Hiring end of year staff: 5 things to consider

End of year hiring tips for small business | Prospa

If you’re expecting an increase in trade over the summer period, making smart hiring decisions now might help put you in a better position to reap the rewards later.

At a glance

Here's a snapshot of the advice from our interviewees:

  • Make the most of the government's new incentives for hiring young workers (16-35-year-olds).
  • Hire casuals if your busy period is unpredictable, but go with temps if you know what kind of rush to expect.
  • Offer robust employment contracts to avoid landing yourself in legal hot water.
  • Use services that connect you with workers who've recently been stood down.

As the silly season looms, many small business owners will need to get more hands on deck to manage a potential increase in trade. However, making more hires is an investment, so you want to be sure you’re getting the right people on board. This is even more important this year given that revenue has taken a hit for many due to COVID-19.

Two experts share their best end of year hiring tips for small business owners.

1. How to find quality seasonal staff

While you might have once relied on overseas backpackers to fill your end of year staffing gaps, COVID-19 travel restrictions mean a lower supply of holiday workers this year.

So, where can you source the right talent? Edward Mallett, Managing Director of workplace relations specialist firm Employsure, suggests using digital job boards and social media platforms as a way to reach younger jobseekers.

If you’re looking for a specific type of employee – say you need someone with hairdressing experience – you could narrow your search by posting job ads on specific Facebook groups, such as Australian/New Zealand Hairdressers.

Mallet suggests looking for talent in industries that are experiencing a lull right now. For example, the agricultural sector is facing worker shortages because of its reliance on international workers, so a business owner in this sector could hire someone from the tourism industry to get them through the busy period. There are platforms out there, such as Hatch Exchange, which can help connect you with stood down workers.

2. Should you hire casual or temporary staff?

Both have their pluses, but it’s important you’re across their differences so you don’t land yourself in legal hot water.

“You need to be clear about the distinction between casuals and temporary workers,” says Aaron Goonrey, an employment law specialist with Lander & Rogers.

Temporary staff are contracted to perform a role for a specific period or task and are usually engaged on a full-time or part-time basis, says Goonrey. They’re generally entitled to the equivalent wages, holidays and penalties as permanent workers.

Casuals, however, are hired from shift to shift and aren’t entitled to sick leave or holiday pay. To offset this, they generally are paid a 25% casual loading. They’re also under no obligation to accept the shifts offered to them, so you shouldn’t necessarily rely on them for consistent work, he explains.

If workflows are unpredictable, it may be best to go with casual workers who offer more flexibility to fill unexpected roster gaps. However, Goonrey explains that if your business’s demands are known and stable, temporary workers are likely to be cheaper in the long run.

Also, if you pay an employee more than $450 (before tax) in a calendar month, according to the ATO, you have to pay superannuation on top of their wages. That goes for casual and temporary workers.

For more information about superannuation and tax payments, read this article from the Fair Work Ombudsman.

3. Legal hiring considerations

Mallett warns against ignoring contract legalities and conditions with casual and temporary workers.

“Make it very clear that the position is temporary [or] casual… for a very limited period of time and that there’s absolutely no expectation of ongoing employment beyond that timeframe to avoid any misunderstandings,” he says.

“Ensure you provide employees with a contract in writing that clearly outlines the business’s expectations, including the hours, remuneration… and the classification level of the employee under the [specific] award.”

You need to be clear about the distinction between casuals and temporary workers.” – Aaron Goonrey, employment law specialist

Goonrey notes that workers may start as casuals and end up working rostered shifts later without the business changing their job status and conditions – something you need to watch out for.

If you’re after guidance on how to set out an employment contract, the Fair Work Ombudsman has plenty of helpful templates you can use.

4. How to plan for the right staffing levels

You want new hires to learn the ropes before business gets busy.

“It can take a while to find the right fit, so the sooner employers start recruiting, the better,” says Mallett.

To ensure you’re hiring the right number of staff, you should calculate how long your ‘busy’ period will be, including when it will start and finish. If possible, you want to avoid idle staff sitting around because it’s quiet.

It’s also important to be aware of the relevant award rates for staff, and any changes that affect their pay, and seek appropriate legal advice.

For example, Employsure points out that evening penalty rates under the General Retail Industry Award have recently risen from 140% to 145%. That could make a difference to hiring intentions if your business relies on a lot of night work.

5. Use government hiring subsidies

With JobKeeper winding down, Mallett says attention is likely to switch to JobMaker, a billion-dollar plan, announced in the recent budget, that includes a Hiring Credit scheme. This gives eligible employers up to $200 a week per employee aged 16-29, and $100 per week for 30-35-year-olds.

“These subsidies are essentially financial incentives to hire new staff. In this instance, JobMaker will have the most influence on hiring decisions made by employers for seasonal/casual work over the [end of year] period,” Mallett says.

Goonrey adds that it’s important to understand eligibility and get legal clarity when utilising these schemes.

“You don’t want to get caught down the track, even if it’s accidental, having misled the government for benefits you’re not entitled to.”

For more information about eligibility for JobKeeper 2.0 you can read this article, and to better understand the Government’s JobMaker scheme, visit the Budget 2020-21 website.

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