When you hire seasonal help, the goal is to find employees who can help you get the work done. Investing a little time up front can help you avoid hiring employees who would add to your workload.
Whether hiring seasonal employees is an annual occurrence or a new practice on your farm, it’s important to find the right people and then understand your responsibilities.
These suggestions can help the process go smoothly:
Seek professional assistance. As experts at the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) point out, labor laws specific to discrimination and worker safety apply to temporary and permanent employees equally.1 The SBA provides employment and labor law resources, but consider consulting an attorney familiar with state and local regulations and how they apply to agriculture. Your accountant can help with tax requirements and paperwork.
Understand unemployment benefit obligations. Your attorney or accountant can help here, too. As the SBA advises, employers generally are not exempt from unemployment benefit obligations for short-term employees.1 However, exceptions may apply. Consult your state department of labor to understand your obligations.
Find the right people. Depending on the positions you need filled, fall work can require a broad range of skills. A retired or semi-retired farmer may be an excellent fit. Most agricultural communities likely have several. Consider these tips for hiring seasonal workers from the SBA:
- Post your openings early. This will give you access to the largest pool of candidates.
- Use questionnaires or resumes to filter applicants so you don’t waste time interviewing ineligible or inexperienced candidates. A few simple questions about work history, experience around and operating equipment, etc., can quickly and easily narrow down your applicant pool.
- Consider hiring as a business investment. Plan to train your temporary employees as thoroughly as you would train permanent employees. They’ll be better prepared to do the jobs you hired them for, and — should circumstances change — you might need or want them to become a permanent full-time employee.
- If you don’t have time to recruit or interview potential workers, consider obtaining help from temp agencies or professional employer organizations. Many local job services and agencies in ag communities have experience finding and placing farm workers.
Protect your business. Whether temporary or permanent, your employees represent your business and carry out tasks that impact your livelihood. That makes careful, thorough hiring decisions even more important. You don’t want to be suspicious of your employees, but you need to remain vigilant. Consider the SBA’s 6 Tips for Preventing Employee Theft and Fraud in the Workplace, which covers pre-employment checks and references.2
Even if you don’t anticipate needing extra help this fall, an extended wet spell or an illness to you or an employee can change your situation in a hurry. It’s wise to have a list of qualified candidates. It’s a good idea to compile one now, before you head to the shed and start prepping your combine.