For many industries, especially retail, food, and hospitality, summer can be one of the busiest seasons. The need for seasonal help and the warmer weather usually brings a host of questions from employers. Can I hire a minor? What’s with the skimpy summer fashions? Is there such a thing as an unpaid internship? What summer benefits do other companies provide?
Here are some pointers for a successful summer experience.
- Determine whether your minor employees will need to obtain work permits before starting work.
- Evaluate if there are restrictions on the number of hours/days or time of day your minor employees can work or if there are mandated breaks.
- Be aware of restrictions related to employment of minors. For example, minor employees are restricted from working in hazardous occupations and with certain power-driven equipment.
As with all new hires, you’ll want to take your time in bringing your new employees onboard. For them, this may be their first job. Your expectations and guidance will help to form a positive work ethic and attitude for these young employees. When done well, the employment relationship can provide a great benefit to both the employer and the minors hired for the summer.
NOTE: Rehires and I-9s. If you rehire an employee for the summer and it’s been within three years from the completion of his or her Form I-9, you may either rely on the employee's previously executed Form I-9 (as long as documentation is unexpired) or request that the employee complete a new one.
Employers will sometimes treat seasonal employment as continuous employment meaning that the employee has a reasonable expectation of employment at all times. In those cases, employers can continue to maintain and store previously completed I-9s as if there was no interruption in employment.
Often, college students will look to secure employment during the summer as an intern with the hopes of extending it into the school year. In general, interns should be paid for their work, however, under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), there are narrow circumstances where private sector, for-profit employers can offer unpaid internships.
The Department of Labor (DOL) recently revised their guidance on this topic and now require the use of a seven-factor test to determine who is the "primary beneficiary" of the intern/employer relationship to assess whether an intern should be paid or not. For example, if an intern performs routine work that the business is dependent on, then he or she most likely will be considered an employee who must be paid minimum wage and overtime pay under the FLSA.
For additional information on interns, check out MRA’s recently published Hot Topic Survey: Hiring Interns. It provides organizations with valuable details regarding common internship policies, specific intern needs, and projected pay levels.
If you are considering relaxed summer dress codes, you should clearly communicate your policy and describe what is and isn’t appropriate. For example, you might allow sandals, jeans, and cropped pants to be worn in the summer, but not shorts, flip-flops, and tops with spaghetti straps. Sometimes, the latest fashions expose more cleavage, open backs or shoulders, and visible tattoos than are preferred and the policy should state that if employees show up to work inappropriately dressed, they may be asked to change their clothes. Dress code policy and the expectations of proper attire should be reiterated.
Personal hygiene is also apparent during summer months when workplaces get warm. Proactively prepare for how the company will address increasing heat within the work environment (i.e., opening doors, installing fans, offering water, or more frequent breaks) and how unpleasant odors that may arise from body sweat will be addressed.
While many employers offer a relaxed dress code as a summer perk, other benefits can be implemented such as allowing employees to leave early on Fridays or flexible schedules such as telecommuting.
Summer months are usually desirable for planning company activities including picnics and cookouts, special events, outdoor gatherings, and fun treat days with ice cream sundaes and popsicles breaks. Other morale-boosting benefits that could be offered are holding meetings outside and giving away local event tickets (such as to a State Fair or the zoo).
Take advantage of the summer months to increase morale and retention by allowing added benefits that give employees extra time to enjoy the outdoors and dress in a more comfortable way. When hiring minors, remember that their experiences can influence their perceptions of work for the future. Your involvement may help create a motivated, productive worker for years to come. Now that’s a great plan to start your summer!
Source: Lynell Meeth, MSHR, SPHR, SHRM-SCP, Director, Member Content, MRA - The Management Association