Temporary Workers and Employer Liability


One of the regulatory traps that businesses sometimes fall into when they use staffing services is the employment classification of contingent workers.

Many times a business that uses contingent workers from a staffing firm takes on certain responsibilities for the workers, responsibilities usually associated with “regular” employment.

By doing this, the company allows itself to be considered an employer, along with the staffing agency, opening itself to the liability that goes with being an employer.

There are some straightforward guidelines that will help a company avoid being considered an employer of the temporary workers.

The first one is something not to do – don’t repeat the same functions as the staffing agency. If you are going to do that, why hire the firm in the first place? Sometimes, businesses will take on the task of recruiting, selecting and interviewing potential temporary employees. This is what you are paying the staffing agency to do. If your business takes on those tasks, the prospective employee will think your business is the hiring organization. You might not be real keen on having the staffing agency do these things, but the firm’s thoroughness will surprise you. If you have doubts, ask the staffing service to show you how it tests and selects employees.

Also, if you have a large number of contingent workers at your company check with the staffing firm to see if it can have a representative stay at your company. Known as an “on-site” arrangement, this is the most effective way to handle administrative tasks,  and it also allows for better communication between you and your staffing firm. It also emphasizes to the temporary workers that the staffing agency is the employer.

Never take any disciplinary action directly against a contingent worker. Always go through the staffing agency. If you want to terminate the worker, you should discuss it and the reasons for it with the staffing agency, and the agency should then take the necessary action.

As part of this, you should be willing to share the worker’s performance shortcomings with the staffing agency. Then, if the worker is let go, the agency will be able to provide the worker with a specific reason, which will usually eliminate the possibility of charges of discrimination. Discrimination is sometimes alleged when a temporary worker is let go but no reason is given, which leads the person to believe something unethical is going on.

And finally, make sure your company policy clearly states that benefit plans are off limits to contingent workers.

RealStreet Staffing can help Washington Metro construction, engineering and architecture firms find terrific professionals for temporary or direct-hire assignments. Contact us today so that we may work with you to create a staffing plan that will help your business grow and prosper.

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