Ins and Outs of Seasonal Employee Hours: What You Need to Know

Seasonal employment is common in various industries, including retail, hospitality, agriculture, and tourism. This type of employment typically involves hiring workers for a specific time, usually during peak seasons when businesses experience a surge in demand.

While seasonal employment can be a great way for businesses to manage fluctuations in workload, it also raises questions about employee hours and compensation. This blog will explore the ins and outs of seasonal employee hours and what employers and employees need to know.

Understanding Seasonal Employment

Seasonal employment is a form of temporary employment that is tied to a specific season or time. This type of work is often seen in industries that experience significant fluctuations in demand throughout the year.

For example, retailers may hire seasonal employees during the holiday shopping season to help manage the increased foot traffic. Similarly, farmers may hire seasonal workers to help with the workload during harvest time.

Seasonal employment can be beneficial for both employers and employees. For employers, seasonal workers provide an extra set of hands during busy periods without the long-term commitment of permanent staff. For employees, seasonal work can be a way to earn extra income or gain experience in a particular industry.

Seasonal Employee Hours

One of the biggest challenges of seasonal employment is managing employee hours. Employers need to ensure that they have enough staff to meet demand, but they also need to balance this with the cost of labor. As a result, seasonal employees may work irregular or fluctuating hours.

Under federal law, employers are required to pay employees for all hours worked, including overtime for hours worked over 40 in a workweek. However, this rule has some exceptions for seasonal and agricultural workers. 

For example, employers may be eligible for an exemption from overtime pay for certain agricultural workers, provided they meet certain criteria.

Employers should also be aware of state and local labor laws, which may have different requirements than federal law. For example, some states have their minimum wage laws, which may be higher than the federal minimum wage.

Managing Seasonal Employee Hours

Employers can take several steps to manage seasonal employee hours effectively. One approach is to create a staffing plan that considers peak demand periods. By forecasting the number of employees needed, employers can ensure they have enough staff to meet demand while avoiding overstaffing.

Another approach is to use scheduling software to track employee hours and create schedules. This can help employers ensure that they are not scheduling employees for more hours than they are available to work.

Employers can also use employee feedback to improve scheduling practices. For example, employers can ask employees to provide feedback on their availability and preferences for work hours. This can help employers create schedules that work for the business and its employees.

Compensation for Seasonal Employees

Compensation for seasonal employees can vary depending on the industry and type of work. In general, seasonal employees are entitled to the same minimum wage and overtime pay as other employees in the same industry.

However, some seasonal employees may be exempt from certain labor laws, such as the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). This law provides eligible employees up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave per year for certain family or medical reasons. However, seasonal employees who work less than 1,250 hours per year are not eligible for FMLA leave.

Employers should also consider providing benefits to seasonal employees, such as paid time off or healthcare benefits. While not required by law, offering benefits can help attract and retain seasonal employees and improve overall job satisfaction.


Seasonal employment can be a win-win for employers and employees, but it requires careful employee hours and compensation management. Employers should be familiar with federal, state, and local labor laws, and create staffing plans and schedules that consider peak periods of demand.

Moreover, employers should also consider offering benefits to seasonal employees to improve job satisfaction and retention. By managing seasonal employee hours effectively, employers can ensure they have the staff they need to meet demand while providing fair compensation to their employees.

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