Career Advice

Hot Tips for Temps: The Rules & Benefits of Temp Work

Posted by John
min read
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Temping is very different from being employed on a permanent basis.  Whilst you may be doing the same or similar tasks to permanent employees, you have different rights and responsibilities.

How do you define 'temporary'?

To be honest, the definition of temporary (or casual) is not set in stone.  In Australia, we operate on an 'award' system, and each award has its own definition of what casual means.   This lack of a consistent definition is challenging for both employer and employee. For example, the definition, 'A casual employee is an employee engaged as such' (Clerks โ€“ Private Sector Award 2010) is problematic because it fails to define what 'casual' actually is. To make it clearer for you, as a temporary employee, you should define casual work as:

  • A work assignment that is set for a specific period of time OR to complete a specific task.

    • Example A:  A client calls people2people with a need for a receptionist to start immediately to cover for a permanent employee who is ill.  This type of engagement would ideally be for one to three days.  Employment is for a specific period of time.

    • Example B: A client calls people2people with a need to employ someone with specialist knowledge to help implement a new accounting system. Employment is for a specific task.

  • A role where you are paid on an hourly, daily or weekly rate.

There are, of course, variations that do not necessarily fit neatly into these definitions, but, overall, a casual/temporary role is a position that is intended to only ever be for a limited period of time and/or specific reason.

Terminating Casual Employment

In many awards, there is NO clear definition of what notice an employer needs to give a temporary employee or, vice versa, what notice a casual employee should give the recruiter/employer.  This leads to a LOT of angst and confusion for both employers and casual employees. Regardless of the lack of definition, there are some business guidelines that you should follow:

  • Remember, a casual role is one for which you are engaged for a limited period of time or for a specific purpose.

  • An employer can cancel the casual employment at any time, because it is 'casual'.  If  the circumstances change, the requirements for the role change, or it is clear you do not have the skills or experience to complete the task in the required timeframe or to the required level, the employer can cancel the assignment immediately.  You are, of course, entitled to be paid for any work completed.

  • A casual employee also has the right to terminate the engagement.  As you are paid on an hourly basis, in theory you can give one hour's notice and leave the assignment.  You are absolutely entitled to do this.  However, take care โ€“ you are potentially leaving an employer in a position where they will be unable to complete a project or have a suitably trained person to undertake critical work.

If you need to leave a temporary assignment for whatever reason, give as much notice as you can.  If the recruitment consultancy has time to find a replacement, the client will have a significantly reduced risk of being left in the lurch.  This way you can leave the role on good terms and reduce any ill will.

Is there any benefit to working on a casual/temporary basis?

Yes.  Absolutely.  If you are between jobs and need work while you are looking for long term permanent employment, a temporary role can keep money coming in during your downtime.  

If you are returning to the workplace after a break, taking temporary work is a quick way of updating your work experience and showing you are absolutely employable. If you have worked in one industry for a long time and are unsure about working in a different type of company, taking a temporary role is a brilliant way of getting practical insight into the industry without you risking the angst of taking a permanent role and then finding out that the industry is just not for you. This is kind of like 'trying before you buy'. Temping can keep your skills current. 

It can give you exposure to a wide range of different industries, companies, systems and business cultures.  It can help you define what you want to do long term and open doors to different and new opportunities.