With the wave of temp jobs, contract work, internships, and part-time positions, the traditional full-time worker is now part of a greater ecosystem of employment types.

Temporary employment is not only characterized by the length of time spent working, but also by the scope and details of the work itself.

Whether your business is hiring seasonal staff to fulfill increased demand during the holidays, or you are a worker looking to increase your cash flow, here are the most common types of temporary employment, and the benefits and downfalls of each, including which might be the best option for you (or your business).

Temporary Employees

A temporary employee is an individual hired for a limited period of time, usually one year or less, to fulfill a temporary role, position, project, or seasonal demand. The purpose of hiring temporary workers is to enable businesses to seek extra help when they need it, such as during peak seasons, extended employee absences (maternity leave), or for major projects or events. To find temp workers, businesses enlist the help of a temp-hiring agency.


For Employers: If a business has used a temp agency, they have access to an array of skilled workers who, most likely, have already been screened and vetted for the position they are filling, saving the company valuable recruitment time and money. Temp workers also appeal to businesses because, if arranged with the temp agency, the employer can “try the employee out” for the desired time period, then choose to keep them on full time, or let them go once their time or duties have come to an end.

For Workers: The upsides for temp workers are that they are afforded with the same workplace protection as regular employees, including health, safety, overtime pay, minimum wage, and laws against harassment, discrimination, and child labor. The nature of the work may also be valuable to those who are in need of immediate work or a second income.


For Employers:
While temporary workers provide flexibility to the employer, they still need to be trained to some extent like any other new employee.

For Workers: Some downsides for a temp worker may be:

  • They are not typically given the same fringe benefits (paid holidays, medical insurance, etc.) as other permanent employees.
  • Instability; meaning that if cuts need to be made, a temporary worker is often the first to be released.
  • Generally, they cannot be promoted or transferred during their work period unless they have been taken on under the agreement that they can be hired permanently. If the employer wishes to hire the temp anyway without prior agreement with an agency, they may have to pay a fee.


Unlike temporary workers, contract workers may either work for themselves or under a contracting company, and contract their work out to businesses.


For Employers: Businesses may hire contractors for many of the same reasons they hire temporary workers, but one of the main reasons they choose to hire a contractor is that they may have specialized skills and are usually an expert in their field, which results in a finer quality product or service.

Other benefits may be:

  • Contractors take care of their own taxes, permits, and benefits, meaning that employers do not have to pay the employment fees that are associated with a regular employee.

For Contractors: Benefits for the contractor include flexibility and control over their fees, hours, type and number of clients, and work space. Often, they also retain copyright to their work, unless otherwise specified.


For Employers: Employers may find that they do not have the same amount of control with contractors as they do with temporary and part-time employees, and even interns. While the employer does not have to incur the extra costs of a contractor, they do take on liability, and also have a responsibility to ensure they are classifying contractors correctly or they could end up facing considerable legal consequences.

For Contractors: As a contractor, the disadvantages may be the responsibility of paying self-employment taxes, setting aside money for health and medical costs, and record keeping. As well, the work may not be steady if the contractor is unable to market themselves successfully to find clients.

Part-Time Employees

A part-time employee is one that works between 1-34 hours per week, as opposed to a full-time employee who works at least 40 hours a week.


For Employers:
Like temporary employment, a part-timer can give an employer flexibility, especially in retail or service industries, where part-time workers can take on shifts as needed in the evenings or on weekends when full-time staff are gone. Employing a part-time worker also saves overhead costs and can be less expensive from a wage point of view because they don’t usually earn a salary but rather an hourly wage.

For Employees: Part-time workers may choose to work the time that they do because they enjoy the flexibility of their position. It could also fit better with their lifestyle as it promotes work-life balance and is a form of supplemental income. Particularly students, retirees, parents, or those who may have medical limitations may find part-time work is the best option for their situation.


For Employers: If part-timers have more than one part-time job, their focus could be split between both, resulting in a lack of productivity, commitment, or consistency in their work.

For Workers: Part-time workers don’t usually receive the same benefits that full-timers do, which impacts their income and could affect their job satisfaction.


An internship is a type of temporary employment that is usually reserved for graduates or students. The role of an intern is designed to give students hands-on work experience in their field of study.

Internships can be either paid or unpaid and are continually changing. Some courses or universities even require work placement as part of the curriculum.


For Employers: Interns work for little-to-no pay, which costs an employer nothing in exchange for the extra help. Hiring an intern can also be a form of recruitment to encourage interns to apply for a full-time position with the company.

For Interns: For interns themselves, the work experience offers a foot-in-the-door type of opportunity that looks good on a resume, allowing them to build skills, network, and gain valuable references. If the business is happy with an intern, they might receive a job offer as well.


For Interns: Internships are tricky for the students who are applying for them. First, landing one can be competitive and challenging with changing economic conditions and an over-saturated market.

Secondly, a great deal of interns don’t earn much or have the legal protection of a traditional worker, which means they may not be shielded by important employment laws that protect worker rights.

The Trend Towards Temporary Work

Today, employment looks very different than it did many years ago.

Employers are able to hire workers on an as-needed basis, which gives them the freedom to staff their companies as they wish. Whether it’s hiring seasonal workers to anticipate busy bouts, enlisting the help of a professional consultant to complete a project, or recruiting young talent through internship programs, temporary employment has given employers plenty of options to consider when they need to adjust to business fluctuations.

As a worker, employment has been redefined in many ways. Not only is there full-time permanent jobs where a worker can advance, but a variety of temporary positions to apply for as well that permit flexibility, work-life balance, and independence.

With each type of temporary position, there are pros and cons for both the worker and the employer. By evaluating your own needs or that of your business, you can decide what type of role will be the best fit for you, or your company.

Have you ever held a temporary position? What did you like or dislike about it?

Posted by Kristy DeSmit

Kristy is a blogger, Twitter enthusiast, and company legalese interpreter.