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What Is Temporary Employment?

By Lily Ruha
Updated May 16, 2024
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Temporary employment is work performed for a short duration without the commitment or benefits of a long-term position. Some companies hire temporary employees during periods of higher sales or productivity. Seasonal jobs, such as holiday work or employment during agricultural peaks, fall into the category of temporary jobs. Freelancers and contractors often take on assignments with clear beginning and end points. Some employers hire employees on a temporary basis as a way of assessing the workers' long-term fit for the company.

Many employers offer temporary employment during periods of high productivity or activity. During a large marketing campaign, for example, additional workers might be needed to fold brochures and stuff envelopes. A nonprofit organization might hire activists on a temporary basis to stand on street corners and increase awareness about a particular issue. Temporary workers typically are paid on an hourly, daily or weekly basis. To find temporary jobs, people usually contact temporary agencies, review job ads or network with friends and relatives.

Seasonal work is one type of temporary employment. During the weeks leading up to major holidays, many retailers need additional staff members to work as cashiers or salespeople. Seasonal jobs typically are offered for a specified duration. Farm workers who work on a seasonal basis might work for a time period ranging from a few weeks to a few months. Compensation for seasonal jobs typically consists of hourly pay, with the possibility of earning a sales bonus or commission in the retail setting.

Freelancers and independent contractors also participate in temporary work situations. A copywriter might be contracted to provide copy for the launch of a new website. After the website is complete, he or she might then move on to another client. Freelancers usually negotiate the terms of their contracts before accepting temporary employment. As with most temporary work arrangements, medical benefits and paid time off typically are not offered by the employer.

Temporary employment also is offered by some companies as a steppingstone to permanent employment. In this scenario, a worker typically enters the work setting through a temporary agency that serves as intermediary between the employee and the employer. If the company decides that the temporary employee is a long-term fit for the position, it might extend an offer of permanent employment. If an employment agency is involved, the company typically pays a finder's fee to the agency. Temporary positions that have the potential to become permanent often are advantageous for employees because they offer a preview of a company's culture and operations before a long-term commitment is made.

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Discussion Comments
By Reminiscence — On May 23, 2014

I was never very happy working for temporary employment agencies. I was hoping to do more clerical work, but they only seemed to have light industrial assignments available. I didn't mind going out on those assignments, but I make a much better file clerk than a day laborer. Sometimes other people would get the clerical assignments while I was out on a construction site hauling concrete and lumber. I was very happy when a company called me in for an interview and I could stop working for temporary employment companies.

By Phaedrus — On May 22, 2014

I worked for several temporary employment agencies as a young adult and I'd have to say I prefer permanent employment these days. I only earned minimum wage, but the company that hired me would pay the agency closer to $10 an hour. I thought I might be offered a permanent position at some of the places I was assigned to work, but apparently the temporary employment companies made that sort of transition difficult.

I did enjoy a lot of the assignments, mostly because the work itself was different every week. I might be working in a plastic injection molding plant one week, then processing paperwork the next. I helped prepare food for senior citizen centers, and made the bottoms of cigarette lighters. I even helped with the final cleanup of a classified military facility. Of course, there were also a lot of assignments I'd rather forget.

I did actually get hired permanently by a food service company that had an arrangement with the temporary employment services company I worked for. After so many months of working for the temporary agency, I would be allowed to work for the company itself, which meant a pay raise and benefits. Other companies told me I would have to apply through their regular employment channels in order to get considered for permanent employment.

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