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A temp employee can be an ideal solution for many companies. They create a level of workforce agility that isn’t available with a permanent-only staff. Temporary employees also allow organizations to scale up or down in response to demand shifts, secure specialized skills for a single project, or handle other short-term objectives.

However, it’s important to note that there are limitations when it comes to temporary employees. They can’t stay in a temp role indefinitely. Instead, companies need to follow federal law regarding their use, ensuring that the job either ends before the cutoff or the worker is made a part of the permanent team by that time.

If you’re wondering how long an employee can work as a temp, here’s what you need to know.

How Long Can an Employee Work As a Temp

General Guidelines for Temporary Employees

Generally speaking, the rules for temporary employees aren’t overly specific when it comes to the timeframe. Instead, the duties the worker performs play a role. Additionally, if enough time passes, the employee becomes eligible for certain benefits, even if they’re in temporary status.

While the Department of Labor defines temporary work as being no more than one year of employment and having a specified end date for the assignment, that isn’t necessarily a rigid requirement. The main exception tends to be with the federal government. Federal temporary workers can’t remain in a temporary position for more than two consecutive years.

Outside of federal employment, there isn’t a formal time limit. However, if the temp employees work over 1,000 hours in a year, they are eligible to participate in the company’s retirement plan, even if they’re temporary.

Additionally, whether the temp performs the same duties as a full-time, permanent employee matters. In that case, an employer may face liability due to classifying a worker as temporary for an extended period while doing the same work as a permanent hire.

In order to avoid liability, many companies limit the duration of temporary assignments. This is especially true since a temporary employee working 40 hours per week would cross the 1,000-hour threshold in 25 weeks in most cases, depending on whether there’s overtime or time off that impacts the employee’s work hours.

For purely seasonal workers, staying on the right side of the law isn’t challenging. For example, if a worker comes in for a six-month stint to support a peak season and then isn’t with the company for the other six months of the year, they may be able to return to that temporary role indefinitely. However, if they work more than 1,000 hours, access to company-sponsored retirement programs is required.

When Should You Make a Temporary Employee Permanent?

Precisely when you should make a temporary employee permanent depends on several factors. If you can picture keeping a seasonal worker on past peak season, the employee is preparing to cross 1,000 hours in a year, or their time with the company will exceed one year, then making them a permanent team member is usually the best approach. Along with reducing liability, it simplifies providing access to employer-sponsored retirement plans. Plus, it will boost loyalty, increasing the odds that the worker will stay on board long-term.

Looking for Temp Employees?

If you’re looking for temporary, temp-to-hire, or permanent employees to join your team, the staff at TempStaff can help. Contact us today.


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