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UK – Sluggish economy boosts temporary work

15 March 2012

Temporary employment seems to have become more attractive as an increasing number of workers want to work on a temporary or contract basis to gain greater control over their career in, what is mainly perceived to be, an inactive economy.

“The ongoing weakness of the economy is driving an increased interest in contract and temporary working. Clearly, many people are turning to this work style because there are less permanent opportunities, but the lack of job security during this slow recovery is also encouraging people to think seriously about temping or contracting for the first time. Those that do are enjoying a warm welcome in many organisations – as they seek to harness much needed skills within a flexible employment contract,” said Mark Bull, CEO of Randstad UK.

In a recent survey carried out by Randstad, 63% of temporary workers confirmed that they have actively chosen not to pursue permanent opportunities while almost half of all permanent workers surveyed (48%) said they would consider temporary roles when they next switch jobs.

This trend is also reflected in organisations using temporary and contract staff more as a resourcing solution rather than to just make up for the holes in their headcount. 11% of surveyed organisations said that the reason they turn to freelancers, for instance, is to drive innovation while 13% use interims to fill strategic gaps and boost productivity. 

The survey also found that the extension of new Day One benefits to agency workers – which include access to staff parking, canteens and transport – under the Agency Workers Regulations (AWR) has made little difference. 78% of surveyed organisations stated that they were already providing these benefits to their temporary workers, and two thirds of temps agreed that they had full access to these. But the one exception appears to be access to job vacancies, with almost a quarter of temps saying that this new Day One right has been a major benefit to them.

However, the impact of rights extended to temporary workers after the twelve-week qualifying period is less certain. In the case of parity of pay for temps with their permanent colleagues under the AWR, opinion is split: 53% of temporary workers see this as an advantage while 47% disagree.

Surprisingly, the survey also found that only 34% of temporary workers are aware of the fact that they will be eligible for auto enrolment into workplace pension schemes from October 2012. And only 36% of those who were aware of this said they had were interested in participating in the new scheme.

“There’s no doubt that AWR has provided a framework that affords security for temporary workers, especially those that tend to work in more administrative roles.  The right to a pension also signifies an important step in the ongoing professionalisation of the temping and contracting industry.  The UK already has the greatest penetration of temporary and contract workers in the EU, at about 4% of the total workforce, and our expectation is that over time, the economy will see a gradual development of interest in the benefits of temping and contracting by both job seekers and organisations.” 

Randstad’s Navigator research was carried out among 3,000 UK organisations and employees.  

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