Temp jobs: The gateway to the permanent workforce?

Temp to Perm Workforce - Thinkstock

When organisations decide to increase their headcount, they have two options: to take on a permanent member of staff, or to hire somebody on a temporary basis. In a number of scenarios, the latter approach is more favourable for employers. It offers greater flexibility, both from a financial and administrative perspective, and in terms of reacting quickly to changes in workforce demand.

Sometimes organisations need additional staff for a particular project, or for a pre-determined length of time to cover parental leave or other absence. They are reluctant to add to the permanent wage bill, knowing that at some point in the future they may end up paying two people to do the same job. Hiring a temp allows them to cover the short-term staffing gap, employing an individual for as long as they need them, but no longer.

Another reason employers may bring in temps is to hire somebody quickly. If the organisation has a vacancy which needs filling immediately, it may not be viable to advertise for a permanent member of staff, conduct interviews and wait for the chosen candidate to work their notice period. Bringing somebody in on a short-term basis - potentially with the help of a recruitment agency - ensures they can instantly increase their headcount, with no need to make any long-term commitment to the individual. However, temporary assignments are not for everybody and often employees may want to make the transition from a temp to perm role.

Flexibility of temping

As the economy continues to recover, temp assignments are rising at a robust pace. Organisations of all different shapes and sizes, across a variety of sectors, are recognising the potential benefits of employing non-permanent staff members. For this reason, the number of people in temporary jobs in the UK has continued to increase since the end of the downturn.

From a candidate perspective, temping also offers flexibility and agility, in the sense that individuals are not tied to a single employer. Once they are on placement, they can continue to work in the role for as long as they are needed, or as long as they choose wish to stay. Should another opportunity arise elsewhere, temporary workers have the freedom to move and work for another organisation.

Temping jobs can be interviews

Sometimes, workers accept temporary roles with an employer on the basis there may be scope to become permanent in the future. They have the opportunity to impress their new employer during the time they spend with the organisation. Should they make a positive impression as a temp, there is a chance other opportunities may open up further along the line. The role could be made permanent, or the temp may be invited to apply for other jobs that come up.

In this sense, temping can be considered the gateway to the permanent workforce. Individuals looking for an opportunity with an organisation, or within a particular sector, may take an entry-level position to 'get their foot in the door'. At the very least during their temp placement, they will gain skills and experience which could stand them in good stead for a similar role elsewhere.

Performing well as a temp does not mean there will necessarily be an opportunity to join the permanent workforce - this will depend on the size of the organisation, its budget, and potentially on other individuals. For instance, should a permanent member of staff hand in their notice, an individual currently temping may be considered the ideal person to fill the upcoming vacancy.

Indeed working as a temp could be the best interview a candidate can have, because the employer gets to see them in action over a prolonged period of time. Workers are able to show what they can do in the role, rather than simply talk about their supposed capabilities at interview. This means the employer is far better-placed to judge them and their level of ability - something which may encourage them to offer a permanent job.

Working as a temp

Changes to the law regarding temporary workers mean non-permanent members of staff now have additional workplace rights if they remain on placement for an extended period of time. Once a temp spends 12 weeks in the same job with the same hirer, they qualify for equal treatment as an employee. This means they are entitled to the same basic terms and conditions as ‘comparable workers’ - people doing the same job in the same workplace. As such, they can expect to receive paid holiday, and the same pay and benefits as their permanent colleagues.

A range of factors may determine whether a temporary job turns into a permanent position - on both the employer and candidate side. It may well be that some employees are happy working as a temp, and welcome the freedom and flexibility inherent in their role. Others may be looking for an opportunity to secure a fixed position. Temporary employment can easily become permanent if both the organisation and employee are happy - and this may be an option worth considering for those eager to join the workforce.