52 HR Magazine December 2017/January 2018
sent that driver to the hospital, creating a legal mess for the
Or consider the administrative assistant at a library who
lasted less than three weeks after training. She spent much of
her time instant-messaging friends and trashing co-workers
before deciding to simply stop coming to work.
As more employers opt to fill talent gaps and increase
workforce agility by contracting with staffing agencies for
temporary workers, some have learned the hard way that it’s
not always a smooth path.
Yet the demand doesn’t seem
to be letting up. U.S. staffing companies employed an average of 3. 2
million temp and contract workers per week in 2016—up from
2. 2 million in 2009, according to
the American Staffing Association
(ASA). That growth is expected to
continue as the overall workforce
expands, says ASA General Counsel Stephen Dwyer.
Moreover, many in HR predict
an increasing reliance on staffing
agencies as it becomes harder for
companies to find talent on their
own. “The candidate pool is slim
pickings,” explains Ryan Machir,
SHRM-CP, an HR generalist for Illinois Tool Works, a manufacturing company based in Glenview, Ill.
But before entering the temp terrain, it’s important to
educate yourself on the potential problems and legal risks
to avoid trouble down the road, experts say.
What You Get
Companies often use staffing agencies because doing so
gives them more flexibility. They can, for instance, ramp up
during the busy season without having to lay people off later.
Leveraging temps also helps avoid some of the costs and
headaches of managing staff, since the agency is responsible
for recruitment, workers’ comp, unemployment insurance,
Federal Insurance Contributions Act (FICA) taxes, various
reporting requirements and any benefits.
In exchange, staffing companies mark up the labor rate
by as much as 60 percent to cover their costs and make a
profit. So, for example, a company paying $22.50 an hour
might be assigned a worker receiving $15 an hour from the
Staffing experts say temp workers are best suited for
• Completing a specific project.
• Filling in for someone on leave.
• Handling a sudden influx of business.
If it’s not for one of those purposes, it’s probably best
to hire a regular full-time employee, says Machir, who has
about a dozen temps working on the production floor and
has contracted for hundreds more at previous employers.
He also worked for a brief stint as a contract recruiter for a
Hiring a temp worker may not always be the time-saver it
seems, warns Jeffrey Naftal, SHRM-SCP, director of HR at
Prince George’s County Memorial Library System in Maryland. He recalls being burned by the temporary administrative assistant who spent most of her time messaging friends.
By the time she stopped showing up, the person who had
trained her and who she was filling in for had gone on maternity leave, so no one was available to train a replacement.
“It didn’t serve us any purpose,” Naftal says. “We paid
good money to have someone come in and do nothing.”
Just because temps aren’t employed by your company
doesn’t mean using them frees your organization from
WHAT KIND OF WORKERS DO YOU NEED?
Staffing agencies generally offer help in filling three types of positions:
Temporary. These workers are hired for a short-term project or job, such as covering for someone on parental leave or helping with the holiday rush.
Temp-to-perm. These individuals start out as temps but are hired full time on the
regular staff if they perform well.
Full-time. These folks are hired to fill senior staff posts or high-demand specialist
positions such as those in IT. Staffing agencies generally charge a percentage of
the first year’s salary for their efforts rather than marking up an hourly wage as they
do with the other two types of workers.
‘Don’t lull yourself into a false sense of security that
because an individual comes from a staffing agency, you’re
immune from liability, from being named in a lawsuit.’
—Joel Greenwald, Greenwald Doherty LLP