If you are expecting increased business this summer, you may be looking to hire seasonal help in order to meet the heightened demand. Before you go on a hiring spree, however, you may want to talk to your small business insurance representative about how seasonal employees might create year-round risk for your small business.
According to claim data released by Travelers in 2011, workers compensation claims at small businesses are at their peak from June through September.
Lower back strains and other back-related injuries, as well as injuries from slips, trips, and falls, are the most common, and workers under the age of 30 account for almost one third of these employees sustaining injuries while on the job.
The need for additional workers during the summer months does contribute to the spike in workers compensation claims for the season, says Judy Coblentz, chief underwriting officer for Travelers’ small commercial division.
Activities tend to pick up once the weather warms up—more people are dining at restaurants, for example—and in some parts of the country, small businesses might only be open for the summer season, Coblentz adds.
While your business gears up for this summer’s demand, consider these five tips as you bring your new seasonal employees on board:
1. Check in with your insurance agent or broker.
Before taking on seasonal staff members, check with your insurance agent or broker to make sure you have the coverage needed to help protect your business.
For example, workers’ compensation laws vary by state, and you might not be required to carry the insurance until you have a certain number of employees. Bringing on summer hires might push you over the threshold and require you to carry the insurance for the first time, Coblentz says.
You may also want to reevaluate your business owners policy (BOP), which covers property and liability, if you plan to have more inventory during the summer months.
2. Train and supervise your seasonal employees.
Set aside enough time to properly train and supervise your new summer hires to help reduce the chance of injury to both new and existing employees. Inexperience, immaturity, or a lack of responsibility on the part of your seasonal hires could lead to losses and increased exposure to all type of insurance claims.
Whether you hire your summer employees early or spend extra time training them in their first few days, “make sure that they actually understand the business, the job that they are going to do, and how to do it properly,” Coblentz says.
First, decide when your summer employees will be needed to manage the peak business. Then, allocate the appropriate amount of time to bring them aboard and train them to handle the increased activity.
Consider assigning more-experienced employees to work alongside the seasonal hires until the newer employees are capable of performing their job duties independently.
3. Determine the level of responsibility your summer hires can take on.
Before divvying up tasks, consider the level of responsibility assigned to your summer employees. Placing a critical task in the hands of a seasonal worker could compromise your business.
4. Teach all employees safe work practices and procedures.
It’s important that you train all of your seasonal workers, regardless of their background, in safe work practices and procedures. Your safety training could include a tutorial on emergency procedures and a review of employee protocol if an accident occurs.
5. Make sure you and your employees have the right auto insurance coverage.
If your seasonal workers will be driving or making deliveries for your business using their own vehicles, you may want to think about purchasing hired and non-owned auto coverage. Hired auto insurance provides liability protection when you drive a vehicle you don’t own. Non-owned auto insurance provides liability protection when an employee occasionally has to drive his or her personal vehicle for business purposes.
If the employees are using your business vehicle, make sure your commercial auto policy has the appropriate limits and coverage. You should also make sure that your employees have insurance coverages on their own vehicles.
Before letting summer workers go out on the road on behalf of your business, Coblentz suggests looking at a “combination of how long someone has been driving and what their record looks like during that time period.”
By adequately preparing for your summer hires and providing them with the necessary training, you can help equip your business to handle the summer rush and limit any possible incidents.
Joslin Woods is a researcher, writer, and Web producer at Think Glink Publishing, with a background in print and digital media. Previously, Joslin worked as a news reporter for the international news agency Agence France-Presse and as a freelance reporter for the Sun-Times News Group. She is a graduate of Vanderbilt University and holds a master’s degree in journalism from Northwestern University.