Off The Record: The Off-Season
[dropcap]H[/dropcap]ere’s what members of the on-line forum, Lawnsite.com, had to say when asked if they are able to offer their workers off-season employment. (Posts have been edited for content and clarity.)
- We could, but don’t. We don’t plow so that’s out. I hate snow related work due to the scheduling. I put some of the guys to work ‘here and there’ on house clean-outs but that’s rare. (I own a residential cleaning company as well.) My business partner and I have been considering buying a property or two to flip during off seasons. That would help our guys out work-wise. I think a lot of guys enjoy going on unemployment… for a few months.
- My payroll person and accountant highly discouraged me from [laying off workers]. She said my unemployment rate would get high. I’d like to lay off at least one, maybe two, but I never understood the process.
- I believe all employers Federal Unemployment Tax Act (FUTA) rate is fixed at 6% of all employees’ wages up to [the first] $7,000 [you paid to each employee as wages] during the year…. on top of that, here in Maryland, the state rate ranges from about 1% up to 7.5% on the first $8,500 of wages each year… my guys take seasonal unemployment for 10 weeks starting after Christmas. I am in the highest rate each year (currently the 7.5%). (Editor’s Note: Employers must pay unemployment taxes for their employees based on FUTA. You owe federal unemployment taxes if you paid at least $1,500 in wages during any calendar quarter in the current or previous year, up to $7,000 per employee. Thus, the maximum amount paid is $420 per employee, and the minimum amount is $42. While the FUTA rate is 6%, most employers qualify for a tax credit up to 5.4% due to state unemployment insurance (SUI) tax rates. If you qualify for the highest credit, the minimum FUTA rate is .6%. Each state also has its own new employer rate for new businesses. — Summarized from Quickbooks.Intuit.com)
- Last year I had some setbacks with employee issues. Things are better now but I feel I can’t grow much more unless I can keep guys working thru out the winter months…. One of the goals for next year is more contract work and less mowing only.
- My trouble is the season is so short you can’t really make a ‘career’ out of it. It will always be a seasonal job unless you’re multi-talented. The snow and green seasons don’t seem to translate with each other (very, very few of the same employees) and the shoulders seasons (April and October-November) are too long. Couple that with many [employees] think the winters are too cold, and they simply don’t stay.
- For us a plow event means nearly a week (sometimes more) of work. We haul snow too in addition to what others do (plowing, salting, sanding, etc.). But that’s still only 16 week’s worth of work in a 26-week season. The other weeks are maintenance of vehicles, making brine, restocking shovel trucks, prepping for the green season… but that will only float a few guys. If they were mechanically inclined and could weld/fabricate it would be easy to keep them busy but… then they’re $40 per hour employees.
- Our season is 10-11 months. At the very least I employ my guys for that long and don’t lay any of them off. I honestly didn’t know how to do that, so I established these positions with 12 months of work and [sold] my services in 12-month contracts. I have in my contracts that we visit weekly in the busy season, but scale back to bi-weekly visits in the winter months. Honestly in January/February it gets slow, but I have thousands upon thousands of flyers/doorhangers that get distributed to target neighborhoods in this time. I was also raised on a tree farm so we tend to acres of pine tree trimming and thinning to help with the time. Most of my Jan/Feb work is NOT a billable hour for the business outside of contract work and a few enhancements. I see it as a retainer given the difficulty we encounter hiring these days. ♦