Seasonal Workers in Canada

Seasonal Workers in Canada

Seasonal Workers

Love it or loathe it, the holiday shopping season is on its way. The glitter, the baubles, the candy canes and tinsel are coming to a shopping centre near you. It’s the most wonderful time of the year – so they say – and for retail businesses, it’s the most profitable.

But more shoppers buying more things also means that many employers need more workers to keep up with increasingly busy business hours.

Hiring seasonal workers is one way in which retail businesses can cope with increasing consumer demands during the holiday shopping season. So, what does hiring seasonal workers mean for retail businesses? And what does it mean to be a seasonal worker?

Rights of Seasonal Workers

Seasonal workers are entitled to most of the same rights under the Employment Standards Act (ESA) as any other employee. As a seasonal worker, you are entitled to the same rights regarding minimum wage, hours of work, rest and eating periods, overtime and vacation pay. Furthermore, seasonal workers are also covered by health and safety legislation and common law.

Employers can, however, provide different entitlements regarding things such as benefits and RRSP contributions.

Seasonal Workers and Statutory Holidays

Many seasonal retail workers are hired to work during some of the busiest shopping days of the year – including Boxing Day. Since Boxing Day is a statutory holiday in Ontario, retail workers have the right to take this day off.

While seasonal workers employed in hotels, resorts and restaurants can be required to work on a statutory holiday, retail workers can refuse to work on a statutory holiday even if they agree to do so in their employment contract as long as they give their employer 48 hours’ notice.

Seasonal Workers and Fixed Term Contracts

Since seasonal workers are entitled to the same notice entitlements upon termination as any other employee, employers usually choose to hire seasonal workers on a fixed-term contract. As explored in this blog, employers do not have to give notice or pay in lieu thereof to employees on a fixed-term contract since they effectively know when the last day of their employment will be at the time they sign their employment contract.

Although it does sometimes happen, employers are under no obligation to extend a fixed-term contract for a seasonal worker into a permanent contract. Furthermore, employers are not obligated to rehire a seasonal worker one year after another. Having worked a season for an employer one year does not entitle you to work for this employer the following year. That said, many employers find it advantageous to rehire seasonal workers year after year because they are already familiar with business operations and duties and are therefore quicker to train than a new employee.

Things to include in a seasonal worker’s fixed-term contract

Seasonal worker contracts should include, first and foremost, the length of the employment and compensation. The number of shifts/hours an employee can expect to work or information that no shifts or hours are guaranteed can also be useful to include in an employment contract but are not necessary. An employer may also have an employee agree to work on statutory holidays however, as you read above, you cannot always obligate an employee to do so even if they agree to when they sign their contract.

Final considerations

Hiring seasonal workers is a great way for businesses to meet the temporarily-increased business demands of the holiday shopping season. However, it is important that employers honour seasonal employees’ rights under the ESA and other employment legislation. A qualified employment lawyer can ensure your fixed-term contracts are both fair and enforceable and provide guidance on any legal concerns you may have regarding employing seasonal workers.

For legal advice and assistance with your rights as a seasonal employer or worker, Call us today to book your consultation at 905-639-0999 or connect with us online by filling out a consultation request form.