Q. I took a job with a temporary agency and was paid at a decent rate for my time. Now the organization I contracted with wants to buy out the contract and pay me at a substantially lower rate. Am I obligated to sign on with the company or can I choose to end the assignment and collect unemployment?
A. There is one organization who makes the decisions about whether or not you are eligible to collect unemployment, and that is the Department of Unemployment Assistance (DUA). Check the web site at www.ma.gov and under Online Services click through to "apply for unemployment". Here you will find step-by-step instructions for filing an initial claim.
As explained on the site, DUA does not pre-determine eligibility. It is recommended you file a claim if you are separated so that your eligibility can be determined. The site also has additional important information for all job seekers.
In the situation you described, it seems the temporary agency was your employer, not the company. You contracted with them, not the employer, and you are under no obligation to stay if you are not satisfied with the offer.
The agency sets the rate they charge the company for your services, and the amount they charge for their services. The agency also sets the fee for the "buy out" of your placement at the company. What the agency does not do is determine whether the company will make an offer, or what that offer will be. Only you can decide to accept the offer, negotiate, or reject the offer.
You are not happy with the current offer, because it pays less than you were making when you were working through the agency. Companies change the offer rate because an offer to be an employee - as opposed to a contractor - typically adds up to 35% of your compensation in a benefits package. The company will now be making contributions for health, dental, disability, and unemployment insurance, paid vacation, and more. Be sure to measure these benefits against what you identify as a “substantially lower rate”.
If you are interested in keeping the position, you can discuss the offer with the company and let them know the rate you are looking for. Negotiation has give and take, and if there is opportunity for you I encourage you to look at that in addition to the pay scale.
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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.
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