As a staffing agency, we function in part as a temp service. As a result, we need to know, and want others to know, the differences between “seasonal workers” and “seasonal employees”. Today, we tackle that topic.

A “seasonal employee” is defined as an “employee hired into a position for which the customary annual employment is six months or less”.  The determination of which employees are seasonal employees has taken on new importance for “applicable large employers” (ALE) under the ACA. (Affordable Care Act) The ACA measurement method rules allow employers to treat full-time seasonal employees differently from full-time non-seasonal employees,  for  purposes of health care plan eligibility. Incorrectly classifying employees as “seasonal employees” can result in penalties.

The rules governing seasonal employees and seasonal workers are in the final regulations on the Employer Shared Responsibility (ESR) provisions of the ACA. The final regulations provide separate definitions of “seasonal employee” and “seasonal worker”.  The two definitions are different in substance as well in purpose.

Seasonal “Employee”

A seasonal employee is “an employee who is hired into a position for which the customary annual employment is six months or less.”  “Customary” means an employee who typically works each calendar year in approximately the same part of the year, such as summer or winter.

The definition of seasonal “employee” applies for purposes of determining whether a particular employee is full-time or not.

Seasonal “Worker”

A seasonal worker is one employed less than four months (120 days) during the prior calendar year.The definition of seasonal “worker” applies for purposes of calculating how many full-time employees and full-time equivalents an employer has. This facet determines whether the employer is an ALE. (applicable large employer) and therefore subject to ESR rules.


As noted initially, employers misclassifying employees can result in penalties.

Those are the basic differences, and employers are wise to closely monitor things and make sure they are in compliance with the law. Here’s a link to a good article on the topic that digs a little deeper into things.

Temp Employees vs. Seasonal


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