What does a benefits package for seasonal workers look like?

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Need to know:

  • A strong onboarding and induction programme will help seasonal workers understand their benefits package and feel valued.
  • Benefits should be tailored to the sector and the type of seasonal worker the organisation wants to attract.
  • Introducing seasonal workers to permanent employees and including them in recognition schemes and social events will help them feel part of the team.

Whether they are picking fruit, running a bar at a festival or hanging out with Santa in the grotto, seasonal workers can help many businesses through their busier times. But, with many sectors experiencing difficulties recruiting, employers are looking to broader benefits packages to attract and motivate the right people.

Alongside the pandemic, Brexit has made it tougher to recruit seasonal workers, especially in sectors such as agriculture and hospitality. Alan Price, chief executive officer (CEO) of BrightHR, says: “The EU talent pool isn’t there anymore. Employers must do more to attract and incentivise their seasonal workers.”

Failing to attract temporary staff can have devastating consequences. As well as putting strain on employees and affecting productivity, the National Farmers Union (NFU) reported that more than £60 million of fruit and vegetables were wasted in the first half of 2022 because there were not enough pickers.

Offering the right package for seasonal workers can have significant benefits too. Helen Goss, partner in the employment team at law firm Boyes Turner, says: “Many employers want their seasonal workers to come back year after year. This saves on recruitment plus they’re more productive as they can integrate seamlessly back into the organisation.”

Benefits can be even longer lasting too. Many Michelin-starred chefs, including Raymond Blanc and Gordon Ramsey, got their first sniff of the kitchen as casual pot washers, while former Tesco boss Philip Clarke started out stacking shelves while at school.

Laws of attraction

Understanding the type of person required is key to seasonal recruitment success. Jess Lancashire, CEO of From Another, says: “Employers need to think about the skillsets they need and where they might be able to find these workers. This also makes it easier to determine what they would value from their employment.”

Sometimes there are groups that can be targeted. University students are an obvious fit for seasonal work in sectors such as retail, hospitality and events that need staff during the holidays.

A bit of creative thinking can help too. For example, recruitment firm Acorn by Synergie has several clients in manufacturing and heavy industry that need seasonal staff when they close for maintenance in the summer and winter.

Mark Rudge, commercial partnerships director at Acorn by Synergie, explains: “We’ve partnered with colleges in the area so students in their engineering departments can gain experience working in these [organisations]. Over the 10 days, they can earn around £2,000 plus they’ll get an induction, health and safety training and valuable experience for their CVs.”

First impressions

Although they might only be on the books for a matter of weeks, there are rules around what is offered to seasonal workers. National living wage rules apply and, regardless of hours or the length of the contract, they also qualify for holiday pay.

It is important that employers are transparent about what is on offer, says Sarah Jefferys, head of reward consulting at Gallagher. “Employers need to make sure that seasonal workers understand what they get, what they’re entitled to and how they can get it,” she explains.

Details can often be highlighted in the onboarding and induction programmes. Although these formalities were unusual for seasonal workers in the past, they now serve an important purpose, says Price. “An induction is a great way to introduce the organisation and show workers they’re a valued part of the team,” he adds. “Competition is so hot for seasonal workers: if they don’t feel part of the culture, there’s another job a few doors down.”

Benefits of the season

The induction is also a key time to introduce the benefits package. The temporary nature of their employment means that this group tends to prefer benefits they can use, such as health and wellbeing support and employee assistance programmes (EAP), rather than longer-term propositions like pensions, bikes-for-work schemes or private medical insurance. Being able to use a discount platform to get 5% off the weekly grocery shop is likely to resonate much more than building up a micro pension pot.

An organisation’s existing benefits package is a good starting point, according to Mark Witte, head of health and risk at Aon. “An employer may be able to roll out added-value benefits such as the EAP, digital GP and wellbeing programmes to seasonal workers,” he explains. “It may come down to numbers but it’s worth having a conversation with the provider.”

Targeting take-up

Tailoring benefits to the sector and the type of seasonal worker the organisation attracts can make the package more meaningful. “Food in the staff room, especially in hospitality; discounts in retail or in the travel sector; or free transport and accommodation for farm workers can help attract and motivate the right people,” says Jefferys.

Health cash plans are another popular option. Price has seen these being offered more to seasonal workers, especially in the retail sector. “A student working through the summer could get their teeth and eyes checked and have some physiotherapy or an alternative therapy such as reiki before they go back to university,” he says. “This is attractive.”

Where perks are less obvious, or the seasonal worker talent pool is more diverse, voluntary benefits can work well. These give access to approved providers, often at lower cost than if they were sourced independently. “Think about what might be a challenge for workers,” adds Witte. “For example, offering access to protection products could sit well with higher-paid seasonal workers.”

Broader benefits

A good benefits package can give seasonal workers something extra but they are often looking beyond the list of products. Seasonal workers are typically motivated by three things, says Lancashire. “It could be their day-to-day experience; opportunities to develop; or their ability to balance work with important things in their life,” she explains.

This requires a range of workplace policies, sometimes dependent on the sector or type of seasonal worker. Flexibility is essential, especially where workers have family or other commitments. “Sharing rotas in advance can make it much easier for staff to plan their work and social lives,” says Goss. “This can make them feel valued too.”

It may also be prudent to consider support for childcare where an organisation is reliant on seasonal workers with young families.

Development opportunities are another potential winner. Offering training and development, references and even a pay rise can be highly prized. Recognition schemes are effective, says Jefferys. “Recognition is one of the most undervalued things,” she says. “But something as simple as employee of the week can boost morale and even encourage a seasonal worker to return the following year.”

A great experience

Building a good working environment will depend hugely on the sector. For someone working a summer season in the South of France, having two days off a week may be enough of a lure, while seasonal workers in more structured workplaces such as manufacturing and retail may appreciate regular breaks, free drinks and regular team social events.

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Even the way permanent staff are included in discussions about seasonal workers can contribute to the success of these temporary placements. “Make sure they understand why the organisation is hiring seasonal workers,” says Lancashire. “This will improve everyone’s day-to-day experience and help to build stronger teams.”

Considering every detail, from the type of person the organisation wants to attract to how they might balance their work and life commitments, is key to winning the seasonal recruitment battle. Getting the benefits mix right will encourage a happy and productive relationship, potentially for many seasons to come.