Unemployment in Changing Times – Are Seasonal Workers Protected?

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Written by Jackie Edwards, specially for The HR Tech Weekly® ▸

Unemployment in Changing Times - Are Seasonal Workers Protected?

In many industries, there is an ever shrinking demarcation of the traditional working day. The fact is, we live in a 24/7 consumer society, and those demands are cascaded through to businesses throughout the value chain. This is particularly the case in the tech industry, where the growing trend in flexible and remote workers means the boundary between home and work balance is becoming ever more blurred. When it comes down to it, the 9-5 working day and 35 hour week with time off for good behavior that was the norm for our parents and grandparents is actually quite a rarity today.

But flexible working practices do not just mean fitting hours to suit personal and business needs, and seeking that holy grail of 21st century existence, the mythical work life balance. Seasonal work is also becoming more common in industries outside the traditional farming and recreational sectors, and is starting to be seen in everything from retail to back office to academia. Here, we take a look at how employment law applies to workers falling into this ever widening category.

Claiming Unemployment Benefit

Even for those who have been in regular employment within the HR tech industry, the rules might seem complex due to variations between states, but the underlying principles are simple enough. If the worker has been laid off through no fault of his or her own, and meets the requirements for the amount of time he or she was in work, then benefits are available.

For seasonal workers, the same principles are in play, but they are a little more complicated to navigate. Specifically, the lack of work at certain times is an understood and acknowledged part of the deal. As such, workers are not actually unemployed, and so many states will not subsidize them during this “lull” period.

States that have a more generous attitude towards seasonal workers, typically those with a significant tourist sector and therefore a larger proportion of people falling into this category, calculate the amount payable on the basis of what was earned during the base period, just as they would for someone who had been in full time employment.

How about Contractors?

Almost three quarters of employers use contractors to provide tech support at one time or another, so how is this sector affected? Only an employee can claim benefits, and in the vast majority of cases, contractors are considered to be self employed, and are therefore ineligible. Even more complex is where the contractor hires seasonal assistance. In this case, however, the key word is “hires” – the assistant is not considered an employee any more than the contractor is, and therefore is not generally going to be able to claim unemployment.

If in doubt, ask

The above all suggests that where unemployment benefits are concerned, the deck is clearly stacked in favor of full time workers, and it could be argued that seasonal employees are not as fairly treated as they could be. Ultimately, though, it is important to remember that rules can vary significantly, so if you are unsure regarding an individual’s eligibility to claim, it always makes sense to check with your state unemployment office to get specific advice.


Not everyone fits the traditional, eight-to-five, year-round job scenario. Seasonal employees work for defined, often short periods of time during specific times of the year. This phenomenon is created by variations in certain industries that are affected by seasonal shifts in demand or weather-related impediments.

Click here to learn more: Unemployment Rules for Seasonal Workers | AboutUnemployment.org

Filed under: Career, HR, Talent Tagged: AboutUnemployment.org, Career, Contract Workforce, Employee Experience, Employees, Employment, Flexibility, HR, HR Tech, Remote Work, Seasonal Workers, Talent, Unemployment, Workforce

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