An Employer's Guide to Hiring Seasonal Workers

  • Recruitment/HR
farmers working in field
Olivia Cicchini

Olivia Cicchini, Employment Law Expert

(Last updated )

Spring has sprung and that means an influx of tourists and vacationers in the hospitality industry, and ploughing season for farmers. Employers in seasonal industries are likely seeking to hire new staff to assist with the additional workload. While seasonal workers are typically hired for six months or less, employers should still be aware of the rules and best practices surrounding seasonal employment.

Here's what employers need to know about hiring seasonal workers:

What rights do seasonal workers have?

Seasonal workers are protected under employment standards legislation. They have many of the same rights as full-time workers.

These include rights to minimum wage, overtime, vacation pay, and hours of work.

Additionally, seasonal staff are generally entitled to notice of termination depending on the type of contract they’ve signed. They are also covered under health and safety, human rights, and workers’ compensation legislation.

Are there different types of seasonal employees?

There are two main types of seasonal employees:

Recurring seasonal workers

Recurring seasonal workers are employees who return to the same employer year after year for seasonal work during the same seasons. Employers hiring recurring seasonal workers benefit from their experience and familiarity with the job. These employees also require less training and onboarding.

This group may include workers in the following industries:

  • Agriculture: In agriculture, many labourers are needed for planting, cultivating, harvesting, and other seasonal tasks. They often return to the same farms each season to work in a recurring cycle.
  • Tourism and hospitality: Businesses in the tourism and hospitality sectors, such as hotels, resorts, and amusement parks often employ recurring seasonal workers during peak seasons.
  • Outdoor recreation workers: Employees working in roles related to skiing, snowboarding, or other winter sports at resorts usually return to work each winter.

Temporary or casual seasonal workers

Temporary or casual seasonal workers are typically hired for a specific season or short-term project, but they don’t return to the same employer year after year. Their employment is generally irregular and not part of an ongoing, recurring cycle. 

Employers hiring temporary or casual seasonal workers may need to invest more in their training and orientation. These workers may not have previous experience with the employer, so a proper onboarding process is crucial to ensure they can perform their jobs effectively and safely.

This group may include workers in the following industries:

  • Holiday retail staff: Many retail businesses hire temporary staff during the holiday season to handle the increased number of shoppers. These workers may not return to the same store the following year.
  • Construction workers: Some construction projects are seasonal due to weather conditions. Temporary construction workers may be brought in for specific projects during these seasons.
  • Festival and event workers: Event organizers often hire temporary staff for the duration of an event or festival. 
  • Summer camp counsellors: Summer camps hire temporary counsellors and staff for the duration of their summer programs.

Should seasonal employees have employment contracts?

Yes, employment contracts, even for temporary or seasonal workers, help establish clear job expectations, protect both the employer and the employee, and minimize potential disputes. 

Here are a few reasons why employment contracts for seasonal workers are important:

Clarity and expectations

Contracts outline important details such as job roles, working hours, wage rates, and the duration of the employment. This clarity can help prevent misunderstandings and potential legal disputes. 

Legal protection and compliance

Contracts can contain provisions that protect the interests of both parties. They can include termination clauses, non-compete clauses, and confidentiality agreements. Contracts also ensure that the employment relationship is in compliance with labour and employment laws.  

Terms and conditions

Contracts can cover specific terms and conditions for seasonal work, such as the start and end dates. Some contracts may also cover details related to benefits pay, entitlements, statutory holiday pay, and overtime.

What are some things to keep in mind when recruiting seasonal staff?

Businesses should start hiring seasonal employees for their peak business season in advance. Job descriptions should detail the requirements of the job and the work schedule. Being upfront about physical requirements, such as heavy lifting, and schedule requirements, such as working late or working weekends, will help narrow down applicants. If you are tight on time, recruitment events and group interviews can make the hiring process more efficient.

Holiday and overtime pay

Employers should check if their seasonal employees are eligible for holiday pay or additional compensation for working on statutory holidays. You can also consider coming to an averaging agreement with workers who work irregular weekly hours or schedules. This will give you an easier method of tracking and calculating their overtime pay.

Health and safety for seasonal workers

Employers should prioritize the health and safety of seasonal workers just as they would a regular employee. Under provincial OHS regulations, employers are required to create a safe and healthy work environment for all workers and provide them with the necessary training.

Here are a few things to keep in mind when it comes to ensuring the health and safety of seasonal workers: 

Compliance with OHS regulations

Employers must comply with federal and provincial OHS regulations and guidelines to ensure the health and safety of every employee. This includes updating policies and health and safety measures to ensure they comply with the current legislation.

Training and orientation

Provide job-related health and safety training and orientation to ensure that seasonal employees understand workplace safety protocols, emergency procedures, and any specific hazards in their work environment.

Safety gear and PPEs

Ensure that seasonal workers have access to any required personal protective equipment (PPE) such as gloves, helmets, goggles, or safety vests.

Risk assessment

Perform a thorough risk assessment to identify potential hazards in the workplace. This assessment should be regularly updated and shared with all employees.

Safe work procedures

Develop and communicate safe work procedures that seasonal staff must follow. This includes guidelines for operating machinery, handling materials, and responding to workplace accidents or incidents.

Injury and incident reporting

Clearly communicate the process for reporting injuries or accidents. Employers must have a system for recording and reporting workplace incidents as required by law.

Emergency procedures and first aid

Train seasonal staff on emergency procedures, including fire evacuations, first-aid response, and workplace contingencies. Ensure that fire extinguishers and first-aid kits are accessible.

How to retain seasonal employees

Having an employee quit at the busiest time of the year can be stressful and problematic to business operations. There are several practical methods and strategies you can use to retain your temporary employees throughout the season:

Competitive pay

Offer competitive wages to attract and retain quality seasonal employees. Make sure your pay rates align with industry standards.

Bonuses and incentives

Provide performance or loyalty-based bonuses for employees who complete the season. This can incentivize them to return year after year, so you can save time and costs on hiring new employees.

Clear expectations

Set clear expectations from the start. Ensure employees understand the duration of the season, their responsibilities, and challenges they can expect to face during busy periods.

Effective onboarding

Implement a thorough onboarding process to help seasonal employees become familiar with their roles quickly. Provide them with adequate job training so they’re well-equipped and prepared to take on their daily tasks.

Supportive and inclusive work environment

Foster a supportive and inclusive work environment where employees feel valued and respected. Encourage employees to ask questions, express opinions, and provide feedback. Address serious concerns immediately so they don’t escalate and spread in the workplace.

Allow adequate breaks

Ensure that employees have reasonable break times and a comfortable break area to rest and recharge during their shifts. Employees suffering from fatigue or burnout are more likely to make mistakes or cause accidents at work.  


Offer flexible scheduling when possible. This can help employees balance work with personal commitments, especially during the holidays.

Employee recognition and rewards

Recognize and appreciate the hard work of seasonal staff. Introduce small, regular incentives such as weekly or monthly recognition awards to keep employees motivated. You can also offer gift cards, vouchers, or tickets to events as a form of appreciation.

Do you need help drafting job contracts for seasonal workers?

Our experts can help you develop employment contracts, and company policies as well as with any other HRhealth and safety, or employment advice you need. See how we have helped other small and medium businesses get their business compliant with provincial legislation. To learn more about how our services can benefit your business, call us today at 1 (833) 247-3652

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