How Long Can a Temporary Assignment Last?

How Long Can a Temporary Assignment Last?

by Jeanne Knutzen | February 27, 2017

7 INFO/RESOURCES - FOR JOB SEEKERS, Temporary and Contract Employment

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.
Jeanne Knutzen

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   If you are an employee who would like to register for placement go  here.


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7 thoughts on “How Long Can a Temporary Assignment Last?”

6 years ago wht the hell

Julea Howard

What if it was a temp to perm position and they promoted you saying you were gonna get hired on permanently and your supervisor said it on record then turn around and lie to the contractor about attendance points when you have docs proving them wrong and not to mention they did an illegal random drug test with out my contractor knowledge also I have ada and fmla pending with a claim number to remove 10 points to get hired on what can I do

6 years ago wht the hell

Saam Phelps

I appreciate that this situation is stressful for you. Our policies preclude us from commenting or providing advise on any specific situation. Sounds like you might want to seek legal counsel to make sure your employer is operating in alignment with all regulatory requirements.

6 years ago wht the hell


I am in a similar situation and I would like to know what happened in your case.

6 years ago wht the hell


Temp to Hire is a very misleading term and should not be used. It’s actually a way for companies to abuse workers who are willing and ready to take on full-time, permanent employment. Now along comes the contingent workers which falls under the same guise and fields the same level of abuse, if not more so. I have been a “contingent worker” for 7 years. I am given rewards and recognition like a common law employee, but without the overall benefit of being an actual hire of the agency I report to. I am given somewhat comparable benefits from the PEO or vendor employer, but again things do not align in a way that one would consider fair. All in all I see a trend of doing way with common law workers altogether. Replacing more secure positions with loose employment relationships will be a detriment to an already failing middle and upper middle class or hard working and devoted individuals.

6 years ago wht the hell

Saam Phelps

Hi Dee,
Your points are well taken and we do agree with the trend you are describing…the shift away from direct W2 employment to a variety of more “flexible” work options.

The good news is that in a growing/expanding job market, employees and employers have many choices about what type of work and employment relationship they want to pursue. Sounds like you might better enjoy a role that is more “core”. If you would like a referral to an agency in your market who specializes in the type of “core work” you would like to seek, please let us know.

5 years ago wht the hell

Roxanne Whittington

my Temp agency placed me at a company that is a good fit for me……the pay isn’t near what I am used to earning, but the people respect me and really want to hire me…..problem is: Temp agency wants an exorbitant amount of money to buy out my contract of employment…..I have been at this job 8 and a half weeks… husband says that many of the other agencies he’s worked with only committed you to 400 hours before being able to be hired on by the employer you were placed at…..what is your perspective on this? I live in Tennessee.

5 years ago wht the hell

Saam Phelps

Hi Roxanne,

Every agency is different in terms of what they ask an employer to pay when it comes time to convert one of their employees to their client’s payroll. Obviously for you or any employee who wants to work directly, the easier your agency makes it for the client to convert you the easier/faster it is for you to convert.

In this tight recruiting market most agencies will require anywhere from 480 to 800 hours of temporary assignment before they would consider a conversion. Some conversions happen without fee, some with fee on top of that “auditioning period”. Every agency is different so there is no one standard.

I would call your agency and ask exactly what they are charging their clients to convert so that you know that you have the facts. They may or may not answer you, but you might want to talk with them to see if there is any wiggle room for them to negotiate with their client, given you are interested in going to work for them directly.

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