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Getting the most from your temporary staff

Posted on 7/02/2015 by Jo Hodge

Help wanted

According to a recent industry survey, nearly a third of UK organisations are intending to increase the number of temporary workers they employ over the next 12 months.

Temporary and interim staff make up a vital part of the third sector, and it is relatively simple to ensure that your organisation gets full value for money from its temporary employees.

When should you use temporary or interim staff?

There are many occasions on which it is more sensible to use temporary than permanent staff:

The most obvious advantage to using temporary staff is in giving your workforce flexibility.  TPP can supply temps at the last minute to cover eventualities such as holiday, sickness or parental leave.  Letting temporary employees handle the routine functions of your organisation can allow regular staff to concentrate on critical issues and maximise efficiency.

TPP temps and interim employees are highly skilled and experienced, and can help out with projects that require specific knowledge or expertise that your permanent staff members simply don’t have.  Hiring specialist temporary staff also means that they should be able to hit the ground running, without a long induction or training period.

Temporary staff are the ideal solution to cover periods of increased activity, perhaps following a marketing campaign, or seasonal fluctuations.  Using temporary staff at these times relieves stress among permanent staff members, which can help to reduce absenteeism and staff turnover in the long run.

In this period when many organisations are challenged financially, it makes sense to explore the possibilities of using temporary instead of permanent staff to make savings on overheads such as healthcare, taxes, insurance and benefits.

Temporary staff can also be an influx of fresh blood for your organisation, bringing with them new ideas and opinions.  This can be particularly valuable if your organisation has a very low staff turnover, as it keeps activity from going stale.

It is increasingly common for organisations to reduce the risk of recruiting for a new position by trialling potential staff on a temporary or contract basis beforehand.  This is a particularly useful tactic when recruiting for hard-to-fill roles, as you can hire temporary staff who lack some of the required experience but are a good personality fit, and train them up while on the job.  These employees will also often accept a lower pay rate until they are fully trained, making this a cost effective solution to your recruitment issues.

Temporary or contract?

A temporary worker is generally defined as one supplied by a consultancy on an adhoc basis, usually without a defined period of employment. A contract worker, on the other hand, is generally on a fixed term assignment, often employed directly by the client.

TPP generally recommend that if you need help for longer than 3 months, it is usually more cost-efficient to hire on a contract, rather than temporary, basis.  The other circumstance in which you might choose to hire a contract worker is if you need to guarantee cover for a specific project or period of time, as you can factor in a notice period, which would not be relevant for a temporary worker.

How to get the best from your suppliers

Prior to recruitment of a temporary worker, you’ll need to contact your chosen consultancy with a brief including your requirements, essential skills and expected turn-around time.  If you have a regular requirement for temporary staff, it’s worth investing more time with your consultancy to ensure they understand your organisation’s employment culture and structure– this will save time when recruiting for individual roles.

Depending on your requirements, the consultancy will either let you know who will be attending or send over a shortlist of candidates for interview.  Giving your recruitment consultancy regular feedback on temporary employees will greatly help them continue to select the best possible candidates for you.  It can also be worth asking a temporary worker for their feedback at the end of an assignment.

All temps supplied by TPP will already be referenced, saving you time.

Inducting a temporary worker
To get the best out of your temporary workers, it is important to give them a thorough induction when they start.  If you regularly use temporary staff, it’s best to put together an induction checklist to save valuable time when a new employee starts.

The length and detail of an induction will vary depending on the role, but should include at a minimum the following points:

  • A brief background of your organisation, why the temporary is there and what you’d like them to achieve

  • Health & safety, fire exits etc

  • Hours required, including smoking, tea or lunch breaks

  • Who they report to, who signs off their timesheets and other team members and/or organisation hierarchy

  • Location of toilets and tea/coffee making facilities

  • Use of internet/mobile phones etc during work hours

Involvement and Integration

Integrating temporary staff into your own workforce effectively will produce the best results.  After October 2011, when the Agency Workers Regulations 2010 come into force, it will also be a legal requirement for employers to ensure that temporary workers have the same basic employment and working conditions as comparable permanent employees.

  • When temporary staff arrive, make sure that someone is assigned to meet and welcome them, show them their work station and let them know who to report to

  • If time permits, introducing a temporary employee to other members of the team or organisation will help them feel welcomed and included

  • Temporary staff should have access to staff canteens, childcare or similar facilities

  • Ensure temporary workers are notified of any internal vacancies, eg via an intranet or notice board

  • Make sure your regular staff, particularly at a senior level, understand the value of temporary employees to your organisation and that they respect both them and the contribution they make

  • Report back to your consultancy immediately if a temporary worker does not meet your standards or requirements

Motivating temporary workers

Keeping your temporary staff content and motivated will ensure that they perform as effectively as possible for your organisation.  Remember, you may well wish to re-hire current temporary employees or even offer them permanent roles, so it is important to give them a positive impression of your organisation.

One of the most important factors in keeping your temps happy is to ensure that they are paid on time.  Make sure you always book a temporary or interim worker in with your consultancy, rather than directly with the employee, and ensure that their timesheet is signed off in time.  If you know you are not going to be available to authorise a timesheet at a given time, you can make arrangements with your consultancy so that the temporary worker is not penalised.

Wherever possible, temporary workers should be looked after like your permanent staff.  If a temp has done well in their role, a simple expression of appreciation and gratitude is often all it takes to ensure they continue to excel.

You could also consider ways to incentivise your temps, if you think this will help them to perform above expectations.  Paying them for additional hours, letting them clock off early, or offering them commission can all help to reward exceptional work.  TPP can help you decide what would be most appropriate in any given situation.

Temporary workers and VAT

The recent case of Reed Employment Ltd v Revenue & Customs, in which a VAT tribunal ruled that employers hiring temporary workers should pay VAT only on commission, rather than on the whole of their wages, has generated a great deal of interest in the third sector.  If the exemption stands, it could restore most of the value of the VAT exemption on temporary workers which was withdrawn in 2008.

Having lobbied against the concession being removed, TPP have been following the Reed v HMRC case and are currently seeking further advice about the implications this may have on our clients

In the meantime, we recommend that our clients ensure they are prepared for the enforcement of the Agency Worker Regulations and they look at negotiating improved terms with their suppliers of temporary staff, possibly through deals to use consultancies such as TPP exclusively.

TPP and temps

TPP supply temporary, interim and contract staff for all disciplines and at all levels.  We have a pool of experienced and highly skilled candidates to choose from; available at very short notice.

To discuss your organisation’s temporary requirements and how TPP can help, contact us on or 020 7198 6000.