What to know when hiring seasonal employees

Nóra Cashe

April 29 2024

Longer days, sunnier skies…summer is on people’s minds. This is also true for business owners, who may be starting to plan for how next season may impact their hiring needs.

And if anticipating increased business needs, employers may be looking to hire seasonal staff.

But how can you manage these short-term contracts while staying compliant?

What rights do these workers have?

And what’s most important for employers to be aware of?

What is a seasonal worker?

First, let’s start with the basics: what exactly are seasonal workers?

Seasonal workers are hired in temporary employment in which the person works during certain times of the year. It is typically part-time, but there are also full-time, seasonal positions.

This can include work done in sectors such as horticulture, agriculture, tourism, and construction, and can include workers placed by an agency to carry out seasonal work.

What contract should employers use?

While seasonal workers can be a useful addition to any company during busier times, it’s essential to provide them with the right contract to avoid leaving your company exposed to a claim.

Seasonal workers are usually employed under fixed-term contracts. This is also sometimes referred to as a “temporary” contract. Under a fixed-term contract, you can choose to set the contract end date, so that the employment spans during your busiest time.

And what if you’re not sure what date your busy period ends, exactly?

In that case, a specified purpose contract would be recommended which terminates when the “specific purpose” has been completed. This type of contract can be helpful if you’re not exactly sure which dates will mark your busiest season, if there is a seasonal project that needs to be carried out, or if the purpose for hiring has come to its own natural end.

What rights do seasonal workers have?

Legally employed seasonal workers have the same rights and protections as any other employee under Irish law. But what does this mean, exactly?

Below are some points to consider about the rights of seasonal workers in Ireland.

Terms and conditions

Within five days of starting work, you must give your seasonal worker a written statement of ten of the core terms of their employment. If hiring in retail or hospitality where tips might be relevant, the tips & gratuity policy must be referenced at this point.

Wages and pay

The minimum you can pay your employees is stipulated through the National Minimum Wage, which applies to all workers in Ireland and varies by age (maximum applied to those 20 and over). Employers must also consider the payment of a premium for Sunday work, and keep in mind that a written statement of wages (a payslip) must also be given to every employment with every payment.

Working hours

Workers in Ireland are entitled to a limit on their working hours, on a certain amount of time between their working hours, and a certain number of rest breaks during their working hours. This varies across industries, and may be different, for example, in agriculture and tourism.

Holiday leave and public holidays

Just like other employees in Ireland, seasonal workers earn annual leave and public holiday entitlements. Public holiday entitlement depends on whether the work is part-time or full-time, and on the number of hours worked.

Equal treatment

Seasonal workers have a right to be treated the same as their full-time counterparts in a comparable role. You must have a justifiable reason to offer seasonal workers employment under significantly different terms, and the reason cannot be related to their fixed-term contract. This is especially important when it comes to pay.


Seasonal workers are also protected by employment equality legislation. There is no minimum service requirement for this, meaning an employee has rights under it from their first day on the job. In short, The Employment Equality Acts 1998 - 2021 prohibits discrimination against employees on the nine grounds, which are:

  • Gender
  • Civil status
  • Family status
  • Sexual orientation
  • Religion
  • Age
  • Disability
  • Race
  • Membership of the Traveller community.

Unfair dismissals

The Unfair Dismissals Act 1977 – 2015 requires an employee to have 12 months service with their employer before they can file a complaint.

But what if your employee has worked with you for less than 12 months?

Employers should also be aware of the legislation that does not require this length of service for an employee to be able to lodge a complaint with the WRC.

This includes the Industrial Relations Acts, Organisation of Working Time Act, the Terms of Employment (Information) Act, the Payment of Wages Act, and the Protected Disclosures Act, to name a few.

A safe and healthy working environment

As an employer, you have a duty of care towards your employees – meaning that you're responsible for ensuring their safety, health, and wellbeing. This is also the case for seasonal workers, and particularly so if they are engaged in work that may pose a risk to employees, such as agricultural work. Both the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) and Health and Safety Authority have also pledged to focus more on vulnerable workers and some seasonal workers.

What are some other considerations for seasonal workers?

While it’s crucial to stay compliant, employers should consider more than just relevant legislation when hiring seasonal employees.

Going the extra mile for your seasonal employees can increase overall satisfaction and productivity during a critical time. Even more so, if your business relies on seasonal work year after year, you can more easily incentivise your seasonal workers to return later on.


Even staff that’s employed for a shorter time should receive appropriate training and induction, to communicate the standards to adhere to. Employers are encouraged to remember that although the contract may end soon, no candidate or new employee will know your business from day 1, and will require time, direction, and assistance.


As an employer, you are required to let your temporary and seasonal workers know about any permanent vacancies that come up in your business during their employment.

Have more questions about hiring seasonal employees?

Seasonal workers can be a valuable addition to your company, particularly during a time of increased business and employment needs. When this type of employment agreement is carried out well, it can bring increased productivity and better retention during an exciting time.

Mis-managing the employment of seasonal workers, though, can leave your business exposed to long-term effects that may last well throughout the year. These can include lost productivity, financial strain, even complaints or claims.

Care needs to be taken to ensure that the appropriate contract is provided and the correct procedures are followed to help protect your business.

At Peninsula, we can help you get the most from your seasonal staff experience.

For additional information, call us day or night at 1800 719 216.

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