Are All “Employees” Really Created Equal?

equalI recently had a discussion with a manager as to whether or not the Temporary Staffing employees we use during our busy seasons should be entitled to the same benefits as our long-term employees…and I was shocked at our opposing points of view on the matter.

First, what are “Temps? 

Wikipedia defines it as:  Temporary work or temporary employment refers to a situation where the employee is expected to leave the employer within a certain period of time. Temporary employees are sometimes called “contractual”, “seasonal”, “interim”, “casual staff”, “freelance”; or the word may be shortened to “temps”.   Temporary workers may work full-time or part-time, depending on the individual case.

Why employ Temps?

Companies will employ Temps from time to time to help with an increase in workload.  Some will bring them on board to help for only a short period (6-8 weeks seems to be common) and others may keep them on even longer (I’ve seen some Temps employed by a client for as long as a 12-18 months non-stop).

In most cases, companies will utilize Temporary Staffing Agencies to manage the process as a cost-effective solution to fluctuating staffing needs.   Typically, temporary workers earn roughly a third of a permanent counterpart and receive few or no health benefits.

These agencies test and interview their “employees” and then categorize them into a database.  When a company needs a Temp, they simply give the agency the criteria they want the person to fit and then they are sent those that qualify to work assignments.

In some cases, the company only needs the Temp to fill in for a few hours or a few days a week.  While the agency will assign a “minimum” number of hours to pay the Temp for the day called in, the company doesn’t have to work them a full day or a 40 hour week as they would with an Employee.

Using Temp employees is also the company’s way to “test drive” the candidate to see if they have the skill set or work ethic to fit into the company full time.  If a Temp isn’t working out, the company can have them replaced or let go without worrying about paying unemployment.

So, should companies treat Temps equally to Employees?

This is where our difference of opinion occurred.

We had a situation where work was available after hours for a bonus…and instead of offering it to one of the company’s employees, the manager offered it to a Temp instead.  When I questioned this manager on why he chose to use a Temp for a project that we had employees available to take that would have welcomed the additional bonus, he argued that Temps are no different than employees.

The argument he presented was that Temps are no different than Substitute teachers: that we, as students, were taught and expected that we shouldn’t treat them any differently than our regular teachers.  To a point, he is correct.  Temp employees are guaranteed the same protections as regular employees when it comes to harassment and discrimination.  But, where I didn’t agree was with favoring a Temp over an employee when it came to benefits.

Many companies are still struggling to get their benefit and compensation programs back to pre-2008 operations.  Cuts and changes had to be made after the market crash to simply keep many companies running…and this included refraining from awarding raises and bonuses…and employee morale was a side effect of those changes.  So, imagine my surprise when a member of management saw nothing wrong with keeping a long-standing added benefit from the employees and giving it to a Temp instead.  Not only are the employees being denied a potential monetary benefit, but now is the added perceived “threat” that the Temps will be replacing them – further driving employee morale down.

When employee morale starts to decline, it is natural that employees will turn their whole focus to money.  They will begin to feel that the company doesn’t appreciate them so why give 110% anymore.  When raises, perks or other benefits are taken away from them, they begin to perform at just the minimum to perform their job since that’s all they feel they are being compensated for anyway.

When a company starts to show favor to the Temps they have hired, even for a short period of time, you have now started down a very slippery slope that will be that much harder to turn around and come back from.  Temporary employees are a benefit to the company to meet production needs, but…a company needs to remember not to turn their focus away from their long-term, loyal employees if they want them to continue to work for them.

So should Temporary employees be treated equally to a company’s Employees in all aspects?
My opinion – If you really feel that a temporary employee should receive the same (or more) benefits as your regular employees, then maybe you should consider them for employment with your company.  Otherwise, recognize that your loyalty should be to those employees with you year-round not on a situational basis.

What are your thoughts?

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