For many small businesses, the arrival of the fourth quarter means it’s time to find extra employees to meet the demands of the holiday rush. In reality, the need for seasonal employees can be at different times of the year depending on factors such as winter or summer tourism, agricultural planting or harvesting seasons, or construction that can only take place in certain types of weather. Here are some ideas to help you plan for this year’s holiday worker recruiting season.

The holiday season can represent as much as 20 to 40 percent of a retailer’s annual sales, according to the National Retail Federation. Restaurants, customer service businesses and shipping companies also expand during the fourth quarter. For that reason, they all look for additional help to make it through the busy season.

Here are potential sources of short-term, holiday rush labor—and some tips for handling the crunch:

College Students

Upside: Their school schedules usually make them ready and available during summers or the holiday rush.

Best for these jobs: Sales, retail, shipping and food service.

Tips: Nail down specific start and end dates, as well as specific days and evenings you’ll expect for them to be available.


Upside: Experienced and typically flexible. Part-time positions appeal to those who want to bring in extra income.

Best for these jobs: Sales, retail, hospitality and work related to previous expertise.

Tips: Expect flexibility, provide flexibility. Willingness to provide flexibility for family commitments can make your position more attractive than other alternatives.

Staffing Services

Upside: For certain positions, they can take the hassle out of the recruiting temporary workers.

Best for these jobs: There are different staffing firms that provide all types of labor, from non-skilled jobs to positions that require certification (such as CPAs).

Tips: Expect to pay more. However, you may pay less when considering the expense of recruiting certain types of employees.

On-demand Marketplaces

Upside: The use of on-demand marketplaces to find workers to provide specialized and general services may be the fastest-growing source of temporary services.

Best for these jobs: Every week, there seem to be new services to connect those in need of services with service providers.

General Tips

Start early: You don’t want to sort through job applications after the crush starts.

Temporary doesn’t mean inferior: Just because it’s the holiday rush, don’t expect less from your holiday workers.

Affordable Care Act: Under the ACA, “large” employers must offer health care coverage to all “full-time” employees. The definition of a “large” employer is having an average of 50 or more employees in the previous year. Business with fewer than an average of 50 are not required to provide health care coverage.

Do season workers count as part of the average of full-time employees? According to the Society of Human Resources Management, “Seasonal workers that work 120 or fewer days during the year are not considered employees for purposes of determining whether the company is a large or small employer. Thus, employers can exclude certain seasonal workers from this calculation if they plan well.” (via) (Note: Be sure to obtain clarification from your personal tax and legal advisors on this topic, as each company’s situation can be different.)

Photo: Thinkstock


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