Human resources teams at retail outlets are once again buckling down for a hectic time as the holiday season hits full steam.
Online retail behemoth Amazon tasked its HR staff with hiring more than 120,000 workers in the U.S. for the season, Reutersreports. While that is a huge number, it is the same from last year and Amazon isn’t the only retailer treading cautiously when it comes to this season’s hiring activities.
U.S. retailers overall expect to hire 25,000 fewer seasonal workers, according to the National Retail Federation. This is due to retailers, such as Wal-Mart, giving their current workers additional hours. A strong labor market, upsurge in home prices and stock markets hitting record highs have retailers confident that shoppers will spend more this season, industry surveys show.
But, with unemployment rates down to 4.2%, a 16.5 year low, and annual wage growth up 2.9% in September, retailers worry that hiring too many holiday workers could push up labor costs. Macy’s had announced it would hire 3,000 fewer workers for the year, partly because it has closed locations. Kohl’s, like Amazon, says it will hire the same number of seasonal workers as it did last year. Macy’s and Kohl’s, however, did increase hiring for their respective distribution centers and warehouses in anticipation of increased online orders.
One retailer not worried about over-hiring is Target. The department store chain said it would increase hiring of temporary workers by 43% this year compared to last year. For Amazon, “hiring the same number of workers as last year reflects their efficiency and not necessarily the cost of hiring workers,” says Thomas Forte, an analyst with D.A. Davidson.
Meanwhile, the start of the holiday season meant some good news for the vast majority of U.S. workers. That is because 78% of employers had said they would give employees paid time off this past Thanksgiving and the Friday after, BloombergBNA finds in its annual nationwide survey of holiday practices. Nearly all, 97%, said they would give employees Thanksgiving Day off with pay.
The survey polled senior human resources and employee relations executives from almost 400 companies in September. HR staff also will want to be mindful to not get tripped up by “taking shortcuts” when it comes to recruiting, onboarding and training seasonal hires, NationalLawReview reports.
HR will want to make sure they are up-to-speed on what they can legally ask new applicants or risk facing big penalties. Being thorough on background checks, employee eligibility verifications, training and how laws can vary from state to state are some other priority areas for HR.
“In addition to leaves of absence, many states and local governments have passed laws related to the minimum wage and predictive scheduling and/or have enacted protections for pregnant and nursing mothers,” Kelly Hughes, a national expert on workplace flexibility, writes for NationalLawReview.
“Again, just because they are employed for a short period of time does not mean that seasonal workers are not entitled to the protections of these laws,” Hughes notes. “Employers may want to examine which state and local laws apply to their locations and take steps to comply.”