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UK – Temporary recruitment outlook positive

24 October 2013

The short-term outlook for temporary workers is positive, as planned increases to the use of agency workers in the next quarter continues to gain momentum, according to the latest JobsOutlook from the Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC).

More than half (56%) of employers are now pointing to a planned increased in permanent staffing levels in the next quarter, with 49% indicating a planned increase in the next year. The planned increases in agency worker usage, in both the next quarter and the next year, show significant year-on-year positive movement – almost double last year’s figure, and treble the intent of 2011.  

Only 6% of employers intend to reduce their use of agency staff in the next three months. More than half (58%) intend to retain the same level of agency workers, with 35% intending to increase their usage ‘slightly’ and 1% intending to increase their usage ‘greatly’.

The importance of short term access to key skills through agency workers has taken a dramatic rise, up +20% compared with the same period last year, according to the REC. 

In the medium term, the next four to twelve months, there is a similarly strong trend of year-on-year improvements with 94% of employers intend to maintain or increase the use of agency labour in the medium term. While only 1% intend to ‘greatly’ increase their usage of temporary staff, 29% intend to increase ‘slightly’, with 64% planning to retain the same usage level.

Employers anticipate an acute shortage of agency driving and distribution workers, evidencing the key strategic role that these workers play in supporting the emergent growth in the manufacturing and retail sectors. Additionally, concerns over sufficient availability of agency workers with technical/engineering and professional/managerial skills point to employers’ continuing need for key strategic resources to be engaged on a flexible basis.

The consistently high rating among hirers for being able to gain short-term access to key skills through the use of agency labour is further evidence that employers are continuing to realise the strategic value of access these workers. The year-on-year increase of +20% in this area is notable.

Whilst, unsurprisingly, the ability of agency workers to provide support for peaks in demand and cover leave remain dominant factors, the evidence of their increasing ability to help organisations respond to much needed and welcome growth is clear, increasing +12% compared with last year.

As recognition increases over the strategic importance of agency workers, pressure on agencies to source the best of these skills for a defined period is undoubtedly mounting. There is clear evidence that they are responding, however, as a 90% net satisfaction level with agencies remains a tremendous showing for the industry.

In the vast majority of hiring organisations, temporary workers regularly go on to assume a permanent post. This month’s report shows that nine out of ten employers offer at least one permanent role to a temporary/contract worker each year.     

Outside those business sectors which are showing obvious signs of seasonality, there are two groups where both permanent and agency workers are forecast to be in demand and those where the high demand for agency workers starkly contrasts with the low levels of demand for permanent employees.

The standout sector where demand remains resilient for both permanent and agency workers is finance – a welcome respite from some exceptionally lean years in this skills area. By virtue of a bounce back in demand for permanent skills this month, the medical arena should see demand in the next quarter.

The skills areas of engineering, hospitality, industrial, technology, professional and office are those where demand for agency workers is notably higher than that for their permanent counterparts. When considering that these skills are undoubtedly those where a defined period of access would provide invaluable support for both growing and challenged sectors, the contrast in demand for permanency becomes apparent. 

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