How to Schedule and Pay Seasonal and Temporary Employees

The Affordable Care Act Has Had an Impact on How Employers Look at Hours and Pay

Mature woman showing intern graphics on screen
Klaus Vedfelt/Getty Images

Many employers hire seasonal workers to help them with increased customer demand during the holiday season. Other employers hire temporary and seasonal employees to cover for busy vacation times or for agriculture work when harvest rolls around.

Hiring employees for seasonal work is an opportunity for employers to get to know potential long-term employees. It’s a chance to observe how well a potential employee adapts to your culture and interacts with your other employees and your customers.

Employers need to note some differences about how they schedule and pay seasonal help. More importantly, some of the rules are changing because of the adoption of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA), or ObamaCare, as it is more commonly called.

Classifying Seasonal Employees

The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), which is the governing Federal labor law for seasonal workers, does not define full-time employment or part-time employment. That is a matter generally left for the employer to determine. Many employers define full-time employment as 30- or 32-plus hours a week.

Because the number of employees you employ and the hours that they work during the prior year determines whether the employer must provide health coverage the following year, employers need to understand the ACA. Starting in 2013, many employers cut employees' and seasonal employees’ hours back to 28 hours a week to ensure that something as simple as a bookkeeping error would not make a temporary employee eligible for health coverage.

Two issues that employers need to know about the ACA are:

  • Seasonal employees, who work 120 days or less during a year, are not counted as employees for determining whether a company is a large (50 employees or more on average) or small employer (under 50 employees on average).
  • If a seasonal employee is working full-time, the employee may be eligible for healthcare coverage since eligibility is determined by hours worked month to month. (If you belong to the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), this is a resource that further clarifies these rules.)

    Many seasonal employees work in retail and other businesses that are covered by the FLSA. This means that they must be paid the federal minimum wage or the minimum wage that was set by their state or local jurisdiction, whichever is higher.

    Employers must pay these seasonal workers overtime pay at a rate of one-and-a-half times their regular rate of pay for hours worked over 40 in a work week. This applies whether the employee is a temporary or seasonal employee or a full-time regular employee. In some instances, however, certain retail or service employees who are paid by commissions could be exempt from overtime pay.

    Federal law does not limit the number of hours or times of day for employees who are 16 years and older, but many states have enacted more restrictive labor laws that have higher minimum standards that must be obeyed. Take a look at the rules published by your equivalent of the Department of Labor for your state.

    Employees who are under 18 years old are limited in what they can do and must not be placed in hazardous occupations or given certain hazardous tasks to do. (Take a look at the YouthRules! site to learn more about the rules that apply to employees under age 16.)

    Please refer to the Department of Labor’s (DOL) Holiday Season Employment Information Guide.

    Related to the Holidays

    Disclaimer:

    Susan Heathfield makes every effort to offer accurate, common-sense, ethical Human Resources management, employer, and workplace advice both on this website, and linked to from this website, but she is not an attorney, and the content on the site, while authoritative, is not guaranteed for accuracy and legality, and is not to be construed as legal advice.

    The site has a world-wide audience and employment laws and regulations vary from state to state and country to country, so the site cannot be definitive on all of them for your workplace.

    When in doubt, always seek legal counsel or assistance from State, Federal, or International governmental resources, to make certain your legal interpretation and decisions are correct. The information on this site is for guidance, ideas and assistance only.