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COVID-19 & the Holiday Season: Tips on Hiring Seasonal Workers


The holiday season is a busy period for retail businesses. Most businesses need extra staff around this time to keep up with the increased footfall.

This year, however, seasonal hiring and sales will be affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Like everything else, holiday shopping, too, is most likely be done virtually.

Most provinces are currently struggling to contain a deadly second wave of COVID-19. It is uncertain whether shopping malls and retail stores will stay open around Christmas. Even if they do, customers may still prefer to shop online and opt for home delivery or curbside pickups.

According to a Statistics Canada report, retail e-commerce sales reached a record $3.9 billion in May 2020. Since the pandemic, an increasing number of small businesses have switched to e-commerce.

This shift in shopping behaviour will also reflect in the hiring of temporary workers this holiday season. Here are some tips to keep in mind as you prepare to meet these challenges:

Hire staff for online sales

Even if brick-and-mortar stores stay open, in-store shopping will see a decline. Given the surge in COVID-19 case numbers, customers are likely to do their holiday shopping online.

This season, you may need additional staff to put together, pack and ship/deliver online orders and handle curbside pickups.

Even for in-store operations, you may require staff to check temperatures, sanitize pin pads and counters, keep a count of in-store customers to ensure the occupancy levels do not exceed mandated numbers.

Ensure transparency in hiring

Your job description must be clear on what the role demands and the work schedule. Be upfront about physical requirements, such as heavy lifting, and schedule requirements, such as working late or working on Sundays. Making your expectations clear while hiring will help you find the right candidates.

Create job contracts for seasonal staff

Though temporary workers are hired only for a few weeks or months, it is a good practice to sign employment contracts with your seasonal staff. The job contract sets down the job duties, obligations, and entitlements for both the employee and the employer. It will also protect you from potential legal claims.

Provide health and safety training

Besides training on how to safely do their job, temporary staff must also get COVID-19 health and safety training.

Employers must educate workers on respiratory etiquette, hand hygiene, proper use of face masks and social distancing.

You must have a daily screening procedure in place to prevent symptomatic employees from coming into work. Screening employees for COVID-19 symptoms is mandatory in Ontario workplaces.

This year, the flu season will coincide with the pandemic. Your staff should know the similarities between flu and COVID-19, and how-to self-monitor. Your staff must also know the next steps in case they experience symptoms while at work. You should have a response procedure in place in case an employee tests positive for COVID-19.

Invest in your online presence

Taking your small business online will help you reach new customers and boost sales. According to a survey by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, 18 per cent of small and medium businesses were online before the pandemic. Another 15 per cent have also switched to e-commerce since the outbreak.

The Ontario government’s e-business toolkit is a helpful guide. Google also offers a digital toolkit to help small businesses get online.

You can also get assistance through programs, such as the Canada United Small Business Relief Fund. It provides grants of up to $5,000 to eligible Canadian businesses to develop digital or e-commerce capability.

Do you need help drafting job contracts for seasonal workers?

Employers have many of the same obligations to temporary workers as they do to permanent staff. To find out more about your legal responsibilities, or to get advice on HR and health and safety during the pandemic, call us today: 1 (833) 247-3652.