1. Who is considered a seasonal employee?
Seasonal employees are non-student temporary hourly employees who are hired to work during a recurring, annual season for the duration of three to eleven months, and are anticipated to return each season to perform similar work. Civil Service, Administrative Professional and Faculty are not considered seasonal employees in terms of benefit eligibility. (WAC 182-12-109: Definitions)
2. Are WSU students considered seasonal employees if they work for WSU during the summer season?
Starting with the 2012 summer season, WSU has determined for purposes of seasonal benefits only and only for temporary employees, a student will be considered a student employee over the summer season if:
- They are enrolled at WSU for six or more credit hours during the preceding fall and spring semesters (unless they graduated in the spring), or
- They are enrolled at WSU for six or more credit hours during the preceding spring and following fall semesters (provided that proof of fall enrollment can be verified during the summer session), or
- They are enrolled at WSU for three or more credit hours during the summer session.
- Additionally, if a graduate student is participating in the “All But Dissertation” process that status will be taken into consideration when determining student status.
3. What is an NSTE?
NSTE stands for Non-Student Temporary Employee
4. How could a seasonal employee become eligible for benefits?
A seasonal employee is eligible for employer-paid benefits if he or she works an average of at least eighty hours per month and works for at least eight hours in each month of the season. A season is any recurring, cyclical period of work at a specific time of year that lasts three to eleven months. (WAC 182-12-114(2))
5. How is the monthly season determined?
Any month in which an employee works eight hours or more will count as one of the seasonal months, as long as it coincides with at least two other months, and the employee averages working eighty hours a month over the three month period.
Therefore, if an employee is hired to work each year during the months of May, June, and July, as long as they work at least eight hours in each of those months, and average working at least eighty hours over the three month period, the employee will be benefits eligible.
6. What is considered a month?
It is an actual month, and not the equivalent length of a calendar month (i.e. thirty days). Therefore, if a seasonal period begins on May 31, May would be considered the first month of the season, assuming the employee worked eight hours on that day.
7. What is considered “similar work”?
If the employee is hired each season into the same type of work they had the previous season, they will be considered to be performing similar work. For example, if an employee cleans dorm rooms or apartments each season, that would be similar work. However, if they cleaned dorm rooms for WSU one year, and then returned the following season to a grounds position, they would not be performing similar work.
If the work is similar, but at a different level of proficiency or requires a higher level of job knowledge than the previous season, that work will be considered similar work.
8. How will HRS know/monitor if an employee is performing similar work?
HRS relies on the information provided in TEMPS. When a position is created/maintained, details about what duties the position will be performing should be entered into TEMPS. HRS will review this information to identify if similar work is being performed.
For the consecutive months in which the employee works on a seasonal basis, the hours worked in each month would be added together, and divided by the total months of the season. If the answer to that calculation is eighty or more, then the employee will have “averaged” working eighty hours or more per month.
For example, if an employee worked 8 hours May 31, 176 hours in June, and 60 hours in July, they will have worked in a consecutive three month period, and averaged eighty hours over that period (8+176+60 = 244/3 months = 81.33 hour average per month).
10. When could a seasonal employee become eligible for benefits?
- Upon their initial employment: If a department knows that they will be hiring an employee for more than one season when initially hired, the seasonal employee is eligible from the date of employment in the first season.
- Upon revision of anticipated work pattern: If the department hired an employee for one season with no anticipation of future employment, but then rehires the employee for the following season (i.e. the second season), the employee will become eligible for benefits upon the hire of the second season.
- Based on work pattern: If an employee who has initially been hired as a seasonal employee, but is determined to be ineligible for seasonal benefits at that time, ends up working an average of at least eighty hours per month and works for at least eight hours in each month for more than six consecutive months, the employee will become eligible the first of the month following a six-month averaging period.
11. If a seasonal employee is determined to be eligible for benefits, when would the employee’s benefits start, and the department start being charged for the employer contribution?
- Upon their initial employment: If a department knows that they will be hiring an employee for more than one season when they initially hire them,
- the seasonal employee’s benefits will start the first of the month following the first month of employment, OR
- if the employee is hired the first working day of the month, then the seasonal employee’s benefits will start that day.
- For example, if the employee is hired May 11, their benefits will begin June 1. However, if they are hired on June 1, the first working day of the month, then their benefits will begin that day.
