Herzlich writes the Small Business column in Newsday.
A recent survey by the online job site CareerBuilder found that 40 percent of employers plan to hire temporary and contract workers in 2013, up from 36 percent last year.
Temp workers can help fill employment gaps, but also allow a company to test potential hires before committing to them.
As companies continue to take a guarded approach to hiring and more firms assess the ramifications to their bottom line from the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, demand for temp workers is expected to grow.
"I think a lot of companies are going to hire temporary workers so that they stay under the 50- employee margin," says Dina DeDonato, president of Solution Staffers Inc., a Port Jefferson Station-based staffing agency.
Starting in 2014, employers with 50 or more full-time employees or full-time equivalents will face penalties for not offering health coverage to their workers, she notes.
This may cause some employers -- particularly those hovering close to the 50 mark -- to consider temporary workers. If secured through a staffing firm, temps are placed on the staffing agency's payroll, not the employer's.
Subsequently, this could affect small staffing firms like DeDonato's that have not traditionally employed 50 workers at any one time but could if demand for temps spikes.
Shifting the burden: "If I have 50 or more employees, then I'm going to be the one under the magnifying glass," says DeDonato. But she says demand could potentially outweigh higher health care costs incurred on her part.
Aside from the Affordable Care Act, some local staffing firms say they already saw an uptick in queries last year. Temp-to-hire has been particularly strong, says Carolyn Doyle, senior vice president at Lloyd Staffing in Melville. "It's kind of a 'try before you buy' situation."
If the temporary arrangement works out, that person is then hired by the company.
"Companies are being optimistically cautious about continued economic growth," Doyle says. "The conundrum is planning for long-term growth without investing or overextending in labor."
Most temp assignments are short-term, says Megan Moran, a human resources specialist in the Manhattan office of Insperity, a provider of HR services. It's beneficial for companies to define the length of an assignment, because there can be a liability for companies when employees are misclassified, she says. "It's important to have clear-cut policies as to what constitutes full-time regular employees vs. temporary employees to avoid any liability," she advises. If not, it could be argued "that the employer is denying benefits to otherwise eligible employees."
Employers also should clearly define job responsibilities and not shortchange temp workers on the "onboarding process," adds Barbara Gebhardt, president of Opus Staffing in Melville.
Temps are people, too: "Make the temp successful from the beginning," she says. Provide a go-to person for the temp to report to, and "make sure people know the temp is there and what his or her responsibilities are."
Make sure they're greeted by name, not just "the temp worker is here," says Moran. If treated right, they can become a valuable asset.
That's what Greg Demetriou, president of Lorraine Gregory Corp., a Farmingdale-based marketing communications firm, says he has found.
"They allow us to keep up with the variances of the volume of work," says Demetriou, who uses temps periodically, mostly for production work. When work volume "overloads our own resources," he says, "we need to supplement, and yet we don't want to add people to payroll when it's unnecessary."
8,476: Number of employees on Long Island at temporary help companies in 2011.
8,410: Number of employees in the third quarter of 2012 (latest available), there were 8,410.
In 2011, there were 8,476 employees on Long Island at temporary help companies. In 3Q 2012 (latest available), there were 8,410.
Source: NYS Department of Labor