Temps are common feature of workplaces up and down the country, ranging from small IT support firms to large call centres and warehouses. Many companies find fixed term contracts to be a convenient and affordable way of hiring staff, and it is the preferable option for many contractors as well. However, the question we are often asked is what are the comparative benefits of hiring temps versus having a permanent member of staff (and what are the costs involved). This question will very much depend on the nature of your business and the dynamic of your team – a lot of companies find a mixture of temporary and permanent employees to be the best formula. To help you make up your own mind, this article gives an outline of the pros and cons of hiring temporary employees.

The benefits

For businesses with a high staff turnover, large employer’s overheads or seasonal demand (e.g. retail or warehouse businesses who need more staff over Christmas), temps offer a great solution to an immediate problem.

They save you time: outsourcing your temp requirements to a recruiter saves you a lot of the time required finding and employing staff. A recruitment team will be able to provide you with qualified, referenced and pre-vetted temps ready to hit the ground running as soon as they arrive at your workplace. It cuts out a lot of the time needed for interviews, chasing references and initial training before the employee can start work.

They save you money: the greatest distinction between temporary and permanent employees is that temps are not your direct members of staff. They are usually employed directly by the agency, which means once you’ve paid your fee you have no further employer’s responsibilities. Expenses such as sick pay, holiday pay, pension contributions and employer’s NI are all handled by the agency. The temps are also paid through the agency payroll, saving you time and money spent on admin.

They give you flexibility: if you have a sudden need to expand your team to handle an increased workload, such as during a busy project, year-end period or promotion, temps give you valuable flexibility. They allow you to expand your team to handle increased capacity without the burden of reallocating staff when the need passes. This is the great thing about temporary fixed term contract. The employee knows where they stand and there is always the option of renewing the contract or taking on the temp permanently if they are a good fit with your team.

What about the cons?

For all the undoubted benefits of using temps, it isn’t for everybody. There are a couple of drawbacks, and these are some of the reasons many businesses prefer using permanent members of staff.
The core issue is one of motivation. The majority of temps are skilled, professional and highly motivated people, but for all their talents some employers find it difficult integrating temps within their team. The reason for this is that they are never really your employees. They are on temporary contracts and may have worked for a number of different clients while at the same agency. This means that some temps may not feel part of your team in the way your permanent employees will. A temp on a short-term contract will be incentivised primarily by reaching performance targets as quickly as possible in order to impress their agency and secure continued work. They may not be prepared to go the extra mile or give you the emotional commitment many employers expect from their staff.

The decision

In our experience the problem of motivation can be overcome successfully. So long as temps are made to feel welcome in your company and are offered a series of tangible incentives and rewards for their hard work, then their performance is usually high. Many clients build long-term working relationships with temps that last for many years. Some temps are also motivated by the possibility of contract renewal or are being made permanent members of staff.

On balance, temps allow businesses to alter their staffing requirements without making a permanent commitment. The door is always open to expand their team or convert temps into permanent employees if the needs of the business require it.

Tricia Hay

Tricia Hay is Owner, Director of First Base Employment Limited