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Unemployment and Temping

Posted by Elaine Varelas  September 1, 2010 10:00 AM

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Q. I have been working for a temporary agency for the last 6 months, but I am unhappy with their performance. If I ask to sever my agreement with them, will that be considered "quitting" by the unemployment office? Can I just not respond to their offers of work, or is that considered "refusing"? The temp agency is only offering me jobs at $4.00 per hour less than I asked for (after me repeatedly asking them not to), and they often make errors getting job info and hours wrong, never giving me the person I ask for, etc. I don't want to lose unemployment, but I don't want to be a slave to these people either.

A. Temporary work can offer job seekers financial benefits and the opportunity to build experience. The structure of how temporary agencies work with temporary employees and the employers who hire these employees comes in a few formats. Some temporary agencies put employees on the agency payroll so the employer is actually the agency, though employees work at another company site. Other contract or temporary agencies place employees at companies, for a fee, and the company pays the employee directly.

In both instances, you are not obligated to accept an offer of a position from an agency, or work for wages you believe are unfair. Review the contract you have with the agency. Most contractual arrangement are for one position for a specific duration of time. They do not automatically extend or commit you to other jobs.

If you are not happy working with this agency, there are many others to consider. The compensation offered will depend on your skill set, and the kinds of opportunities the agency can present to you. You can work with multiple agencies and take the offer which appeals to you most, based on whatever criteria you have.

There is a great deal of information offered about whether or not you can collect unemployment after working at contract or temporary jobs. Review what the contract says will be provided in terms of benefits and review your pay check for contributions the employer has made. Unemployment benefits accrue based on these contributions over 52 weeks and not from employee deductions.

There is a comprehensive list of Q's and A's about eligibility for unemployment at The home page lists specific locations for related answers. Answers specific to personal circumstances are only determined after a claim is filed, which is also explained on the site.

This blog is not written or edited by or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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Patricia Hunt Sinacole is president of First Beacon Group LLC, a human resources consulting firm in Hopkinton. She works with clients across many industries including technology, biotech and medical devices, financial services, and healthcare, and has over 20 years of human resources experience.

Elaine Varelas is managing partner at Keystone Partners, a career management firm in Boston and serves on the board of Career Partners International.

Cindy Atoji Keene is a freelance journalist with more than 25 years experience. E-mail her directly here.

Peter Post is the author of "The Etiquette Advantage in Business." Email questions about business etiquette to him directly here.

Stu Coleman, a partner and general manager at WinterWyman, manages the firm's Financial Contracting division, and provides strategic staffing services to Boston-area organizations needing Accounting and Finance workforce solutions and contract talent.

Tracy Cashman is Senior Vice President and Partner of the Information Technology search division at WinterWyman. She has 20 years of experience partnering with clients in the Boston area to conduct technology searches in a wide variety of industries and technology.

Paul Hellman is the founder of Express Potential, which specializes in executive communication skills. He consults and speaks internationally on how to capture attention & influence others. Email him directly here.