Seasonal workers: what employers should know

Last updated: May 13th, 2024

As the days get longer and the skies get sunnier (well, sometimes), summer is on people’s minds. This means that business owners, meanwhile, are starting to plan for how their hiring needs may change for the next season.

And if the season brings increased business, employers may be looking to hire seasonal staff.

But employers may also have questions. How can you manage these short-term contracts while staying compliant? What rights do seasonal workers have? And what’s most important for employers to be aware of when hiring seasonal workers?

Do you know what a seasonal worker is?

First, let’s start with the basics: what exactly is a seasonal worker?

Hired in temporary employment in which the person works during certain times of the year, a seasonal worker typically works part-time. However, there are also full-time, seasonal positions.

This is seen in sectors such as horticulture, agriculture, tourism, and construction, and can include workers placed by an agency to carry out seasonal work, too.

What’s the best contract to use for seasonal work?

When considering hiring seasonal workers to help support their business during busier times, employers must provide them with the right contract. Otherwise, you risk leaving your company exposed to a claim.

Usually, seasonal workers are employed under fixed-term contracts, also sometimes referred to as a “temporary” contract. Fixed-term contracts allow employers to set the contract end date, so that the employment spans during the busiest time.

But what if you don’t know the exact end date for your busy period, exactly?

In that case, employers may want to use a specified purpose contract. This contract, instead, terminates when the “specific purpose” has been completed. This can be helpful to allow some flexibility around dates, if there is a seasonal project that needs to be carried out, or if the purpose for hiring has come to its own natural end.

Which rights does a seasonal worker have?

First, it’s important to remember that legally employed seasonal workers have the same rights and protections as any other employee under Irish law. But what does this mean, exactly?

Below are some points to consider about the rights of seasonal workers in Ireland.

Terms and conditions

You must give your seasonal worker a written statement of ten of the core terms of their employment within five days of starting work. If hiring in retail or hospitality where tips might be relevant, the tips & gratuity policy must be referenced at this point.

Wages and pay

The minimum you can pay your employees is stipulated through the National Minimum Wage. This and varies by age (maximum applied to those 20 and over) and it applies to all workers in Ireland. Employers must also keep the payment of a premium for Sunday work in mind, and consider that a written statement of wages (a payslip) must also be given to every employment with every payment.

Working hours

Workers in Ireland are entitled to a limit on their working hours, on a certain amount of time between their working hours, and a certain number of rest breaks during their working hours. This varies across industries, and may be different, for example, in agriculture and tourism.

Holiday leave and public holidays

Seasonal workers earn annual leave and public holiday entitlements just like other employees in Ireland. Public holiday entitlement depends on whether the work is part-time or full-time, and also depends on the number of hours worked.

Equal treatment

Seasonal workers have a right to be treated the same as their full-time counterparts in a comparable role. You must have a justifiable reason to offer seasonal workers employment under significantly different terms, and the reason cannot be related to their fixed-term contract. This is especially important when it comes to pay.


Seasonal workers are also protected by employment equality legislation. There is no minimum service requirement for this, meaning an employee has rights under it from their first day on the job. In short, The Employment Equality Acts 1998 – 2021 prohibits discrimination against employees on the nine grounds, which are:

  • Gender
  • Civil status
  • Family status
  • Sexual orientation
  • Religion
  • Age
  • Disability
  • Race
  • Membership of the Traveller community.

Unfair dismissals

The Unfair Dismissals Act 1977 – 2015 requires an employee to have 12 months service with their employer before they can file a complaint.

But what if your employee has worked with you for less than 12 months?

Employers should also be aware that there is legislation that does not require this length of service for an employee to be able to lodge a complaint with the WRC.

This legislation includes the Industrial Relations Acts, Organisation of Working Time Act, the Terms of Employment (Information) Act, the Payment of Wages Act, and the Protected Disclosures Act, to name a few.

A safe and healthy working environment

As an employer, you’re responsible for ensuring their safety, health, and wellbeing of your employees. In short, you have a duty of care towards them. This is also the case for seasonal workers, and particularly so if they are engaged in work that may pose a risk to them (such as agricultural work). Both the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) and Health and Safety Authority have also pledged to focus more on vulnerable workers and some seasonal workers.

What are some other considerations for seasonal workers?

While it’s crucial to stay compliant, employers should consider more than just relevant legislation when hiring seasonal employees.

Going the extra mile for your seasonal employees can increase overall satisfaction and productivity during a critical time. Even more so, if your business relies on seasonal work year after year, you can more easily incentivise your seasonal workers to return later on.


Even staff that’s employed for a shorter time should receive appropriate training and induction so they can understand the standards to adhere to. Employers are encouraged to remember that although the contract may end in a short amount of time, no candidate or new employee will know your business from day 1, and will require time, direction, and assistance.