- Upon hire into the second season: If the department hired an employee for one season with no anticipation of future employment, but then rehires the employee for a second consecutive season,
- the seasonal employee’s benefits will start the first of the month following the first month of employment during the second season, OR
- if the employee is hired the first working day of the month, then the seasonal employee’s benefits will start that day.
12. If a seasonal employee had established eligibility for benefits in the previous season, when will their benefits be reactivated if they return to work the following season?
Benefits would be reactivated the first of the month in which an employee works at least eight hours or more.
13. If a seasonal employee had established eligibility for benefits in the previous season, do they have to meet the eighty hour average to maintain benefits if they return to work the following season?
No. Once an employee has established eligibility for benefits under the seasonal rules, they will be eligible for benefits if they work at least eight hours or more in any month of the season, provided there is no break in seasonal employment.
14. If a seasonal employee had established eligibility for benefits in a previous season, and took a season off, would they automatically be eligible for benefits if they were to return to work in a future season?
No. The employee would have to re-establish eligibility under the initial eligibility rules since there was a break in seasonal employment.
15. What if an employee works for more than one department during a season? Could they become eligible for benefits?
The combination of positions within WSU can result in an employee establishing and maintaining benefit eligibility. Benefit eligibility could be determined if the employee has been performing similar work during the following scenarios:
- The employee works two or more positions or jobs at the same time, or
- The employee moves from one position or job to another
For example, if an employee works for Housing during May and June, and then works for Facilities Operations for July – September, performing similar work (i.e. grounds work) in both positions, then the combination of the two appointments would result in one season of work, and would establish benefit eligibility if it is anticipated that the employee will continue to perform similar work in a future season.
16. If a seasonal employee had been a student during the off-season, will they be considered a student employee during the season as well, and potentially not be eligible for benefits?
Please see question No. 2 for how WSU will view WSU students.
Enrollment at another higher education institution or as a high school student would not allow the employee to be considered a WSU student employee; they will be considered a non-student employee.
17. If an employee becomes eligible for benefits, is the department responsible for the employer contribution?
Yes. The employer contribution for insurance premiums for non-student temporary hourly employees is funded by the employee’s employing department, and not through central funding.
18. Is it possible that an employee who was initially identified as being eligible under the 6 month/480 hour practice could actually be a seasonal employee?
Yes. If an employee initially became eligible for benefits under the six month/480 hour practice, and it is found that this person ends up being hired back each year, around the same time each year, performing similar work, they could actually be a seasonal employee.
In these cases, these employees would become eligible for benefits at the beginning of each of their seasonal appointments, and not be required to work a new six month consecutive period to re-establish eligibility.
19. What if the seasonal employee already has insurance coverage under another health insurance plan?
The employee will have the option to waive participation in the medical portion of the coverage, but will automatically be enrolled in the dental coverage. In order to waive the medical coverage, they must complete and return the medical/dental enrollment form within the first thirty days of employment.
If they are covered under a WSU or other state of Washington employee’s plan, the other employee will also need to complete a medical/dental enrollment form, both at the time of hire, and when the seasonal employee’s benefits end.
HRS identifies employees who appear to have dual coverage with another Washington State employee, and provides instructions on how to address the dual coverage in the benefits package they are sent. Any questions should be directed to HRS to ensure the enrollment and/or waiving process is addressed correctly.
20. If an employee becomes eligible, and they elect to waive their participation in the medical insurance plan, will the department still have to pay the employer contribution?
21. How much is the employer contribution?
The current employer contribution rate, as well as a history of the contribution rates, can be found here.
22. It appears that if a department has an ongoing seasonal need, that an employee could be employed for a minimal amount each year and be eligible for benefits. It may be difficult for departments to be able to afford to hire seasonal help. What are our options?
For many employers, the question may become whether hiring seasonal workers is an affordable hiring decision. Employers could add more work either for more hours or for a longer season so the benefit expenses are more cost effectively spent.
23. If a cyclic civil service/bargaining unit employee were to be hired to perform seasonal work during the cyclic break, will they be eligible for seasonal benefits?
Civil Service/bargaining unit employees are eligible for twelve months of benefits based on the civil service/bargaining unit appointment (provided they will be returning to work at WSU following their cyclic break). Therefore, they will maintain their benefits under their normal appointment, and their benefits will not be monitored/adjusted based on the seasonal appointment.
24. Is HRS notified if a TEMPS appointment is updated to reflect the employee is no longer expected to meet benefits eligibility?
No. HRS does not receive a notification from the TEMPS system when an appointment is updated to reflect the employee will not be benefits eligible. Please contact our office in this situation.