“Permatemping”: Worst of All Worlds

I just learned the term “permatemping.” It refers to a worker hired through a temp agency or as a contractor but who works on an indefinite basis, often onsite, often on a W2, like an employee. It sounds to me like a losing proposition for the employee. You give up the advantages of temp, consulting, and employee work while realizing all of the disadvantages.

Employees typically get benefits – health insurance, shuttle buses, and employer-sponsored social and professional development opportunities. Though they may be employed at will, the assumption is that employees can make plans that rely on working with the company for the long-term. Permatemps are excluded from all that.

Consultants, contractors, and freelancers trade off those benefits for flexibility, variety, and higher rates. They usually control their hours, pick their projects, and serve multiple clients. They may be reimbursed for travel time. They can write off expenses that employees can’t, including transportation to work and some business attire. They can also write off the premiums for the private health insurance their customers don’t provide. Again, not so for permatemps.

The permatemping phenomenon even diminishes the advantages of old-fashioned temping. Jobs that were previously temp-to-hire become permatemp instead. There is less freedom for temps to take time off and move from assignment to assignment over the course of the year; agencies are moving away from providing that kind of staff because servicing permatemp customers lets them stay on autopilot.

My suggestion for avoiding this pitfall? If you want to be matched with a tough-to-find opportunity, work with a recruiter, who earns a commission or fee for matching you rather than earning a percentage of your hourly labor. If you just need to find a relatively routine gig, cut out the middle man. Supplement your personal networking with the same sourcing venues the agencies use: comb Linkedin for companies and contacts.

A final thought: These agencies’ cut is about a third of what they bill the customer – forever. You can probably hire a professional to polish your resume and Linkedin profile for under $1,000.



I just went through this. It took me about a year to find soenihtmg good. Find some good networking groups in your area. Meet new people. I set a goal of going out to coffee three times a week with people I meet at networking events. Most important though, don’t lose patience and don’t get demoralized. Getting turned down for a job is nothing personal….


Hey, staying anonymous because I am still with my company, however briefly. I wanted to comment because I’ve been through this personally, except I didn’t end up permatemping, like it appeared I would be at first–my last day will be in June. That’s another thing about permatemping–you can be let go at any time without the employer ending up with the expenses of firing you. I know a woman who has been temping at the same place for five years now. My agency offered me health insurance, but I couldn’t afford it; they’ve been making the occasional phone call and handling my payroll since the beginning, and for that they get a portion of every check I earn. It’s hard to say this when jobs are scarce, but if you can avoid this, don’t do it.

On top of everything, I was just strung along endlessly, didn’t know how long I would be able to stay (even though I did an excellent job there), and never felt like a part of a community. It’s going downhill there, and it’s because they have no integrity.

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