As an employer, you are required to let your temporary and seasonal workers know about any permanent vacancies that come up in your business during their employment. You should ensure to do so in an accessible way.

Have more questions about hiring seasonal employees?

Seasonal workers can be a valuable addition to your company, particularly during a time of increased business and employment needs. When this type of employment agreement is carried out well, it can increase your productivity and improve retention during an exciting time.

Meanwhile, mis-managing the employment of seasonal workers can leave your business exposed to long-term effects that may last well throughout the year. These can include lost productivity, financial strain, even complaints or claims.

To help protect your business, care needs to be taken to ensure that the appropriate contract is provided, and the correct procedures are followed.

Have additional questions? Call Graphite at 01 886 0350 or request a callback here.

Book a call with a consultant

Complete the form below and a consultant will call you as soon as possible.

Book a call with a consultant

Complete the form below and a consultant will call you as soon as possible.

Latest Resources

St Patrick’s Day: Have you prepared for absenteeism?

Published: March 20th 2024 Following national celebrations and public holidays like St Patrick’s day, you could find yourself down several staff members. And – as […]

What Employees Are Entitled to a Public Holiday Benefit & How Are Benefits Calculated?

public holiday
Published: March 20th 2024 From Easter Monday to St Patrick’s Day, Ireland gets ten public holidays and, with them, public holiday benefits. But what if […]

What happens when workplace romances go wrong

workplace romances gone wrong
First published: February 14th 2024 Last updated: February 14th 2024 Love makes the world go round, or so they say. But what effect does love […]

Olga Shevchenko

Director/Advocate, Immigration Advice Bureau

Olga Shevchenko specialises in immigration advocacy and consultancy, in particular, employment permit, visas, family reunification, citizenship, etc, for those seeking to visit, reside or invest in Ireland.

Olga provides extensive information, knowledge, and support to her clients, enabling access to positive solutions for people struggling to handle the immigration law.

Minister Neale Richmond

Minister of State, Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment

Neale Richmond TD was appointed as Minister of State at the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment with special responsibility for Employment Affairs and Retail Business and the Department of Social Protection in January 2023.

Much of his work at the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment is with businesses, workers, their representative bodies and the State Agencies to ensure that the economic recovery and growth extends to all parts of the country. He works closely with the SME sector, including retail, on building resilience and on the transition to the green and digital economies.

Mark Carpenter

Director of Regulatory & Corporate Affairs, Sky

Mark Carpenter is Director of Regulatory & Corporate Affairs at Sky Ireland. In this role he has responsibility for External and Internal Communications, Public Policy and Regulatory Affairs and the company’s ‘Bigger Picture’ (CSR) programme. He also works closely with Sky Group teams on a variety of matters, in particular our partnerships with domestic broadcasters.

Prior to working at Sky, Mark worked as a Policy Officer in Houses of the Oireachtas and as a Management Consultant at Accenture. He has a BA in History from Oxford University and a PhD in Political Science from Trinity College Dublin.

Nora Cashe

Litigation and Compliance Manager, Peninsula

Nóra studied Law in Griffith College Dublin and qualified as a Barrister in 2008, practising in the area of Criminal law. She is also member of the Irish Employment Law Association.

Nora has extensive experience representing clients at Employment Tribunal hearings, Conciliation / Mediation meetings before both the Workplace Relations Commission and the Labour Court. 

Nóra is a member of the Irish Employment Law Association and engages with the WRC Adjudication Service as part of their stakeholder engagement forum.

Deiric McCann

Managing Director, Genos International Europe

Deiric McCann leads Genos International Europe – The EU division of a world-leading provider of emotional intelligence solutions. 

With over two decades experience at the highest levels of management, Deiric supports clients to develop the resilience, emotional intelligence, psychological safety and engagements of their employees.

Rhiannon Coyne

Senior HR Consultant, Graphite HRM

Rhiannon Coyne is a Senior HR Consultant at Graphite HRM and will be providing an overview of best practice on how to deal with complaints of bullying and harassment in the workplace. 

With a number of recent updates to employment laws, Rhiannon will take a closer look at employment equality and how it is interlinked to Health & Safety and what employers can learn from recent case laws.

David Begg

Chairman, Workplace Relations Commission

David Begg was appointed Chairperson of the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) in January 2021.

David is also a professor at Maynooth University Institute of Social Sciences. Mr Begg’s extensive history in the trade union movement included leading the ESB Officers Association and Irish Congress of Trade Unions, stepping away from the latter in 2001 to chair international aid agency Concern.

David Begg was also previously a director of the Central Bank of Ireland between 1995 and 2010.