Don't Cut Corners When Hiring Seasonal Workers

Employers of all stripes hire temporary workers, but the holidays put additional pressure on various industries, including retail, travel, and hospitality. It can be a challenge to staff up quickly to meet demand, especially when some employers more than double their workforce to serve consumers. It’s important to remember that state laws cover these temporary hires. They need to be properly screened, hired and on-boarded to avoid legal trouble down the road. And it’s vital, following the Dynamex decision, to know whether the extra help is a contractor or should really be classified as a temporary employee.

HR departments should have a temporary employee onboarding plan long before the holiday crush hits. They must also be aware of some city laws in California that require that extra available hours be offered to existing employees before they are contracted out or given to a temporary employee. It can make sense to work with an employment or staffing agency, but know that using one does not fully absolve an employer or completely shift liability for proper screening and background checks. Also, managers need to understand the scope of work the agency contract permits seasonal workers to perform. Employers with union workers need to be especially careful.

It’s not always possible to offer a full on-boarding process to temporary workers, such as training on sexual harassment prevention, but training should cover meal and rest breaks and safety issues, such as proper lifting techniques for temporary stock room employees. Some temporary employees may have previously worked for companies with less-than-stellar employment or workplace practices. Employers should not assume that employees know what is expected of them in this regard, and should take the time to be explicit in explaining that meal and rest breaks, for example, need to be taken on time. Likewise, make sure hours are properly recorded, and that everyone understands the proper use of overtime hours.

Smart employers will condense the essentials of their employee handbook into a one- or two-page “cheat sheet” for temporary employees. It also makes sense to ensure that relevant signage about employee conduct and employer obligations are current in all break rooms.

Know that while temporary employees are not entitled to benefits, they are entitled to a workplace free from discrimination and harassment. Treat temporary employees with all the respect you would give any team member, and instruct your wider workforce to do so as well.