Summer is prime time for seasonal workers, and companies often tackle the influx of individuals visiting their stores by adding seasonal employees to their workforce.

By Paul Kassabian

This summer alone, McDonald’s was looking to fill 250,000 seasonal jobs and the restaurant industry was expected to add 515,000 jobs.

While traditional retailers, restaurants and fast food chains are known to employ these types of workers, small businesses can also benefit from hiring temporary employees during the busiest times of the year. Seasonal employees–typically brought on to fill specific positions for no longer than six months during a certain time of the year–can help cut costs and offer added flexibility to the work schedule.

Staying legally compliant when onboarding seasonal employees can present a new set of challenges for small businesses. From understanding employee benefit eligibility to knowing the number of work hours allowed for minor employees, it’s important to know the differences between seasonal and full-time hiring.

Understand Each State’s Specific Employment Laws

While there are employment laws on the federal and state level that apply to both seasonal and full-time workers, things like employee benefits, minimum wage requirements, and anti-harassment laws vary by state. Business owners should familiarize themselves with their specific states’ laws to avoid any legal pitfalls.

Understand Individual Employee Benefits

There is some room for discretion when it comes to benefits for seasonal employees, but many requirements still apply. For example, the U.S. Department of Labor requires businesses to pay workers at least the federal minimum wage, and while hiring seasonal employees can help cut costs, overtime rules must still be followed.

Health insurance is a particularly complicated area. The Affordable Care Act of 2010 requires applicable larger employers with more than 50 full-time equivalent (FTE) employees to offer access to a minimum health care option, and it does not specifically exclude seasonal employees from that rule. Small businesses with less than 50 FTE workers are not subject to the ACA’s rules. Another thing to note when it comes to health insurance is that the number of hours each employee works also determines the employer’s requirement to provide full benefits .

Other workplace perks, such as vacation time, flexible work hours, telecommuting options and more, are offered solely at the discretion of the company. Small businesses can decide whether they want to provide seasonal hires with the same perks they give to full-time employees as these types of benefits aren’t mandated on the federal level.

Turn to a Legal Expert for Advice

Seeking legal counsel can help small business owners avoid legal issues, make better informed decisions, and protect their business. A legal or tax advisor can help business owners understand the different rules and regulations, both on the federal and state level, that apply when hiring a seasonal employee versus a full-time employee. They can also help draft contracts catered specifically to seasonal workers and review any restrictions when hiring minors.

Hiring seasonal employees and figuring out which employment rules and regulations apply can be daunting, but taking the time to understand specific federal and state laws can keep a business legally compliant and ready to take on the next wave of new seasonal employees.

Paul Kassabian is Legal Product Counsel for LegalZoom.

Worker stock photo by TatyanaNazatin/Shutterstock