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Here's what you need to know if you're a seasonal employee

Andrew Seale
[Many seasonal workers don’t get their job terms in writing.]

It looks like Fashion Santa didn’t get the call back. The Internet blew up last week after it was revealed that Yorkdale would be replacing Paul Mason, the model formerly known by mall-goers as Fashion Santa.

“We reached out several times over the summer and we did not receive a response,” Yorkdale marketing director Lucia Connor told the Toronto Star. “We wanted to work with Paul Mason again.”

But Mason, who worked 88 hours at the mall taking around 600 photos with fans, tells the story differently.

“A marketer or PR person can spin it the way the want, but people that know me and the fans that know me and relationships that I’ve nurtured for the past 30 years of my career know that I’m driven, professional,” he told BlogTO. “You don’t last this long in the business and stay relevant and ignore phone calls.”

While the announcement has shifted into more of an intellectual property fracas over the past few days a la “who owns the character?” Mason’s spurn is all too universal in the world of seasonal employment where contracts can be murky at best, explains Stuart Rudner, co-founder of boutique employment law firm Rudner MacDonald LLP.

“Fashion Santa is an unusual one but a lot of people take these seasonal employment relationships very casually,” he says. “They don’t really appreciate the fact that you’re still creating a legal relationship.”

According to Workopolis and Monster.ca there are more than 4,000 seasonal jobs available in Canada this holiday season, the majority of which will likely be hastily filled before press time.

“The problem is, in most cases there’s nothing in writing,” says Rudner pointing out that these sort of jobs are often snapped up by students or out-of-work Canadians looking for employment. “A lot of employers treat this so differently than they would a typical hiring… they don’t go through the usual interview (and) hiring process.”

But employees taking these jobs can combat the confusion by asking the right questions beforehand.

“If I was the individual I’d want to know how long is this job going to last? Am I done January 3rd or am I going to continue? Is there a guaranteed minimum number of hours or shifts per week? Is there going to be a requirement to work on (stat holidays) and if so how am I going to be paid?” says Rudner.

He also points out that just because a seasonal employee in the retail sector agreed to work a holiday initially, they can change their mind.

“As long as they give the employer 48 hours notice,” he says. “(But) it just makes sense to have the discussion upfront so everybody knows what the deal is.”

If they do have qualms with the way they’re being treated, Rudner suggest informing their manager or if the company is larger, speaking to human resources. Next up is the ministry of labour.

“A lot of people just need the job and they’re not going to raise a fuss so if you don’t pay them their holiday pay they may not say anything… that’s the unfortunate reality,” he says. “Whether it’s who owns the Fashion Santa character or what happens at the end of the holidays, do I still have a job? These are all things that should be dealt with up front.”