With dark times and lay-offs, companies have realised they need to hire people to fill in the gaps. And as long as staff have holiday rights, go on maternity leave and take time off sick or companies get more work than their staff can cope with, temps will be a valuable resource.

Temporary staff can help companies survive tough times as they save on overheads and costs of full-time staff. They also help if staff don’t have certain expertise to finish a project. But as well as keeping you free, temping can also be a way into  more permanent role – many companies like to assess potential candidates for jobs before they hire them full time, and hiring temps can be a good way for them to do this.

Temporary work can last for any length of time – from a day to a month or even longer. Hours can be part- or full-time.

The advantages of temping
Rather than jumping on a staff job that might not be right for you, temping lets you try out a host of different roles to see what they’re really like when you’re in them. And if you make yourself indispensable within a company you like, it’s a great way to get your foot in the door. You’ll also be keeping up skills you have, while getting the opportunity to learn more as you work at different places with different people.

Usually wages are paid at an hourly rate and on a weekly basis, so you don’t have to wait a whole month to get paid. 

Where are the jobs?
Many sectors need temporary workers, but the biggest demand remains in accountancy, education and healthcare. And there are lots of agencies covering these areas. Reed’s Tempzone (reed.co.uk/tempzone) has thousands of temporary positions in cities throughout the UK.

What’s the pay like?
It vastly depends on what skills you have and what type of job you’re doing. Hourly rates range from minimum wage (£6.08 per hour for workers aged 21 or over) to around £25 an hour for skilled workers in fields such as accountancy or engineering.  

Will I have to forfeit my perks?
You don’t have to just suck it up when you’re not well or forfeit pay while you’re on holiday.

Temps are still entitled to annual leave, which is based on the hours worked, and there are conditional entitlements to sick pay – make sure you ask your agency about this.

Paying your dues
You still can’t escape tax as a part-time or casual temporary worker – everyone has to pay income tax and National Insurance contributions on anything earned above £7,475 a year. 

This applies to those who are employed or self-employed. But tax paid up to that allowance can be claimed back at the end of the tax year if money has been deducted.

If you’re employed on a casual, temporary or part-time basis, by law your employer must: 

• Deduct tax and National Insurance contributions from your wages 

• Give you payslips 

• Give you a P45 form when  you leave 

• Give you a P60 tax summary at the end of each tax year if you still work for the employer 

If you’re working two part-time jobs, you’ll be given a different tax code, which takes this into account. You’ll still get the same tax allowance as everyone else, which will come from your main job. 

Your other job or jobs will be taxed at a basic or higher rate, depending on your total income. 

You still need to impress in the temping world, so stay on top of the game to get ahead

Be punctual. If you are held up or unable to get to work, contact your recruitment adviser as soon as possible so they can alert the client or arrange any necessary cover. 

Be respectful of company dress codes. It’s safest to wear smart business attire unless you are otherwise advised.

Give your recruiter your direct line so that they can stay in touch during your assignment. 

Arrange any personal appointments or interviews outside the company’s working hours. 

Switch off your mobile when on assignments. 

Client telephones, internet, email, faxes and photocopying facilities are generally not for your own personal use.

If you need to work overtime or through the lunch period, clear it with your employer.

Be aware of an employer’s health and safety policy, and at the end of an assignment leave handover notes and return your security pass.