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Temporary Help

Traditionally, temporary help firms have been useful when you need a replacement for a full-time employee who is away from work for vacation, leave of absence, or illness. But temporary help may be what you need to fill your more long-term needs.

Business Tools

If you do decide to use a temporary agency, the Business Tools area contains some helpful checklists to help you screen an agency.

Pros of using temps. The trend toward using temporaries and other nonregular employees is growing, with good reason. There are several advantages to using temporary employees in your business, including:

  • Cost. You may save on payroll administration and fringe benefits costs.
  • Time. The temp agency recruits the employees and sends you people with the qualifications you specify. Some agencies may even train workers.
  • No long-term commitment. If you're not sure whether you have enough work to keep a full-time employee busy, try a temp and find out.
  • Less dependency on contractors. You may feel uncomfortable being dependent on nonemployees if large segments of your business are farmed out to independent contractors, and temps may cost less than contractors. With a temp, you do have the power to directly supervise the employee's work.
  • Possibility of hiring good temps, permanently. If a particular temp worker seems to fit well into your business, you can always offer to hire him or her as a permanent employee. In this case, you avoid the risks of a probationary period you'd normally have with a new hire.

The downside of temporary help. While temporary employees do seem like a great option, they are not without their disadvantages, including:

  • Legal compliance issues. While some businesses may think that hiring temporaries gets them out of having to comply with employment laws, that's not always the case. There have been instances where temporary help agencies and the businesses where the temporary help worked were involved in discrimination cases. Be aware that an employer can't avoid providing benefits or complying with other employment rules by misclassifying an employee as a temporary employee. It will be a government agency (tax, pension, benefits, etc.) making the call if there's a chance you're abusing the temporary employee designation to avoid your obligations to employees who aren't temps.
  • Morale issues. Many businesses use what they call temporary employees just as they would permanent employees, except that the temps don't receive the normal fringe benefits that permanent employees receive. When you have temps who work 40 hours per week for months alongside permanent employees who are receiving the benefits associated with full-time employment, it can create employee relations or morale problems.
  • Compatibility. Not all jobs and businesses lend themselves to using temporary workers, either because the job requires a high or specialized level of skill or, in some rare cases, because of union constraints.

So how do you go about getting temporary help? Well, you can either hire temporary workers on your own, using some standard recruiting methods such as advertising, or you can use a temporary help agency. There can be problems with recruiting people for less than full-time positions. Make sure to target people who really want part-time work and not those who really want full-time work but who take the part-time positions hoping that they will develop into full-time employment.

If you do use a temporary help agency, you must realize that you're going to pay more for the convenience of having someone else do the legwork. For example, for a worker who gets $8.00 per hour in pay from the agency, you may actually pay $10.00 or $11.00 per hour for that employee. Nevertheless, for short-term projects or situations where the worker will need a lot of supervision (for example, receptionists, secretaries, administrative assistants), temp agencies are a great alternative. Consider other options (such as independent contractors or part-time employees) for long-term projects — it may end up being cheaper.

When using temp agencies, be sure to structure contracts in such a way that your liability is minimal. And be sure to choose a reputable agency!