Firms are more likely to engage freelancers and contractors than employees to help them recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, new research has revealed. Figures published by the Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC) in the latest Jobs Outlook showed that employers’ intentions to hire temporary workers have increased over the past few months, following some of the worst months on record. According to the staffing body, this is a positive trend that is likely to prove important to the UK’s economic recovery.
As reported by the REC, from May to July, employers’ intentions to hire contract workers in the short-term (the next three months) increased to net: +6 from net: +2 in the previous period – the highest level since October to December last year (net: +9).
Similarly, in the medium term (over the next four to 12 months), employers’ intentions to hire contractors increased to net: +13. This is the highest level since August to October in 2018.
When asked why businesses engage freelancers and contractors, 67% said that temporary workers offer access to key skills on a short-term basis. The number of firms of this view increased 14% from the period prior to lockdown, January to March (53%).
The data also revealed that businesses overall are more likely to bring in temporary staff over permanent workers in the next three months. This is the first time this has been the case since the period May to July 2018 – a welcome development when taking into account the recent confirmation of IR35 reform which, with COVID-19, has raised concerns about a potential contractor exodus.
In addition, the REC suggests that more and more businesses will be using flexible labour to adapt and help them grow and recover from the pandemic in the coming months. Neil Carberry, the REC’s CEO, said: “A flexible jobs market has always been one of the UK’s great economic assets – keeping employment high in the good times and ensuring people have more options when times are tough.”
“[The] data shows that as lockdown eases and the economy recovers, businesses will use temporary work to start to build back. That makes sense, and matches the pattern of previous recoveries. While the path ahead is still uncertain, temporary work helps firms create jobs sooner, and helps people who need new jobs get back to earning quickly.”
Research by the confederation also showed that temporary work is just as important for individuals as it is for businesses. Two in five (39%) of people in the UK have done temporary, contract or freelance work during their lives – and the majority of this is by choice.