Manage & Schedule Temporary Staff for Christmas Sales (with predictive rota)

Staffing & rota planning doubles in size over Christmas, thereby your scheduling headaches. Here is our guide for rota forecasting & happier festive sales.
  • Author: Siva
  • Last updated: December 7, 2022
  • 11 Minutes
Identify the business’s needs over the festive season. Look over previous Christmas period and current staffing levels to determine the roles that need to be filled and the days, times and locations at which you need to fill them.  Review existing staffing resources. Take a look at the suitability and availability of the staff members you already have for each shift. Discuss with permanent employees what they expect of their shifts over the period and see where there are gaps that seasonal workers can fill.  Assign resources. Map out each shift and make sure equipment, tools, and skills are available when they are necessary. This may see you mixing temporary staff with permanent workers to get the best balance. 

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Christmas is just around the corner. If you run a retail or hospitality business, you probably view the festive season with a mixture of excitement and dread because it is such a vital time of year. Even the best-laid Christmas business plans can come undone if you don’t have enough staff available and scheduled to keep the business running.

But instead of stretching employees to their limit this Christmas, why not call in reinforcements to help out? Seasonal staff can help businesses meet the seasons’ demand, keep queues to a minimum, boost the quality of customer service, and spread festive cheer.

But how do you find the right employees for the festive seasons, and when you do, how do you effectively schedule temporary staff to get the most from them? In this article, we will answer these questions and many more.

Let’s begin.

What are the seasonal staff?

In short, seasonal staff hiring is where a business brings in additional staff during busy periods of the year. While these periods can be at different times of the year for businesses and industries, generally busy periods will fall on holidays such as Christmas, Easter, and the summer months. 

Definiton : Seasonal Worker
A seasonal worker is an employee that fills a gap on a part or full-time basis for a limited length of time to cover for expected increases in customer demand. Generally, they will have a fixed contract that will stipulate their exact hours and duties.

While some seasonal staff may transition into full-time employees, these positions are usually explicitly temporary jobs. 

Seasonal roles can be beneficial for employers looking for a little extra help at busy times when the cost of hiring long-term employees is too much. 

What’s the difference between seasonal and regular employees? 

The difference between seasonal workers and their permanent brethren can be summed up by the following definition:

Regular employment is a full or part-time position that is permanent in nature and the employee will be scheduled throughout the year. Seasonal employment is a full or part-time employee who is engaged temporarily during a busy period of the year. 

How many hours do temporary seasonal employees generally work? 

This is a difficult question to answer. Temporary employees can work more or less hours than their permanent colleagues and the number of hours they work will depend on whether they are hired as a part-time or full-time employee. It’s really up to the employer to set the hours of seasonal workers so it could be anywhere from just a few hours to the equivalent of a full-time employee. 

What rights do temporary employees have?

Temporary employees are entitled to the same working conditions and benefits as permanent employees in comparable roles. For example, they should have the same, rate of pay and holidays entitlement (pro-rated) unless a business can justify less favourable treatment on business grounds.

A comparative permanent employee in these circumstances is an employee not on a fixed term contract, employed by the same employer in the same establishment and undertaking the same or similar job.

So, does that mean seasonal workers get paid the same as permanent ones?

Again, this can be a difficult question to answer. Anti-discrimination law in the UK makes it difficult for employers to pay their staff different levels of pay if they are doing the same job. However, due to the nature of the job, most seasonal workers contracts are worded in such a way to avoid any legal issues and as such they are often paid less than permanent employees (normally the equivalent of the minimum wage). 

Anti-Discrimination Policy
Check our guide for Small businesses in the UK on ‘Anti-discrimination policy at Workplaces‘.

Can seasonal workers become permanent employees? 

Yes, they can. Some seasonal positions have the potential to become permanent roles. It should be said that this is not the norm, and most businesses will be unable to offer full-time employment after the employee’s temporary contract ends. 

If you are a temporary worker and would like to become a full-time employee, there are a few things you can do to help your chances. Firstly, speak with your manager and express your interest in becoming a permanent staff member. Then put the effort in to become an exemplary employee and hope your manager notices. 

It’s also important to note that after four continuous years of employment, employees who have been employed on a succession of fixed-term contracts will automatically be deemed as permanent employees unless there is a business reason that justifies the continued use of a fixed-term contract.

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How can businesses best support seasonal workers? 

As a business owner, you have a responsibility to provide the best possible working environment for your workers. Christmas work can be incredibly busy and stressful and temporary workers have volunteered their time and energy to help the business thrive through the busy period. 

There are several ways you can support your seasonal workers, these include: 

  1. Offering overtime. Overtime benefits the business and the employee. Due to the finite nature of seasonal work, temporary employees are often eager to work more hours so they can make as much money as possible. 
  2. Treat seasonal workers as if they were permanent. Even though seasonal workers won’t be with a company as long as full-time employees, treating them the same will create a pleasant working environment for everyone. 
  3. Be sensitive with rota scheduling. It may be tempting to view seasonal employees as workhorses who will fill every empty shift. But just like permanent employees, seasonal workers will have other commitments and a work/life balance to maintain. Follow the same scheduling process you would with permanent employees to ensure that temporary workers are treated fairly and don’t become frustrated or burnt out.
Free Calculator
Checkout Papershift’s free ‘Overtime working hours calculator’ while you get yourself a digital timesheet software.

