing needs and how can I differentiate these needs from permanent staffing needs?


Pros and Cons of Hiring Seasonal Workers

When evaluating your business needs, it’s important to get a clear picture of what seasonal employees will bring to the table (and what they could take away). There are definitely some major benefits to a more flexible workforce, but there can also be some unintended consequences.



Having a workforce that’s setup to handle the ebbs and flows of seasonal employment can be a huge advantage for your organization. This affords you the experience to confidently supplement your permanent staff with seasonal employees – allowing you to meet your business needs (e.g. special projects, peak business periods, employee absences, etc.).



The cost of hiring temporary workers is often substantially cheaper than the cost of hiring full-time permanent staff when considering hourly wage differences and the lack of benefits awarded to seasonal employees. In the short-term, it’s usually more cost effective to hire a seasonal employee.

However, this cost savings can quickly turn around to become a detriment. Depending on the role of your seasonal employees, you could be looking at long training periods to develop a seasonal workforce that’s proficient at their role. If this is the case, you may wind up investing countless training hours year after year. With a permanent employee, you hope to see a return on this investment through the longevity of their employment with your organization. But with a seasonal employee you may be stuck eating that cost each and every time a new seasonal worker steps into your training program.



If you have seasonal workers working alongside your permanent staff, you may experience relations problems between the two groups. While your seasonal staff may be performing the same function as some of your permanent staff, they will not be receiving the same benefits afforded to their permanent employee coworkers. Be aware of this dynamic when exploring the need of seasonal employees within your organizational workflow.


Labor Law Considerations

Now that you’ve confirmed your need for seasonal employees, there are some labor laws that you need to be aware of. If you’re already employing seasonal staff and haven’t considered the following employment regulations, you’ll want to check with your legal counsel to ensure that you’re complying with all federal, state, and local laws regarding seasonal employees.



You’ll want to follow the onboarding process that you have on the books for seasonal employees just as you would for permanent staff. There’s no difference here – make sure that you’re walking your new seasonal staff through orientation, job training, and always ensure that you’re reviewing the employee handbook and company policies with them.


Form W-4

The Form W-4 is used by your organization to withhold the correct amount of federal income tax from each of your employees’ paychecks. The same holds true for seasonal employees. Form W-4 allows your seasonal employees to claim their personal withholding allowances. This form can be difficult to fill out for some of your seasonal employees so be sure to offer helpful resources if they aren’t sure what to enter on the Form W-4.

You’ll also want to check your state requirements if your state has income tax withholding. Employees may need to complete an additional form for their state allowance if so.

Another important note: if you hire a seasonal employee that has already worked for your organization, they will still need to complete a new Form W-4.


Employment Eligibility

Like permanent staff, you’ll also need to ensure that your seasonal employees are legally authorized to work in the United States. Ensure that a Form I-9 has been completed for each seasonal employee to verify their identity and work authorization.

Section 1 of the Form I-9 verifies that your seasonal employee is authorized to work in the United States. Have your employee complete this section after they accept the job offer but no later than their first day of work.

Section 2 of the Form I-9 verifies the identification documents that your seasonal employee provided. Make sure that this section is properly completed within three days of the employee’s first day of work.

If your organization participates in E-Verify, you’ll want to make sure that you have created an E-Verify case for each of your seasonal employees by using the completed sections 1 and 2 from the Form I-9.


FLSA Seasonal Employment Laws

The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) is a federal law which establishes minimum wage, overtime pay eligibility, recordkeeping, and child labor standards that affects both full-time and part-time employees. The FLSA applies to labor laws for permanent as well as seasonal employees.


Minimum Wage

Like all employees, seasonal staff are guaranteed to earn at least the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour. If you are in a state with a higher minimum wage, you must pay your employees at least the state minimum wage.



Overtime is awarded to all non-exempt employees, including seasonal staff, which work more than 40 hours in a work week. This overtime pay rate must be at least one and a half times the employee’s standard hourly wage.

Like other administrative regulations, some states and local governments have their own overtime rules based upon number of hours worked in a given day as well as other criteria. Check with your legal counsel to ensure that your seasonal employees will be appropriately reimbursed for the work they perform based upon your local overtime rules.



According to the FLSA, you must maintain all payroll records for at least three years. Whether or not an employee is seasonal or permanent does not matter - these payroll retention requirements must be enforced.

Similarly, all records relating to performance (e.g. evaluations, employee files, etc.) must be retained for at least two years after the employee leaves the organization.


Child Labor

It seems redundant at this point, but child labor laws are treated equally under the FLSA regardless of the status of a child employee – seasonal or permanent. The conditions of employment for a seasonal employee under the age of 18 are dictated by the FLSA and relate to the type of work they can perform, times of day they can work, how long they can work, and how much they should be paid.


Equal Employment Opportunity

If your organization has 15 or more employees, you must comply with the federal equal employment opportunity responsibilities enforced by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). This means that you are responsible for fair employment decisions and policies as it pertains to the treatment of all employees when based upon race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, disability, or genetic information.



Under current federal law, you are required to offer healthcare coverage to your full-time employees if you have 50 or more full-time employees. When it comes to seasonal employees however, things can get much more complex.

When calculating the number of full-time equivalent employees at your organization, you need only consider seasonal employees if they have worked 120 or more days during the year. This requirement will rule most seasonal employees out, but if you have seasonal employees that meet this criteria, it could increase your number of full-time equivalents to 50 or more. If that is the case, you will then be required to offer health insurance to your full-time employees.

There is no requirement that seasonal employees must be offered health insurance. But depending on the manner in which you measure your full-time employees, you could be required to offer health insurance to seasonal employees after the mandatory waiting period of 90 days.



What are the boundaries between a seasonal employee and a contractor? How do I classify a freelancer that we hired to build our website? Take the time to understand the classification of a seasonal employee. If you misclassify a seasonal employee as an independent contractor simply because they only work for a short period of time, you could find yourself in some legal hot water.

If you’re still unsure of how to classify a worker, you can submit a Form SS-8 to the IRS. This form requests a worker status determination directly from the IRS.


Closing Thoughts 

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Hank Zerbe

Written by Hank Zerbe

Hank is our Director of Communications and Digital Strategy. He’s responsible for overseeing everything “marketing” and guiding the overall content strategy used to come up with the great content that we send out every day. Hank has been around the Validity family for a while and is a great wealth of knowledge when it comes to company culture and various topics to improve how HR communicates with the world.