How Many Hours Do Seasonal Employees Work? A Guide for Employers and Employees

Whether you’re a ski lodge or a beachfront souvenir shop, you’re looking for employees to help out in peak seasons. Cold or hot—customers will come at some point.

Seasonal staff are different from part-time staff. It doesn’t hinge on hours, but on the seasonal highs and lows of customer demand.

If you’re that ski lodge, you’re only open part of the year. If you’re a souvenir shop on the beach, you might be open year round but really don’t see the traffic until schools are out and the thermometer is rising. Maybe you’re a retail shop or a bakery, and you need extra help at the end of the year, when the holiday season takes over the calendar. Agricultural and construction work is also often seasonal.

You can’t skip the seasonal question. Most retail, food, or customer-facing service businesses will have some kind of seasonality to them, a time when customer demand is noticeably higher than at other times of the year. Because of that, it’s important to understand how to hire and manage seasonal staff.

The holiday season is the busiest time of year for many businesses in retail hospitality, delivery services and other industries. To meet increased seasonal demand, companies hire additional temporary and part-time workers.

If you are a seasonal employee or employer, understanding hourly requirements, overtime pay, and other regulations is crucial This guide provides answers on common questions regarding seasonal staff scheduling and hourly commitments

How Many Hours Per Week Do Seasonal Employees Work?

There is no universal standard for how many hours seasonal staff work per week. Hourly requirements vary significantly based on:

  • The employer and industry. Retail employees may average 15-30 hours weekly, while warehouse workers average 30-50 hours.

  • Employee availability and preferences. Students may request fewer hours than unemployed workers.

  • Fluctuating business needs. Hours may ramp up on weekends or holidays and taper during slower weeks.

  • Full-time versus part-time status. Full-time seasonal staff generally work 35-40+ hours per week. Part-time ranges 15-34 hours.

While employers ultimately set schedules, they should collaborate with employees to accommodate availability. There are no federal limits on how many hours seasonal staff can work per day or week.

Do Seasonal Employees Have Minimum Hour Commitments?

Employers generally do not mandate minimum weekly hour requirements for seasonal employees. These roles are structured as temporary jobs based on variable business needs.

However, some retailers stipulate minimum hourly commitments. This ensures adequate staffing during peak times, without overhiring. Common minimums range 10-20 hours per week.

If minimums are required, confirm policies before accepting a seasonal job. Weigh expected hours against your availability and financial needs.

How Are Seasonal Employee Schedules Set?

Scheduling approaches for seasonal staff include:

  • Fixed scheduling: Same schedule every week based on availability. Provides predictability but less flexibility.

  • Variable scheduling: Hours fluctuate weekly depending on needs. Maximizes flexibility for employer.

  • Consumer demand-based scheduling: Data programs optimize schedules to match customer traffic forecasts. Allows efficient staffing.

  • Employee self-scheduling: Employees select and swap shifts through an app. Enables autonomy.

Ideally, seasonal scheduling balances business requirements with employee needs. Communicate availability and preferences clearly during hiring. Throughout employment, request schedule changes when required.

How Much Notice Do Seasonal Employees Receive for Schedules?

The Fair Labor Standards Act does not mandate advance notice for employee schedules. However, many states and companies have implemented laws and policies, including:

  • Two week notice: Schedule must be released 2 weeks in advance. Most common policy.

  • One week notice: Schedule provided 1 week before. Required in a few states like Oregon and California.

  • 72 hours notice: Schedule given 3 days in advance.

  • 24 hours notice: Requires schedules be shared 24 hours prior to any shift.

  • On-call/as-needed: No guaranteed hours. Employees report if contacted for last minute shifts.

Confirm schedule notification policies at the hiring stage to set expectations. Having a sense of upcoming hours allows planning.

Do Seasonal Employees Receive Guaranteed Weekly Hours?

Seasonal employees are generally not guaranteed a set number of hours each week. Schedule variability is a tradeoff for the flexibility of temporary roles.

However, some retailers now provide guaranteed minimum weekly hours, typically ranging 10-20 hours. This offers income stability amid fluctuating schedules.

If guaranteed hours matter, inquire about company policy during seasonal hiring discussions. Weigh reliability of income versus total compensation and flexibility.

What Happens If a Seasonal Employee’s Hours Are Cut?

Having hours significantly reduced unexpectedly can create hardships. But as seasonal employees, you are subject to consumer demand cycles.

If your employer slashes hours, have an open conversation. Explain the financial impact and explore solutions, such as:

  • Schedule adjustments to increase hours.

  • Compromises like a modest guaranteed income each week.

  • Temporary reassignment to busier store locations.

  • Additional shifts in other departments with greater need.

While not always possible, reasonable managers will show empathy and attempt to accommodate.

