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Employers frequently employ temporary employees to fill in for someone who is on leave, to work on special projects, or to help out during busy periods.  Ideally, temporary employees are hired for a finite period with the understanding that when the project is completed, the peak season is over or the regular employee returns from leave, their employment will end.

Potential problems occur when these temporary employees end up working for 6 months, 12 months, or more and are performing the same jobs as the “regular” employees.  At some point, there will be an expectation that they should receive benefits.  And for certain benefits, they could be correct.  For example, an employee who has been with you for 12 months and who has performed 1000 or more hours of work, may be eligible per ERISA rules to participate in the pension plan.  Also, individuals providing 12 months (non-consecutive) of service to your organization and who have also provided at least 1,250 hours of work within the immediate past 12 months will have rights to take Family & Medical Leave if the company is a covered employer. Additionally, the employee may be able to sue the company for “denial of benefits” if not properly provided health insurance, life insurance, vacation, etc. per company policies. Temporary employees who continue to remain employed for an indefinite period of time could be determined to be common law employees and eligible for such benefits.

Although there is no law that tells us that after a certain period of time a temp becomes a “regular employee”, it is recommended that you periodically check with the department manager to determine if this individual should be converted to a regular employee.

Contributed by Christine Crews, SPHR, is Vice President of Human Resource Services for the Employers Association Forum, Inc. (EAF). EAF is a non-profit corporate membership-based association dedicated to serving the business and HR communities with world-class HR tools, hotlines & legal compliance, news & trends, surveys & economic data, benefits & insurance, risk management, training & consulting, and leadership & organizational development. HCCMO members receive discounted rates on all EAF classroom training at EAF’s training center in Longwood.  Click here for currently scheduled programs: http://www.eafinc.org/online_store/training/default_training.html or www.eafinc.org

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