Tips when hiring seasonal staff

Getting the right staff and the right level of staffing over the festive period can be challenging. Here are a few tips to help you out.

a. Get started early

Ideally, a business will have started thinking about seasonal staffing requirements six months before it gets busy. This means that planning for Christmas should start in June. We know this isn’t always realistic for small businesses, but it’s something to aim for, if not this year, then next.

Similarly, when it comes to advertising seasonal vacancies, start as early as you can. For Christmas staff, you need to get adverts out with enough time to process recruitment as well as training. Even though you might not be anticipating a spike in trade until November/December, starting recruitment earlier gives a business a couple of important advantages:

  1. First, the best candidates will still be available. Hiring later may see the most promising applicants snapped up by the competition.
  2. Second, it gives seasonal staff the chance to learn the ropes before the business gets busy. 

If you haven’t advertised roles this early, don’t panic. There are still plenty of great candidates about, but you might have to look a little harder to find them.

b. Write adverts for different audiences

Seasonal employees typically have different expectations and motivations from permanent staff. They’re usually not looking for a career, just a chance to earn some extra money, and gain some experience and/or transferable skills.

As such, a business will need to reach out to different audiences, such as students and older people. Colleges and universities tend to have their own jobs boards, and you can also post ads on student websites. 

Adverts will also need to be written so they appeal to these applicants. Focus on the opportunity to gain skills and experience, and don’t dedicate as much space to long-term benefits like pensions or career progression.

c. Don’t expect less from temporary workers

Even though seasonal staff will only be working for the business for a couple of months, managers should still hold them to the same standard as permanent staff. After all, customers won’t know (or care) which staff member is on a permanent or temporary contract.

In many ways, seasonal staff has to be more capable than permanent staff as businesses will need them to learn quickly and work effectively during the busiest time of the year.

d. Plan staffing requirements based on previous years

If you’ve been running a business for over a year, use your experience of previous Christmas periods to plan staffing levels. Have a look at the spreadsheets or rota-planning software you use and use this information to build a successful schedule for this year.

Make sure you hire enough staff to fill the rota, and factor in the possibility of multiple employees not showing up for shifts or phoning in sick. A good rota software (like the one we provide at Papershift) can help with this.

6 Reasons against Excel Rota

e. Contact previous seasonal employees

One of the easiest ways to find temporary employees is to contact former seasonal staff to see if they’d like to take on the same role again. It’ll take less time to train them than hiring completely new employees, and their experience will help new temporary staff members find their feet quicker.

f. Seek referrals

Businesses can ask current employees if they know any friends or family members who are looking for seasonal work. These referrals are extremely valuable as they allow a business to find staff without losing money or time trying to find candidates. If the referee is a good worker, you can often be reasonably certain that they’ll be a good fit.

Of course, referred candidates should still be put through the usual assessment and interview processes so the business can feel confident they can do the job asked of them.

g. Work with a recruitment agency (if you need to)

Even if you don’t normally work with an external recruiter, it might be prudent to consider it in the run-up to the festive season. Recruiters can be expensive, but you can save a lot of time (and headaches) by letting them do all the hard work for you.

To get the best possible results from a recruitment agency, make sure you brief them thoroughly. If they don’t know who you’re looking for, they won’t be able to find the staff you need.

h. Get active on social media

Even if you don’t usually use social media to advertise permanent roles within your business, it’s often worth a try where temporary roles are concerned. Often you can find more seasonal employees on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter than on traditional job sites due to the reach the sites have and their casual recruitment focus.

i. Be clear what you want

When writing adverts for seasonal vacancies, there are a couple of ways they should differ from the usual job adverts:

  1. Use “keywords” like seasonal, winter, or Christmas to help attract jobseekers for temporary roles.
  2. Make it clear that the role is temporary and state the period which the worker will be expected to work. Clarity will ensure that neither your time nor the candidate’s is wasted
  3. Be honest about the prospect of permanent work after the temporary contract ends. Don’t allude to this possibility if you know this can’t happen.

Any tips for scheduling temporary staff over the festive period?

Of course. Here are a few tips to get the best out of temporary staff when devising your festive schedules:

  1. Identify the business’s needs over the festive season. Look over previous Christmas period and current staffing levels to determine the roles that need to be filled and the days, times and locations at which you need to fill them. 
  2. Review existing staffing resources. Take a look at the suitability and availability of the staff members you already have for each shift. Discuss with permanent employees what they expect of their shifts over the period and see where there are gaps that seasonal workers can fill. 
  3. Assign resources. Map out each shift and make sure equipment, tools, and skills are available when they are necessary. This may see you mixing temporary staff with permanent workers to get the best balance. 

In conclusion

If you’re struggling to find and schedule seasonal staff, don’t panic. You might just have to move away from your usual scheduling and recruitment methods to find the right fit for the Christmas period. 

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Motivating and managing all these extra employees is a tough task. If your rota doubles in size over Christmas, then you can ease your scheduling headaches with rota-planning software like the one we provide here at Papershift. Our software is geared to making it easier and quicker for you to assign shifts, manage changes, as well as many more time-consuming tasks, all in one place.

Written by Siva

I write & describe the value & benefits delivered by Paperhift's rota planning, staff time tracking, and employee payroll management software. Especially useful for Shift Planners, Rota Managers, Team Admins, and HR Teams :-)