Do Seasonal Employees Get Paid for Fewer Hours Than Scheduled?

If you show up for a scheduled shift but get sent home early due to low customer traffic, you should be paid for the entire scheduled shift. For example:

  • You are scheduled to work 4pm to 9pm.

  • At 7pm the store becomes very slow. Your manager sends you home early.

  • You must still be compensated for your full 5 scheduled hours.

This also applies if you are scheduled on-call but never called into work. Check state laws, as some require extra “show up” or “reporting time” pay in such cases.

What Recourse Exists for Seasonal Employees if Hours Are Cut?

Unfortunately, since seasonal workers are at-will employees, companies can cut hours for business reasons without repercussion. However, some options include:

  • File for underemployment benefits through state unemployment programs.

  • Search for a supplemental seasonal job to replace income elsewhere.

  • If hours were cut after substantial reliance on a set schedule, consult an employment lawyer regarding possibility of promissory estoppel laws.

  • For drastic cuts after job acceptance, check if state laws consider this a breach of contract for reliance damages.

While rarely successful, carefully reviewing options provides recourse avenues in extreme cases.

Do Seasonal Employees Get Overtime Pay?

Yes – the Fair Labor Standards Act mandates overtime pay eligibility for seasonal employees. If you work over 40 hours in a single workweek, hourly wages for those excess hours must be 1.5 times your regular pay rate.

For example, at $15 per hour:

  • Week 1: 35 hours worked = $15 per hour

  • Week 2: 42 hours worked = First 40 hours paid at $15 per hour. Remaining 2 hours paid at overtime rate of $22.50 per hour.

Closely track hours each week and confirm you receive proper overtime compensation on your paycheck.

Can Seasonal Employees Pick Up Shifts at Other Locations?

Some companies let seasonal staff pick up open shifts at nearby store locations to increase hours. Taking on shifts at multiple sites offers advantages:

  • Maximizes hours and income within company.

  • Provides a break from your regular location.

  • Builds skills and familiarity across different sites.

Ask managers if floating across locations is allowed. Sign up proactively via apps or by contacting other stores directly about open shifts.

Do Seasonal Employees Get Holiday Pay?

Seasonal employees qualify for holiday pay provided to regular staff. Any established holiday pay policies apply equally. Common retail holiday pay practices include:

  • Time and a half pay for working on holidays.

  • $1-3 per hour premiums for peak days like Christmas Eve.

  • Set holiday bonuses like $50-100 for Thanksgiving.

  • Overtime pay kicks in after fewer hours on holidays (e.g. over 30 instead of 40).

  • Guaranteed minimum hours or pay for certain holidays.

Check company holiday pay structure so you are properly compensated for working holidays. You don’t want to miss out on well-earned holiday premiums.

Best Practices for Seasonal Employee Scheduling

For employers, optimizing seasonal scheduling requires:

  • Forecasting staffing needs accurately based on sales data, holidays, events, and past trends. Develop flexible budgets for fluctuations.

  • Collaborating with employees to understand availability constraints and preferences.

  • Cross-training staff and floating across locations to cover gaps efficiently.

  • Automating schedule creation based on demand forecasts and employee constraints to minimize manual work.

  • Providing consistent schedules when possible to balance reliability with flexibility.

  • Giving as much notice as feasible to employees so they can plan effectively.

As a seasonal employee, maximize income and convenience through:

  • Providing wide availability with as much flexibility as possible during hiring.

  • Working across store locations when allowed.

  • Using schedule trading apps to pick up useful open shifts.

  • Discussing preferences and conflicts proactively with managers.

  • Confirming schedule notification policies and holiday pay eligibility.

With preparation, planning, and communication on both sides, seasonal scheduling can be a win-win for employers and employees. Take a collaborative approach to optimize this busy but fruitful time of year.

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How many hours can a seasonal employee work?

Employers with seasonal employees younger than 18 may have to comply with special federal, state and local laws. For example, under the FLSA and applicable regulations, employees younger than 16 generally may only work three hours or less on school days and up to 18 hours maximum during any school week.

Do seasonal employees work fewer hours than full-time employees?

Seasonal job hours vary from business to business, and it is mainly dependent on the workload an employer has. Seasonal employees tend to work fewer hours than full-time employees since employers usually need to navigate certain benefit obligations that full-time employees are entitled to.

How long does seasonal employment last?

Seasonal employment typically lasts for six months or less, and companies generally hire seasonal employees during the same peak season each year. There are few federal guidelines around how long employees can be hired for or how many hours they can work before they are no longer considered “seasonal.”

What is seasonal employment?

A seasonal employee is a temporary worker who is not on payroll year-round. It’s a common assumption that this type of work must be part-time, but that’s not always true. Seasonal employment does not depend on the number of hours per week an individual works.

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