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What to expect as a charity sector temp

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Temping is a great way to gain skills and experience fast, and with high demand throughout the sector, it’s a great time to give it a try. Harris Hill’s senior temps specialists Sekai Lindsay and Ryan Elmer have the lowdown on what you need to know...

For most of this century, temps have made up around 5% of the UK workforce, but considerably more of the voluntary sector (around 9%, say NCVO), making temporary work a familiar experience for many.

If you’re considering it for the first time however, here’s a summary of the basics.

What’s the difference between permanent, temporary and contract roles?

Obviously the duration of the job, but there are some other key differences:


You're employed directly by the organisation, on their payroll and, once you pass any probation period, entitled to all their staff benefits.


You're employed by the agency through which you found the role, on the agency’s payroll and entitled to the agency’s benefits. However you're under the care and command of the organisation the agency has placed you in, normally for an agreed length of time, but this may be extended (with your consent) if the requirement is ongoing.

Fixed term contracts

You're employed directly by the organisation and on their payroll, just like a permanent role, but for a specific, limited amount of time, such as 6 or 12 months.

Why temp?

According to ONS figures, for around 30% of temporary workers it’s purely the lack of a permanent job, but the larger proportion have a variety of reasons, including:

• The chance to work for multiple charities in a short space of time, rapidly expanding your insight and experience of the sector.

• The opportunity to sample different roles in different places, helping to identify what you want (and what you don’t) from your career if you’re unsure.

• Gaining more skills, confidence and adaptability, improving your prospects of landing (and succeeding in) the perfect permanent position when you find it.

• To continue earning, including holiday pay and pension contributions, even if future plans mean you can’t commit to the role permanently.

Don’t expect it every time, but there’s also the chance it may develop into something longer-term or even permanent.​ Getting into an organisation is often the hard part, but if you’re there as a temp and known to be personable, reliable, hard-working and a quick learner, they may be keen to keep you on board, even if you don’t have the specific experience that would normally be required.

What are the drawbacks?

It’s not all kittens and rainbows of course, even (we assume) at the Rainbow Centre for Kittens, so be aware that:

• You’ll be paid weekly, for exactly the hours you work, as marked on a timesheet signed by your manager. So when you’re not working (if you’re off sick or for any other reason) you’re not earning. However you’re still entitled to Statutory Sick Pay.

• Requirements for temps tend to arise at short notice and can end just as quickly too, so you won’t always know how long your role will continue, or what you’ll be doing (and therefore earning) next week/month. Planning ahead for anything can be a challenge.

• Under Agency Workers Regulations (AWR)you’re entitled to the same salary and benefits as permanent staff after 12 weeks in the same role, but until then you may sometimes be on less favourable terms.

How to temp through an agency

Most temp vacancies go through agencies because the employer needs someone immediately. Yesterday, preferably. 

For these last-minute requests, there's no time to advertise and wait for applications; employers count on agencies to know good people already, so you need to be registered with one to be in the running.

• Choose a reputable agency with plenty of jobs in the sector you’re keen to work in. Let’s say Harris Hill, for example (other agencies are available). Then just get in touch to register as a candidate.

• We’ll need your CV, and will take you through the necessary checks and references first, to save you any unexpected roadblocks later. 

• We’ll then discuss your experience, the type of roles you’re looking for and aim to match your skills with suitable roles.

• If there’s nothing immediately, don’t worry. Just keep an eye on the site, check back often, and apply for roles that match your skills and experience. 

Apply for the right roles, not just any roles

This is really important as a temp. Meet 80% of the criteria for a permanent role and you can probably be trained on the rest, but this doesn’t work for temps as there’s no time for training.

Clients need someone with all the right skills from day one, and with roles often attracting 100+ applications, they’ll probably find them. So there’s no benefit in applying for anything and everything; better to focus your very best efforts on a small number of roles where you closely match the requirements. 

Nonetheless, there are ways of improving your prospects…

How to stand out

• Remember that temp placements happen at speed, so make sure your CV is sufficiently clear and well-structured to see the key points at a glance.

• A short opening profile summarising key skills will help this, as will bullet points to pick out skills and experience.

• Include any transferable skills, explaining how they’re relevant for the role.

• Tailor your CV to the role in question. Don’t make the reader piece together clues as to why you’re right for it – spell it out clearly from the start.

• List any relevant systems, CRMs or packages you’ve worked with, and be specific, even if they’re a little obscure. You never know when one of them might be the deciding factor.

Finally, one of the most effective things you can do is also one of the easiest, yet it’s often overlooked: let us know when you’re available.

Why it pays to keep us posted

When a last-minute temp vacancy comes in, we need to know two things fast: who do we know with the right skills, and who’s free to do it? 

Our database can answer the first question, but because we don’t track your every move (we can barely plant a plant, never mind a microchip), not necessarily the second. Unless you're already working for us elsewhere, we can only be certain of your availability if you've recently told us.

This needn’t mean calling in every week – a one-line email will do, or even just a text. But simply by confirming you’re available, you’ll have dramatically improved your prospects of a great placement coming up soon.

We hope that’s answered a few questions, but if you’d like to know more, please get in touch via the details below, or you can register as a candidate here.

Sekai Lindsay

Business Support roles

020 7820 7307 • Email Sekai

​Ryan Elmer

Marcomms, Events and Fundraising

020 7820 7313 • Email Ryan

View current temp vacancies

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