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What is a Temporary Worker?

By Garry Crystal
Updated Jan 22, 2024
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A temporary worker is a person who is brought in to fill a role or position within a workplace for a short period of time. Although the name temporary suggests short term, the job may actually last anywhere from a few weeks to a number of years. The worker may be under contract for a set period of time or may have an ongoing contract.

There are many reasons why people take temporary employment. They may be returning to work after a long period of illness or after being a full time mother. They may want to start a career within a particular business. Starting off as a temporary worker may be the easiest way to gain employment within their chosen sector. There are many temps who have started off working in the mail room and progressed to managing a company.

There are many agencies that deal only with temporary workers. These agencies usually take a cut of the money they receive from the employer. They pay the temp an hourly rate, which is commonly paid weekly. When you apply to an employment agency, you can inform them whether you wish to work solely temporarily, or if you would like to be considered for permanent employment.

The range of jobs available to the temporary worker is diverse. From nursing to administrative work, construction to factory work, Information Technology to temporary managers, there are temp agencies that cover them all. A lot of agencies deal with only one part of the employment sector. There are agencies that deal specifically with bar staff or construction staff, for example, and you should research which agencies best suit your skills.

The temp agency will check your resume and references, and then place you on a register until work becomes available. For some jobs, you may be required to take a few tests during the registration process. Basic administration jobs may require you to take typing or computer tests.

There are a number of downsides to becoming a temporary worker. The pay rate is usually lower than that of a permanent worker. There is also no guarantee that a job will last for very long. An ongoing job may finish whenever the employer requests, with no prior notice needed.

Holiday and sick benefits may also vary from agency to agency. Some agencies require that you build up time before you can acquire any holiday pay. Some agencies provide no sick benefits, so if you are sick, you may not receive any pay.

One of the main gripes of the temporary worker is that he or she been kept as a temp for years without any sign of being made permanent. Many employers keep on tempos due to the benefits of not having to pay sickness or holiday wages. The temporary worker can also be given extra work without the employer paying any extra wages. It is best that the worker sets a realistic progression time scale in order to prevent this from happening.

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Discussion Comments

By anon283515 — On Aug 05, 2012

I am tired of being lied to by these vultures. You're told you are too slow, have a bad attitude, etc. They want to use you, abuse you and lose you. Temp agencies just eat the remains of the corpse. The host company is a snake.

By anon200994 — On Jul 29, 2011

Temporary staffing may not be that beneficial for the companies that opt for the temps, but will be a jackpot for those staffing companies which service these companies!

By Sunny27 — On Jan 09, 2011

GreenWeaver-I know that there is also a temporary workers program with regards to US laws of immigration.

The H2B visa would allow foreigners the opportunity to seek employment in the United States provided that they maintain citizenship in their home country.

This opportunity allows foreigners a chance to work in the US and they will be placed on a waiting list for future amnesty consideration.

By GreenWeaver — On Jan 07, 2011

Subway11-I agree that those are good suggestions. There are many companies using temporary services in order to offset those newly eliminated positions.

This allows the companies to save money on benefits and they can utilize the temporary workers whenever they need.

For example, a typical company that has a call center might contract with a customer service outsourcing firm like Arise in order to hire independent contractors to take calls from their customers.

The contractors unlike the employees get paid per call and not per hour. This arrangement allows the maximum flexibility for a company because they only have to pay for the actual calls taken and not idle time.

In addition, the contractor pays for all training costs associated with the job which really make this type of arrangements attractive to many companies.

By subway11 — On Jan 06, 2011

Suntan12-There are many temporary staffing arrangements out there. You can even sign up for a company called Mass Connections.

They offer event service staffing to their clients. You can do demonstrations at big box retailers and department stores.

The pay ranges per assignments but typically they fall between $10 and $15 per hour and require weekend work.

You can also register with a site called NARMS that offers a new temporary worker an opportunity to perform various merchandising projects for different companies.

Some companies only offer a few hours worth of work a week, while others may offer a temporary to permanent position.

By suntan12 — On Jan 06, 2011

Anon138270-I understand your dilemma as paying taxes on a little sum really takes a lot out of you.

The good news is that if your income falls below a certain amount you will receive a tax refund for all of the taxes that you have paid.

I know that it does not help you right now, but it is something to think about. Also, you should consider work at other temporary employment agencies.

For example, Kelly Services hires temporary staffing for at home workers as well. You might want to consider at home options in order to diversify your earning potential.

Companies like Alpine Access and Live Ops hire at home works for customer service and sales oriented positions for at home positions.

This would give you the flexibility to work at the Dollar Store and still earn additional income at home because most of these companies offer flexible and overnight schedules.

By anon138270 — On Dec 30, 2010

I work at a dollar general and have worked since august. I usually get one day a week and I'm temp. How long can they keep me as a temp before it becomes a problem?

And I also gets taxes taken out like a normal part-time/full-time worker. I believe this is wrong because how can someone expect to make a living or even pay the simplest bills working like this.

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