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With the holidays fast approaching, there’s no better time to get your ducks in a row when it comes to hiring seasonal workers for your small business.

Temporary workers aren’t going to have the same expectations or commitment to a position as a full-time employee, which can often lead to confusion or miscommunication at best and disaster at worst. It’s all too easy to throw more employees at the holiday rush for a few months, but there are too many unknowns for this to be a smart business practice.

Today we’re going to explore what it takes to properly hire, insure, and organize your business during the most festive days of the year.

Expand Your Pool

No matter what type of business you own, when it comes to looking for seasonal workers, it’s often best to think outside the box. Most businesses have actually had a lot of luck with hiring their own customers rather than trying to post an ad in the paper or on an online job website.

The advantage of hiring a regular customer is that they already have a loyalty to your brand, and they may be more willing to give up their time and energy to work for you on the premise of lending a helping hand. A seasonal employee who loves your products or services may also be far more interested in an employee discount than they are in their hourly wage.

Another group that seems perfect for holiday work is retirees. Older people are often looking for a little extra money during the holidays, and a seasonal job gives them a way to earn it without having to make a full-time commitment.

Work on Your Communication

A seasonal hire needs to understand exactly what their job will be like before they get started so everyone is on the same page. Think that you may want to hire a full-time person by the time your after-Christmas sale wraps up? Mention this in the description. Do your customers tend to become surly with one another on the sheer basis of holiday stress? A seasonal employee should really know this before they decide whether or not to even apply for the job.

Even the most basic retail sales jobs have their own quirks that make them unique. Whether positive or negative characteristics, setting expectations is going to be especially important when hiring an employee that assumes they’ll be out of a job again in just a month or two.

Managing Your Workers

Motivating your seasonal workers during the holiday usually means treating them like they’re as integral to the organization as their full-time counterparts. They should be thoroughly trained and even cross-trained if time permits.

Employers also need to recognize and address all problems with seasonal employees immediately. If you’re noticing that a worker isn’t committed to their job or they’re struggling to master basic duties, it’s not likely to get better if you ignore it. These red flags can often be a warning of bigger problems to come.

Tax Matters

Seasonal employees have the same rules that regular employees have when it comes to withholding taxes. Some may not have to pay income tax if they don’t hit the minimum requirements for their yearly wages, such as a retired person whose only income is a holiday job. It’s up to the employee to talk to a tax professional to see whether or not they’re exempt from federal income tax, so they can let you know on their tax forms.

If any of your workers earn tips, remind them that their tips are not exempt from taxation. All income is to be documented and reported to the IRS to stay compliant with the law.

Insurance Smarts

Small businesses are required to have worker’s compensation for all seasonal employees either through their own carrier or a state insurance program. This compensation can cover everything from a broken leg if an employee trips while taking out the trash to a wrenched back after picking up a heavy box of product.

There’s also employment practices liability insurance that covers any claims an employee may bring against you. In the case of seasonal employment where workers often have no emotional connection to their job, EPLI insurance can be the only thing that can save your business from a particularly nasty lawsuit. As for benefits, most small businesses are not required to offer health care coverage to an employee working less than 4 months.

Seasonal employees are often the only way a business can get through the increased demands of them, but it takes some careful planning for a small business to do it right.