A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Keven Moore: It’s ‘peak season’ — the risks associated with hiring season employees

Ah, peak seasons. You know the drill — as a business owner or manager you’re getting more business than you can handle and need an extra set of hands to help out during the busiest times of the year. What do you do? You turn to seasonal workers for assistance.

As a fellow one-time seasonal employee back in my college days, I was hired to unload trucks at UPS during the Christmas holiday season. It eventually led to a part-time position where I truly learned the value of hard work.

Keven Moore works in risk management services. He has a bachelor’s degree from the University of Kentucky, a master’s from Eastern Kentucky University and 25-plus years of experience in the safety and insurance profession. He is also an expert witness. He lives in Lexington with his family and works out of both Lexington and Northern Kentucky. Keven can be reached at kmoore@roeding.com

Seasonal employment is temporary employment that occurs during a specific time of the year and is a great way to supplement your regular workforce during peak times, such as busy seasons or holidays. Seasonal workers can help fill workforce gaps and perform much-needed tasks and responsibilities without employers having to hire full-time employees who may not be needed once the bustle dies down.

This need may be based on industry demands, financial reasons, or increased consumer traffic, such as during the holiday season. Seasonal employment is more common in certain industries, such as delivery services, manufacturing, retail, ski resorts, and agriculture. There are many benefits to hiring seasonal employees from workforce flexibility, cost-effective labor, and trial employment.

Employing seasonal workers to fill workforce gaps can be both beneficial and appealing for employers and employees. Employers can offer such employment when needed more economically as they are usually a more cost-effective alternative to hiring full-time employees. By hiring seasonal workers, employers can determine whether those employees will be a good fit for their organization before deciding to hire them as full-time employees.

However, there are many factors employers need to consider before hiring seasonal employees, as these workers can present certain drawbacks.

Since seasonal employment is temporary these workers may be less committed, loyal, and engaged to their employer, which could decrease productivity and negatively impact your company’s work performance.

When deciding to hire seasonal employees, employers need to consider the various federal, state, and local employment laws and regulations that may apply. Even if an employee is temporary or employed only for a short period, most federal employment laws still apply to employment relationships.

For example, covered employers must comply with federal anti-discrimination statutes and wage and hour laws — including minimum wage, overtime, recordkeeping, and youth wage program requirements —for their seasonal workers. In addition, employers may need to review state laws or local requirements that apply to seasonal employees, such as unemployment insurance, severance pay, sick or other leave, personnel records, mandatory training, and predictive scheduling.

Seasonal employees can have high recruiting costs since employers need to recruit them each year, and many seasonal employees do not return once their employment ends. Organizations also generally have less time to run background checks, check references, or to adequately train seasonal workers because of their relatively short employment period.

Lack of training could negatively impact productivity and cause unwelcome injuries and claims, which in turn nullify the cost-saving benefits of hiring seasonal workers. Seasonal workers are more susceptible to injury because they are not used to the physical demands of the job. Also, a seasonal worker, for example, who is used to working at a desk all day might not be accustomed to the physical demands of lifting heavy boxes. This can result in sprains and other injuries.

Most seasonal employees will hire on with good intentions, either to supplement their income, generate a little additional income for Christmas or a future vacation, or maybe even to eventually get hired full-time with a prospective employer. However, some bad actors will hire on with more devious intentions which could include theft, skimming credit card information, filing a fraudulent workers’ compensation injury, hacking into their employer’s computer system, stealing trade secrets, or gaining a competitive edge.

In a corporate world now dominated by mobile devices and real-time data, stealing money from the till is no longer the biggest risk: Lifting credit card information or usernames and passwords can prove a lucrative business model for seasonal employees looking to make a living on the Dark Web.

As noted by CPA Practice Advisor, companies experience a 20 percent fraud increase over the holiday season, in part thanks to existing employees who seize the opportunity and in part due to the influx of seasonal workers.

While many businesses have formal hiring procedures, the pressure to remain fully staffed around the holidays, particularly in retail, often drives companies to short-cut the process. The first step in mitigating potential employee risk is to implement a solid onboarding process. It’s important to keep hiring practices consistent. Don’t change the interview, vetting process, or background check requirements for seasonal workers simply because they aren’t full-time employees (FTEs).

By remaining consistent it drastically reduces the risk of hiring a potential threat and comes with the added bonus of efficiency if companies do decide to keep employees on as full-time staff after the seasonal period ends. By skipping these controls, an employer increases its risk – and may even unsuspectingly add a serial fraudster to its ranks for the holidays.

Then finally the first step in defending against data-based seasonal employee security risks is to have your IT department limit access to your seasonal employees. Your IT department must ensure each employee only has access to data critical to his or her current role and responsibility.

Some seasonal employees will still need access to company network portals, which contain consumer names, addresses, and even credit card information if returns or refunds are necessary. Then when seasonal employees leave the company or when the seasonal season ends, your IT department must be prepared for mass permissions to be revoked, deactivating their access to prevent them from logging back in with malicious intent and compromising corporate data.

Many businesses rely on seasonal workers every year to supplement their regular workforce during peak times. It’s a necessary process that many employers must count on that comes with plenty of advantages, but employers need to recognize the real threat that seasonal employees place on your company and never lower their guard or comprise hiring standards.

Be Safe My Friends!

Related Posts

Leave a Comment