Hiring seasonal employees: best practices and points to watch out for
A fixed-term contract (CDD) or an assignment contract (contrat de mission) can be signed for seasonal jobs whose tasks are likely to be repeated every year at more or less fixed intervals, depending on the rhythm of the seasons or collective lifestyles.
Hiring seasonal employees is a major challenge for many companies in the tourism, agriculture, events and retail sectors.
Hiring seasonal employees has many advantages for companies, but requires particular attention. Particular care needs to be taken when hiring seasonal employees.
What are the advantages for companies of hiring seasonal workers?
- Meeting high demand during peak periods. Seasonal workers reinforce teams, thus avoiding business interruptions or production delays.
- Avoid the cost of hiring and firing a permanent employee. Seasonal employees are employed for a fixed period, and their contracts end naturally, without the need for redundancy procedures.
- Recruit employees with specific skills for the season in question.
What exactly is a seasonal activity or seasonal job?
The French Labor Code strictly regulates seasonal activities (articles L.1242-2, 3° and L1251-6, 3° of the Labor Code).
To qualify as seasonal, variations in a company’s activities must be:
- beyond the control of employers or employees.
This distinguishes them from a simple increase in activity or a simple periodic increase in the production of a company working on a year-round basis.
Although it mainly concerns agriculture, the agri-food industry and tourism, the notion of seasonal employment is not limited to specific sectors.
It could, for example, apply to grape harvesting or picking, or to the summer or winter seasons in seaside resorts or ski resorts.
However, seasonal activity alone is not enough.
We need to ensure that the employee’s job corresponds to the variation in activity. In concrete terms, the tasks entrusted to the seasonal employee must correspond to a cyclical increase in activity.
A company that is open all year round, but whose tourist activity increases significantly at the same time each year, can conclude a seasonal fixed-term contract if it covers only this period.
Otherwise, if the employee is entrusted with tasks relating to the normal activity of the company, even during a seasonal period, the contract will be requalified as a permanent contract.
What are the conditions governing the validity of seasonal contracts?
With the seasonal nature of activities in sectors such as agriculture, tourism, hotels and catering, seasonal contracts are becoming increasingly common. However, the question arises as to the legal validity of these contracts.
Like all fixed-term contracts, seasonal contracts must be in writing, failing which they are deemed to have been concluded for an indefinite period.
This writing must include :
- a precise definition of the reason for the contract: the reason for its use
- the expiry date of the contract and, where applicable, the renewal clause if the contract contains an imprecise term,
- the job title of the position held by the employee,
- the title of the collective bargaining agreement applicable to the company,
- the length of the trial period,
- the amount of remuneration and its various components,
- the name and address of the company’s pension fund and, where applicable, those of any provident societies;
- if applicable, a renewal clause for the following season.
In addition, employers and employees should check that the clauses made compulsory by their collective bargaining agreement are included in the employment contract.
What about the specific “harvest contract” regime?
The “vendanges” contract, also known as a seasonal viticultural employment contract, is a temporary employment contract used in wine-growing areas to hire agricultural workers during the harvest period.
It is governed by article L.7221-2 of the French Labor Code and by the provisions of the national collective agreement for winegrowing operations.
This is a special case of seasonal contract, limited to work relating to the preparation and execution of the grape harvest, as well as the storage of equipment (C. rur., art. L718-4).
This excludes all other work in the vineyard, such as pruning, debudding, tilling the soil and so on.
It also has a number of specific features:
- it is open to employees on paid leave and public-sector employees,
- it has a maximum duration of one month,
- it must specify the duration for which it is concluded (failing which, it is deemed to have been concluded until the end of the harvest),
- the same employee may sign successive harvesting contracts, provided that the total duration of the contracts does not exceed two months over a 12-month period,
- like other seasonal employment contracts, it cannot include an automatic renewal clause.
Points to watch :
The use of seasonal contracts must not be confused with occasional work to cover a temporary need for manpower, or a temporary increase in workload.
It is also essential that these employees are properly supervised during their period of employment. Companies must ensure that employees are properly trained and informed of the company’s objectives and requirements.
Regular monitoring is required to ensure that seasonal employees comply with safety and work quality instructions.
Finally, it is important that seasonal employees are paid fairly and equitably. Companies must ensure that they comply with the rules on wages, working hours and weekly rest periods. Seasonal employees must also be entitled to the same benefits as permanent employees (luncheon vouchers, bonuses, health insurance, etc.).
So before resorting to seasonal contracts, it’s best to take stock of the legal situation and the company’s real needs, to avoid any potential setbacks.
Our lawyers are at your disposal to answer all your questions and advise you. Our meetings can be held face-to-face or by videoconference. You can make an appointment directly online at www.agn-avocats.com.
AGN AVOCATS – Employment Law Department
09 72 34 24 72