Many employers look for temporary help to meet the demands during a busy period, for example during the holidays.
Hiring seasonal workers is one way in which businesses, retail specifically, can manage the increased consumer demands.
In this guide, we’ll explain what seasonal workers are, the law that applies to seasonal workers, and your contractual obligations as an employer.
What are Seasonal Workers?
Seasonal workers are generally classified as employees who work on a temporary or part-time basis to help a business during times of increased demand. They are not defined by employment standards legislation.
There are various industries that hire seasonal workers such as landscaping businesses, retail, and snow removal services.
In some cases, employers choose to hire seasonal workers on an indefinite basis.
What are the Rights of Seasonal Workers?
Seasonal workers rights are like any other employee under employment standards legislation. Seasonal workers in Canada are entitled to the rights of eating periods, hours of work, and vacation pay. They are also covered under health & safety legislation and common law.
Do Seasonal Workers get paid Minimum Wage?
Minimum wage for seasonal workers will depend on which jurisdiction your business operates in. Nonetheless, you must pay seasonal workers at least the minimum wage as per the applicable employment standards legislation.
You can choose to pay seasonal workers more than the minimum wage, but not less. Failing to pay your employees correctly is a breach of employment contract.
Do Seasonal Workers Get Overtime?
Seasonal workers may work overtime hours due to operational needs. They are entitled to overtime pursuant to employment standards legislation. However, you can minimize overtime by signing an averaging agreement with your employee.
Do Seasonal Workers get Sick Pay?
Employees may be entitled to sick pay if they meet the requirements according to the applicable employment standards legislation. For example, seasonal workers in British Columbia are entitled to five paid sick days after 90 days of consecutive employment.
However, in Ontario, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Newfoundland & Labrador, seasonal workers are not entitled to sick pay unless stated in their employment contract.
Do Seasonal Workers Get Paid for Statutory Holidays?
Seasonal workers are entitled to statutory holiday pay in accordance with the applicable employment standards legislation. Each jurisdiction calculates statutory holidays differently.
In Ontario, a seasonal worker working for a retail business may refuse to work on a public holiday even if they agreed to in their employment contract. However, the employee must provide the employer at least 48 hours’ notice.
How to Hire Seasonal Workers
There are various recruitment methods to hire seasonal workers. When hiring season workers, it is important to:
- Write a Clear Job Description: You should identify if the position is full-time, part-time, or seasonal work.
- Hire Early: It is important to hire seasonal workers before the peak season. This gives you enough time to train and integrate seasonal workers into your business.
- Set Expectations: Busy times during the year can be stressful and mentally taxing. It is important that you set your expectations at the beginning so seasonal workers understand what you expect from them.
- Strong Onboarding Process: With a strong onboarding process, you can set up seasonal workers with the tools and resources they need to bring value to your company through their services.
Once seasonal workers leave, it is important that you leave on good terms. You can offer additional end-of-season bonuses that can help retain seasonal workers for the following year.
How Does EI Work for Seasonal Workers?
Seasonal workers may apply to Employment and Social Development Canada for Employment Insurance (EI) benefits. EI provides regular benefits to individuals who lose their jobs through no fault of their own. EI for indefinite employees is the same as EI for seasonal workers.
To qualify for employment insurance, seasonal workers must show:
- They were employed in insurable employment.
- They lost their job through no fault of their own.
- They were without work for at least 7 consecutive days.
- They worked the required number of hours (420 hours).
You can provide links and information about EI to seasonal workers after the seasonal work is over.
Should Seasonal Employees Have Employment Contracts?
Since seasonal employees are only employed for a relatively short time every year, employers often overlook the need for having employment contracts.
Implementing written employment contracts for seasonal workers is important for both you and the employee. It is critical that contracts for seasonal workers include the length of the employment and compensation.
You should always include a set end date to the employment contract so there is no confusion regarding the length of employment. A contract with a set end date is generally referred to as a fixed-term contract.
Employment contracts containing set end dates and valid termination clauses can be useful for limiting the entitlements to termination and severance pay for seasonal workers.
However, it is important that you determine whether a fixed-term contract or an indefinite term contract is the right fit for the seasonal workers you are hiring.
If you are certain that you are only bringing on the employee for one season, or if you only require help for a few months, a fixed-term contract may be more beneficial for you.
However, if you are looking for seasonal help year after year and for more than a few months, an indefinite contract containing a temporary layoff clause may be a better option.
Get Advice on Seasonal Workers with BrightHR
Hiring seasonal workers is a great way to get help during increased business demands. They provide temporary relief to your business without fully committing to them for a long period of time.
Even though seasonal workers are only with you for a short period of time, it is important that you treat them as if they are indefinite employees. Seasonal workers are entitled to many of the same rights as indefinite employee.
If you need assistance with drafting employment contracts for seasonal workers or advice about implement seasonal workers into your business, our BrightAdvice service allows you to receive quality advice on any employment issues you may have.