Stuart Gentle Publisher at Onrec

Employers looking to temporary workers to help them recover from the pandemic

Temporary staff are becoming increasingly important to businesses as they try to recover from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic

In times of uncertainty, temporary work can be a real asset to both employers and workers – it allows firms to create jobs when the future outlook is unclear, and gives people a chance to get back into work, earn money quickly, and progress into a permanent position.

Employers’ intentions to hire temporary agency workers have increased over the past few months, according to the Recruitment & Employment Confederation (REC)’s latest JobsOutlook report. In May-July, their hiring intentions for agency workers in the short term (the next three months) reached net: +6, the highest level since October-December 2019.

Employers’ intentions to hire permanent staff also recovered to net: +5, another sign of confidence returning. Overall, firms are slightly more likely to look to bring on temporary workers than permanent members of staff in the next three months. This is the first time that has been the case since May-July 2018.

When asked why temporary agency workers are important for their organisation, more employers say that agency workers are important for short-term access to key skills. The proportion highlighting this factor rose from 53% in January-March, before lockdown measures were introduced, to 67% in May-July.

Neil Carberry, Chief Executive of the REC, 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.

“Today’s data show 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.”

Employers’ intentions to hire temps in the medium term (over the next 4-12 months) were also high, at net: +13. This is the highest this measure has been since August-October 2018, and suggests that an increasing proportion of businesses will use flexible labour to adapt and grow in the coming months.

REC research shows that temporary work is not only important for employers, but for workers as well. Two in five (39%) people in Britain have done temporary, contract or freelance work during their lives, and the majority do this by choice. One in three (36%) chose to do this to find work quickly, while three in ten (28%) used temporary work to earn money quickly.

Many also use temporary work as a stepping stone and progress into permanent positions – two in three (68%) of those who have done temporary work in the past are now in a permanent role.