Dear Dan Our business is seasonal, and we usually hire extra help for the busy periods. With the recession, we have less money available, but we still need the help. How can we find good workers on just a seasonal basis? - Seasonal Biz
Dear Seasonal Biz: When it comes to hiring seasonal, summer, holiday or other part-time and temporary help, there's a great deal for a small business to know. You'll need to decide what kind of workers you want (student interns; adult temps, etc.), where to find them and how to train them. You also need to know the rules and regulations involving such workers, including the latest rules on child labor, minimum wage, tax withholding, overtime pay, Form I-9 (there's a new one!) and temporary visas for foreign workers, among other things.
Here's a breakdown of key considerations for a small business seeking to hire seasonal or other temporary help:
Hire Teens But know the Rules: Teenagers out of school for the summer have always been a great source of seasonal help for small businesses. Those 18 or older can work any job at any hours. Workers who are 16 or 17 have no limits on hours worked, but can't be employed in what the government considers "hazardous" positions, which usually includes operating power equipment of certain kinds. Driving on the job is also forbidden for this age group, except for moving vehicles around on the business premises (no passengers). Teens 14 and 15 can only work at jobs not restricted by the U.S. Department of Labor. The DOL website (www.dol.gov) has details.
Create an Internship Program: College student interns and recent grads are another possibility. Student interns are capable, motivated and -- if well managed - highly valuable to your business. The trick is the "well-managed" part. You need a plan for making their presence truly productive, and you should recruit, train and manage interns just as you would full-timers. The Internship Institute (www.internshipinstitute.org) offers an excellent Intern Toolkit that will help you do it right. Other helpful websites include InternshipPrograms.com, Internships.com and InternJobs.com.
Write it Out: Write out job descriptions for any seasonal positions so expectations are clear to both you and anyone you hire. Also put jobs offers in writing so it's perfectly clear when the position starts and ends.
Hire Your Kids: The good news about hiring your own kids is that children of any age are generally allowed to work in a business owned 100 percent by their parents -- hazardous jobs excluded. But the rules are tricky, notes Steve Sahlein of the American Institute of Professional Bookkeepers. For example, "If parents are 100 percent owners, they need not pay immediate family members the minimum wage. But if they regularly hire non-family members, they must pay their kids the minimum wage," he says. "If you hire your children and own 100 percent of your sole proprietorship or partnership, you don't have to withhold Social Security taxes from the kids, but you do have to withhold federal income tax and give your kids a W-2."
Get the Minimum Wage Right: The Federal minimum wage went up in July 2008 to $6.55 from $5.85 per hour. But these important exceptions apply, according to the NFIB Legal Foundation:
- Employees under the age of 20, for up to 90 days
- "Tipped" employees
- Full-time students employed in retail, service stores or agriculture, but only if the employer first obtains a certificate from the DOL.
- High school students at least 16 who are enrolled in vocational ed courses - if the employer first obtains a student learner certificate from a regional DOL office.
Keep it Legal: A new version of the Federal I-9 employment eligibility form went into effect this year. This is the form that verifies a worker's eligibility to be employed in the U.S. The government requires an I-9 for every employee within the first three days of employment, and there's no small business exemption. You can download the form at the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services website (www.uscis.gov). Hiring foreign workers for summer jobs this year could be difficult, since the government has not acted to increase available H-2B visas, which let foreign workers temporarily fill jobs in the U.S.