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What are Temporary Employees?

Updated on February 12, 2013
ChrisMcDade8 profile image

Christine McDade is a Human Resources professional (PHR & SHRM-CP) with over 18 years in the public sector.

Christine McDade is an experienced human resources manager.

Many employers regularly utilize the efforts of temporary employees to get the work done.
Many employers regularly utilize the efforts of temporary employees to get the work done. | Source

Many Organizations Hire Temporary Employees

Temporary employees are hired frequently by organizations for a variety of reasons. They can be professional, paraprofessional, skilled, unskilled, etc. The "temps" may be young or old, experienced or inexperienced. No matter the background, organizations need temporary employees to serve a variety of purposes in meeting targeted goals. Hiring them is very common and has been an accepted recruitment priority for many organizations because of the important void they fulfill. There is generally an expected period of time for which the temporary employee works for the employer. The word "temporary" usually is due to this specified temporary period of time. However, the work they do can have lasting positive effects on the organization and the temporary employee.

Temporary employees come in many shapes and sizes.

Temporary employees make up a good part of the workforce. Employers recognize the specific void they fill in their organizations. The specific amount of time spent on the job affords the management the opportunity to plan accordingly to utilize their services. As their time spent on the job is generally for a specific period of time, employer can plan and schedule their work in a way that is flexible yet meet the needs of the organization.

Organizations value temporary employees for their ability to fill voids because temporary employees can be at any skill level. For example, an administrative assistant, who is scheduled to be out of the office for three months due to a health condition, can be replaced during this leave of absence by a temporary employee. The temporary employee selected will be one with experience in administrative tasks and working in a similar position. The temporary employee will be able to successfully fill the temporarily vacated position. It will allow the organization to continue its work without much interruption, and gives an individual three months of employment.

Seasonally needed positions require an employer to hire temporary or "seasonal" employees. For public pools, country clubs, and recreational facilities, they may find the need to hire certain positions during the summer months. It is common, for example, to have temporary positions of lifeguards and recreational attendants for these organizations. These temporary employees are hired to fill a need that lasts for the summer months of June, July and August.

Temporary employees help keep the work going during the absence of a regular employee.
Temporary employees help keep the work going during the absence of a regular employee. | Source

Why do businesses hire temporary employees?

Temporary employees are hired for a variety of reasons. Whether the assignment is for one week or over six months, temporary employees are selected by employers for the following reasons:

  • Filling a temporary void. Due to a sick leave or some definite leave of absence that vacates a much needed position, employers may choose to hire a temporary employee to fill the void that is present during this specific period of time. In these situations, employees are hired with a pre-determined termination date that results when the regular employee returns to the workplace after the completion of his/her leave of absence.
  • Budgetary constraints. Some managers may face the task of not being able to replace vacated positions due to the cost associated with benefits such as health insurance, pensions and paid vacations. Since temporary employees do not receive those traditional benefits of a regular employee, the cost to employ them is considerably less to the employer. Temporary employees are often seen as a cheaper alternative due to this reason. Even paying the temporary employees a little more in salary usually results in less cost because the expense of paying healthcare and pensions are so expensive.
  • Specific project. Employers may be embarking on a specific project that has a definite start and end date. These temporary employees know when they are hired that there is a defined period of time that is used to complete the work.

How do organizations hire temporary employees?

Organizations can hire reliable, appropriately skilled employees for a temporary assignment in different ways. Managers needing temporary workers can do the following:

  1. Use a third party employment agency. Employers often go through employment agencies to hire temporary labor. The benefit of this method is that the burden of recruiting, screening, etc. is on the agency rather than the employer who eventually has work for them. Many employers who have need for blue collar type positions to do manual labor for construction type positions use the labor agencies. Also, there are many professional and paraprofessional jobs that are filled through the third party agencies
  2. Follow the same hiring procedures as hiring regular status employees. Employers may choose to hire the temporary employee themselves. They will advertise the position in the same manner that they would those regular status positions. By doing the recruiting, the employer will be able to choose the right individual from a pool of qualified employees. Employers would post the vacancy in a manner that includes language about the position being "temporary" in status. Some employers may choose to provide an offer letter that states the temporary status or a contract that states the same.
  3. Contact former employees who have retired or left the organization and are available for work. Being able to rehire a former employee who would be able to "hit the ground running" is an option for employers who have a temporary assignment or work vacancy. Rehired employees who take temporary assignments would be in need of little training of company policies and procedures. There would be very little transition for a rehired employee due to familiarity of the employer.

How temporary employees benefit from their assignment.

Temporary employees have a lot to gain from their experience at the temporary work assignment. By performing these assignments, temporary employees can do the following:

  • Gain valuable work experience - The temporary employee will appreciate the opportunity to gain experience doing the work that they were hired to do. Such experience can be added to the resume.
  • Receive a wage - In addition to the work experience gained, a temporary employee may just be grateful for the opportunity to earn a wage. During gaps in employment and periods of unemployment, many people accept temporary assignments because it provides them the ability to still earn money while they continue to apply for a regular position.
  • Opportunity to work for potential employer - Many employers hire temporary employees for the opportunity to review their work for the consideration of hiring them when a regular status position becomes available. When a temporary employee works well for an employer, he/she is establishing a good work record with that employer. Should the employee choose to submit an application for a vacant position, the employer will be able to review the work experience that was gained during the temporary employment period.
  • Establish a work history for future work assignments - Some individuals will take temporary work because it fits into their lifestyle and goals. These temporary employees will be establishing a work record of work assignments in their chosen field.

How do temporary employees stack up?

can work ft or pt hours
works 40 hours/week
works for fewer hours than ft employees per the specs of job
job assignment is for defined period
job is ongoing
job is ongoing
no benefits
health benefits, dental, pension, etc.
limited benefits
no paid leave
defined paid leave
limited or pro-rated leave

Temporary Employees Fill a Need in the Workplace

Temporary employees continue to play an important role in today's workplace. The various skills and relevant background that they bring to the temporary work assignment cause employers to rely on their efforts to get the work done. The working relationship between the employer and the temporary employee can provide benefits to both that are important for achieving personal and organizational success.


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    • ChrisMcDade8 profile image

      Christine McDade 5 years ago from Southwest Florida

      Thanks for the comments. I've worked temporary employment between jobs and they were good experiences for me.

    • Glimmer Twin Fan profile image

      Claudia Mitchell 5 years ago

      I've always enjoyed temporary work and quite often has led to full time opportunities. I have also hired temporary employees . It is a great solution for some people and some companies. Nice hub and good explanations.


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