Don't Let the Grinch Steal Your Christmas: What You Need to Know About Precarious Seasonal Work


David Huxtable

During the annual orgy of consumerism that occurs each December, many retail outlets increase the number of staff they employ on a temporary basis, resulting in more short-term employment opportunities for some. Here’s what you need to know if you are working a temporary job during the holiday season.


Working for cash

Some people are happy to work for cash because they believe it will save them money on their income taxes, CPP, EI, and other deductions. This can be true, if you make enough money in the year to pay income tax. Many people making the minimum wage, or close to it, pay very little tax. Other folks might be concerned about having their earnings deducted from their PWD allowances or EI. Fair enough. However, if you are not making remittances to CPP and EI, you are not making contributions to those plans, and this may have negative repercussions for you in the future. Just something to think about.


Keeping track of your hours

Regardless of whether you are working for cash, or working through payroll, you need to keep track of every hour you work. Use a calendar at home, or use the calendar on your phone. Mark down the hours you work each and every day, and note the breaks that you took. Bosses must keep track of the hours you work, by law. However, sometimes employers make mistakes, and sometimes they will try to rip you off. Either way, you should keep track of your own hours. If there are hours missing from your pay, it will be much, much easier to have this corrected if you have evidence.


Daily overtime

During busy seasons, bosses will often ask or demand that their workers put in long hours. If you work over 8 hours in a day, every hour between 8 and 12 should be paid at 1.5 times your regular wage, and every hour over 12 should be paid at double your regular wage. So, if you make $12 per hour, and you work 13 hours one day, you should be paid $12 per hour for the first 8 hours, and $16 per hour for the second 4 hours, and $24 per hour for the time after that: ($12x8)+($16x10)+($24x1). The only way your boss can get around this is if they ask you, ahead of time, if you would be willing to work under an averaging agreement. This must be voluntary, agreed to beforehand, and signed by you. This agreement cannot allow you to work over 40 hours per week. Any daily hours over 12 must be paid double time.


Weekly overtime

If you work over 40 hours in a week, you are also entitled to overtime, regardless of how many hours you work per day. Finally, you must be allowed to have 32 hours free from work every seven days, or overtime rates of 1.5 times your regular wage apply to the hours you worked during that 32 hours.


Get contact information for your boss

During holiday seasons, we see an increase in “pop-up” shops that disappear after the seasonal rush. Make sure you know who you are working for. Get the owner’s name. Ask for a cell phone number and address that is not the store address. If an owner doesn’t want to give you this information, be very, very wary about working for them.


Commission sales

It is legal to pay people purely by commission, as long as they make at least the minimum wage in every pay period. If you do not make enough in commissions in a pay period, your boss must make up the difference. If you work on commission, you may or may not be entitled to overtime and holiday pay (it’s complicated).


Vacation pay

You are entitled to vacation pay after working for five calendar days. This vacation pay should equal 4% of your total wages, or two weeks’ wages after one year. Some employers will “bank” this pay, and pay you out when you take vacation. Others will pay out vacation pay on each paycheque – particularly if the employment relationship is going to be temporary. If you know the job is temporary, ask to be paid out on each cheque. Even if you are paid in cash, you are entitled to vacation pay.


Stat holidays

You only get stat holiday pay if you have been employed for 30 calendar days and worked for 15 of those 30 days. If you qualify for holiday pay, you should be paid an “average day’s pay” for that holiday, regardless of whether you work it or not. If you do work it, you should receive an average day’s pay and time-and-a-half for every hour you work, up to 12 hours. If you work over 12 hours, you should be paid double time for any hours over that. An average day’s pay is calculated by adding up all your wages (including paid vacation) over a 30 day period and dividing it by the number of days that you worked.



Generally, if you work a day over three months, you are entitled to one week’s notice of termination, or one week’s pay. However, if you are hired for a seasonal job, there is a strong possibility that the job will end within three months. In this case, your boss does not need to give you any notice that your job is ending, and you do not qualify for severance pay. A boss also does not need to give you notice if you are hired for a definite term. For example, if you are hired to work in a store from December 1 to January 8, your boss does not need to give you notice that your job is coming to an end. There are other limitations to getting notice of termination or severance pay, but this is the most common one that will affect seasonal workers.

If you have any questions about your rights as a worker, call David at TAPS at 250-361-3521.