Industry Look: How the Staffing Industry Can Prioritize Worker Safety as Hiring Booms

Industry Look: How the Staffing Industry Can Prioritize Worker Safety as Hiring Booms

By Tricia O'Connor

Hiring is roaring back among enterprise-caliber organizations, but smaller to medium-sized businesses are still feeling the pinch from the economic downturn.

Without stable profitability, these businesses can’t afford to bring back full-time staff. So, many of them are turning to temporary workers to meet their workforce needs.

But this swell of contingent employees puts a new onus on staffing agencies who place them. Now staffing agencies must match workers with the right personality, skills, and culture, while prioritizing workplace safety and health concerns.

EBI continues our ‘Industry Look’ series where we examine how various industries like retail and healthcare need to evolve in our post-pandemic economic recovery.

Turning to Contingent Staffing

Temporary workers are an attractive and affordable alternative for smaller to mid-size businesses that are still bouncing back from the pandemic. They are cheaper than hiring a full-time employee, require fewer benefits, and help businesses save on payroll taxes. Contingent workers can also be hired remotely and usually require less time to train, making them ideal employees to bring on board and offload as needed as supply chain and consumer demand continues to fluctuate.

Recent data shows employers are relying heavily on staffing agencies to upskill for their business recovery plans. Permanent placement numbers were up 82% when compared to April 2020, and contract assignments rose 68% in the same time frame.

Experts don’t expect this high demand for contingent workers to slow down anytime soon. So how do businesses prepare for this new recruiting opportunity? As we move beyond the pandemic, ensuring employee safety will be critical to segway skilled talent into permanent employees.

Companies must demonstrate to staffing agencies how they prioritize employee wellness to recruit new talent. Here are five proven health and safety measures staffing agencies should look for before placing contingent workers:

1. COVID-19 and Antibody Testing

In early June, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) issued guidance confirming employers can require employees to get a COVID-19 vaccine before returning to the workplace. Almost immediately thereafter, unvaccinated employees with no intention to receive the shot filed large lawsuits against their employers. A less murky and, some might argue, equally viable alternative for temporary workers is to supply them with COVID-19 testing kits and/or antibody tests. An oral-fluid molecular COVID-19 test can confirm if the coronavirus is detected in a person’s saliva. An antibody test shows if a person has been infected and recovered. It’s important to note, however, it is illegal for employers to require an antibody test before allowing workers to report back to the workplace.

2. Remote Drug Testing

Instant or rapid drug tests help employers hire quickly, safely, and improve their candidate experience. It’s the premier option for onboarding remote workers quickly, especially if they are coming from a staffing agency placement. An instant saliva test provides accurate results in minutes at the point of collection and is more private and convenient for test takers. Oral fluid testing can be done instantly through video observation, making it ideal for remote positions. Remote drug testing also saves money because there is no need for applicants to use a clinic to conduct the collection. Eliminating a clinic cost can save between $20-$25 per collection.

3. Health Screenings

Conducting daily health screenings before workers enter the workplace reduces risk and protects business operations for those organizations still struggling to reach pre-pandemic levels. Workers can fill out the questionnaire off-site in less than a minute using any device. This significantly reduces the possibility of a viral spread within the workplace, which would result in increased health insurance costs and difficulty maintaining worker placements.

4. Pre-Employment Background Screening

The more people who are unemployed, the bigger the numbers of job candidates applying for open positions. However, an unbalanced labor market requires a comprehensive screening program and policy. Most screening companies, including EBI, can customize packages tailored to contingent workforces so staffing agencies get the precise background checks they need.

5. Address Health and Safety Culture

As companies look to the future and what changes they need to permanently make, one thing is clear: health and safety culture will be at the forefront of these changes. Although COVID-19 is the catalyst for health and safety efforts now, companies have long tried to solve for the cost of illness to their business each year. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Foundation reported in 2015 the average cost of influenza for businesses averaged $87 billion annually. Now add what is potentially an annual seasonal outbreak of coronavirus to that number, and you are looking at a very real, very large problem businesses must solve.

When faced with a lopsided job market, many organizations will look to staffing agencies to fill open positions with temporary workers. However, the pandemic has shown organizations the importance of truly responding to the changing health and safety needs of their workforce.

EBI Insight

EBI’s commitment to helping all industries recuperate from pandemic-related challenges is unwavering. We aim to support your business goals with valuable knowledge, tools, and insight. As the most-awarded background screening company in the HRO Today’s Baker’s Dozen history, we are proud of our range of solutions, such as COVID-19 rapid tests to remote drug testing, propel businesses through our post-pandemic economy.

Contact one of our team members for assistance. 

*A version of this article originally appeared in The Staffing Stream, a thought leadership blog dedicated to the staffing ecosystem.  

Workplace Health & Safety

About the Author

Tricia O'Connor

Tricia O'Connor

Writer. Digital marketer. Storyteller. An award-winning writer and editor, Tricia O'Connor is the Marketing Content Manager at EBI. Tricia worked as a broadcast and print journalist for nearly two decades writing and producing programming for high-profile networks like ESPN Radio, History Channel, and Hallmark Channel, as well as contributing editorial work to publications nationwide. Tricia joined the EBI marketing team in 2019 and is responsible for content strategy, development, and engagement. Tricia earned a master's degree in journalism from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University and is a proud undergraduate alumna of Wheaton College in Massachusetts.

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