How Long Can a Temporary Assignment Last?
This question comes up a lot – from both employees and employers….
….often in the context of an employee wanting to be hired by an employer where they have been assigned to work on an interim basis. For some employees the security of a core position is more important to them than continuing to work on an interim basis; for a variety of business reasons, some employers actually prefer temporary, flexible staffing arrangements instead of adding new employees to their core employee group. How long the marriage between the employer’s needs for flexibility match up with the employee’s needs for long term secured employment, is a matter of individual negotiation and agreement.
Theoretically and despite popular perception, there is no law that says an employer can only keep a temporary employee for a certain period of time, nor is there a law that says that an employee has to continue working as a temporary or contract employee indefinitely. The length of any temporary or contract assignment is by mutual agreement as either party can end the assignment “at will”.
The American Staffing Association is clear – the length of time an interim employee works in an interim (as opposed to a core) role is not relevant to the “temporary” nature of the assignment and neither employer or employee should limit the duration of an assignment based on any perceived “length of assignment” requirement to do so.
What is important is that any third party employer who is part of the “employer” mix – companies like the PACE Staffing Network – maintain their role as the “employer of record” and not compromise that role by giving their employer client control over basic elements in the employer relationship – determining things like rate of pay, hours of work, conditions of assignment or employment. IOW, the employer client must allow their staffing provider to maintain control over their employee’s conditions of work, or run the risk of having that employee being considered “their employee” even though they never officially hired them.
If the employer is paying the employee directly, the relationship is less clear…and the employer is often faced with a dilemma in justifying different pay or benefit programs for their long term “interim” workforce. We highly recommend that for temporary or contract roles intended to last 6 months or longer, an employer seek the services of a third party “employer of record.’
For employers who anticipate a long term need for “interim” employees, we recommend they work closely with their staffing provider to work out a “best practice” way for their business need to be managed. The retention of the employee in their “interim role” becomes important and many long term temporary employees will need a benefit and paid time off package to be provided by their staffing agency to be motivated to stay in their interim role. Benefit programs add costs to the client’s bill rate that need to be worked thru.
For employees who believe they have worked on assignment “too long” without being hired directly or without eligibilty to benefit programs, your best bet is to talk candidly with your temp agency (your current employer) and get their take on your chances for being hired in the near future. Your agency should be able to arm you with the employer’s perspective in ways that you can’t, and you are then able to make your employment decisions accordingly. Once you have completed the “terms of your contract or assignment” you are free to leave that assignment with appropirate notice that you would provide to your agency (typically one or two weeks).
Depending on what you learn, you can ask your agency to try to find a job for you elsewhere. If they are unwilling to represent you for other assignments, you are free to seek agency representation elsewhere…even while you are still working at your current job.
If the job market is robust like it is here in the Northwest, chances are you can leave your assignment and find another. Letting your agency know is likely to motivate their client to hire you now rather than run the risk of losing you as soon as something “better” comes up. Your agency should act as your agent, helping you navigate through the sticky parts of these types of negotiations.
This article was written by Jeanne, Knutzen Founder and CEO of The PACE Staffing Network. PACE has been helping Northwest job seekers find employment and employers find the right talent for over 40 years! To find out more, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org If you are an employee who would like to register for placement go here.