Temporary Employees: Definition, Benefits, Terms and FAQs

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated 14 December 2022

Published 9 May 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Organisations may hire short-term employees such as freelancers, contractors or independent professionals to fill temporary vacancies. Organisations can hire short-term employees to support overstretched full-time employees or get specialised expertise. Learning about temporary employees can help you prepare to work in this type of position. In this article, we define what a temporary employee is, discuss why companies hire them, cover the terms of working in a temporary position, explore steps on how to become one and give answers to frequently asked questions about them.

Related: Breaking into Full-Time Work with a Contract Background

What are temporary employees?

Temporary employees are individuals a company hires for a short amount of time, usually a year or less, to fulfil the responsibilities of a position or project. They can help manage major events or projects, such as maternity leave. A company can hire temporary personnel directly or through a staffing agency. Temporary positions usually have a short time frame, but some companies use them as trial positions. It can also allow employees to know more about a company before committing to a permanent position.

Some jobs suit temporary positions. These are mainly jobs that may require you to use your talents, such as photography, freelance writing or film production. There are two types of contracts for short-term employees. You can work under a project or task-based contract or a fixed-term contract. A fixed-term contract is a contract that ends after a certain period. A project-based contract takes up specific responsibilities until the company completes it. Fixed-term contracts are common in labour markets.

Related: Part-Time vs. Full-Time Employment: What Are the Key Differences?

Why do companies hire short-term employees?

Here are some reasons companies choose to use temporary employment:

Save on time and cost

Temporary employment can help the company save time and cost in the hiring process. The hiring process is shorter with freelance professionals, mainly in the training phase. Short-term employees may receive limited instructions, for example, when they're replacing an employee on leave. The company may conduct more extended training for a permanent employee, as it can take longer to prepare and assess them for long-term responsibilities.

Manage employee leave

One of the main reasons companies engage in temporary employment is to help fulfil an employee's responsibilities on leave. Employees can take leaves, such as maternity, hospitalisation or holiday. The temporary employment usually ends when that employee returns.

Fulfil seasonal demand

Some companies engage temporary personnel to fulfil seasonal demand. For example, increasing demand during the holiday can make a retail or restaurant business hire extra personnel to manage the demand and keep customers. It can be more efficient for such businesses to hire temporary personnel because they only need help for a short period. Some companies offer recurring temporary positions, which means you can often find work during a certain time in the year.

Related: What Is Casual Work? (Types, Payment and Strategies to Find)

Complete short term work

Some companies only perform short-term work. They operate at specific times in the year or in specific circumstances, such as contracts. Examples of short-term employment opportunities include government census workers or businesses that sell holiday items.

Related: What Is a Contract Employee vs. a Regular Employee?

Manage company gaps

A company can experience gaps in skills or expertise. It means that their current staff has no training to fulfil the needs. The company can hire temporary personnel, usually under contract, to cover the gap. For example, they can hire a legal firm, a contractor, a graphic designer or a freelance writer.

Read more: Learn How to Explain Gaps in Employment on Your Resume

Benefits of working as a temporary employee

Here are some benefits you can get by working as a temporary employee:

Opportunity to know the company better

A temporary position can help you learn more about a company's culture. You can also practise some responsibilities with no long-term commitment. Temporary employment can also be helpful if you want to change an industry. You can learn more about how the industry works and whether it's an ideal move for your career before settling for a permanent position.

Possibility of getting a permanent position

Some employers may hire you for a full-time position after completing a temporary role. The company can use the opportunity to analyse how well you fit into the company's culture and strategy. They can assess various factors like your skills, teamwork abilities or ethical standards.

Ability to work for multiple companies at the same time

Temporary employment can help you find more job opportunities and diversify your experience. Some people combine multiple temporary jobs to create a full employment cycle. Temporary employment can be ideal if you are looking for a secondary income. Examples of professions that can combine multiple contracts include labourers, graphic designers and contractors.

Related: What Is an Employment Contract?

Chance to maintain a flexible schedule

Temporary employment can offer a flexible work schedule. You can have time to focus on other projects, family interests, focus on your education or travelling because it differs from a full-time project. Some companies may let you decide where and when to work, which is common in freelance positions. Flexibility is also more available to project contracts than on fixed-time contracts.

Workplace protections similar to permanent employees

In temporary positions, you can gain some benefits from employees in permanent positions. These include benefits regarding safety, health and overtime pay. However, you may not have other benefits that permanent employees enjoy, such as medical insurance or paid holidays.

Smooth job search process

It can be easier to find a temporary employee, especially if you work through an agency. Agencies usually screen their team members and recommend the best alternatives to the company. Companies may prefer this option to save on employee appraisal costs.

Terms of working as a temporary employee

Here are some terms companies give to personnel in temporary employment.

  • Contract length of one year maximum: The maximum contract length for temporary personnel is one year. If the contract is longer, it may be permanent employment, which may entitle the employee to various benefits of a permanent job.

  • Clear contracts: It's crucial for both the company and employees to have contracts that clearly define the terms of employment. It can define terms such as length and compensation for employment.

  • Exempt from benefits: Employers may exempt temporary personnel from major benefits such as medical insurance, retirement plans or annual leave. Temporary personnel may qualify for benefits such as overtime pay.

  • Workers' compensation: Your temporary employment contract usually has a clause in its contracts. The employer or agency covers the employee's compensation cost.

How to find work as a temporary employee

Here are some steps that can guide you in finding work as a temporary employee:

1. Research the field in which you want to work

Research various industries, including the skills, training and education required. You can also understand more about the job responsibilities and opportunities for career advancement. Consider pursuing a field that interests you in the long term. You can use university websites or online resources like Indeed to learn more about various careers.

2. Send job applications for temporary positions

You can find temporary jobs through job postings on websites, newspapers, social media advertisements or through friends and family. Check if the job advertisement specifies that it's a temporary position. You may update your CV to match the skills and experience required by the employer. To improve your chances of getting the job, consider including a cover letter with reasons as to why you're a suitable candidate.

3. Apply to a staffing agency

You can also find a temporary position through a staffing agency. Reach out to the agency and submit your CV featuring your background, skills and experience. The agency uses its contacts to find job opportunities that match your skills. They reach out once they find suitable opportunities and you can choose to accept or reject the position.

4. Consider your next opportunity as one comes to an end

As the position is temporary, it's crucial to look for and apply for other jobs when your current contract is about to end. You may include your experience and the skills you acquired to strengthen your CV and apply for another job in a similar field. Alternatively, you may wish to try working in a different field to decide if you like it better.

Related: 81 Unique Interview Questions to Ask the Hiring Manager

Frequently asked questions about short-term employees

Here are some common questions about working as a short-term employee:

What are the working hours of temporary personnel?

The employer determines the working hours of a temporary employee. You can work for 40 hours a week and earn overtime pay. Temporary high-earning personnel may not get overtime pay.

How long can a temporary job last?

Temporary employment usually lasts for up to one year. The period can be shorter depending on the type of job and employer. Some companies may renew your temporary employment for another year. The employment duration can also be as short as a few weeks.

Can a temporary job become permanent?

Yes, a temporary position can become permanent. Check if the company specifies in the job posting if the job can become permanent in the job posting. You can also ask the hiring managers during the interview and let them know you're interested in taking the position permanently.

Related: 5 Common Types of Employment and How They're Different

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