By: Emma Tait-Barber

Freelancers and Contractors set to Spearhead Coronavirus Recovery

Businesses have shown increasingly positive temporary hiring intentions in recent months, putting their faith in freelancers and contractors to help them recover from the coronavirus pandemic.

According to the Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC), employers’ intentions to engage temporary staff (whether freelancers, contractors, agency or umbrella workers) in the next three months has reached its highest level (+6) since October to December last year.

This, supported by the fact that bringing on board temporary workers is being prioritised over hiring permanent staff (which sits at +5), is a strong indicator that freelancers and contractors will be relied on to help lead the economic recovery, explained REC’s CEO Neil Carberry.

“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.”

Freelancers can kickstart economy

As REC’s CEO said, this isn’t the first time demand for flexible workers has increased as a result of economic difficulty. This view is shared by the association for the self-employed, IPSE, that has regularly made it clear freelancers and contractors will play a critical role in helping the economy back to its feet. IPSE’s Director of Policy, Andy Chamberlain, has previously said:

“In past recessions, the flexible expertise of freelancers has been crucial for recovery. In kickstarting the economy, the government must therefore adopt measures that support and boost the freelancing community.”

Flexible working mutually beneficial

In REC’s study, businesses referred to the “short-term access to key skills” that freelancers and contractors provide as a reason for engaging these workers. For example, a growing number of companies highlighted this benefit as a key factor in recent months, rising from 53% in January to March to 67% in May to July.

Also highlighted was that temporary working is an arrangement that not only benefits businesses, but the millions of individuals who choose to work this way. Data produced by the staffing association shows that two in five (39%) people have worked on a temporary, freelance or contract basis at some point during their lives. Importantly, this is a decision the majority of people make themselves, rather than being left with no choice but to turn to freelancing as a result of redundancy, for example.

When asked about why people chose temporary work over permanent employment, around one third (36%) of those surveyed by REC cited the ability to source work quickly, while nearly three in ten (28%) said they do it to earn money faster.

In recent years, despite contending with threats like IR35 reform, the number of people choosing to work for themselves in the UK has risen dramatically, barring a fall in self-employment last month, as shown by ONS data.

But even so, today the independent workforce accounts for nearly 5million people and has been the catalyst for the creation of the flexible jobs market, which is viewed by REC as “one of the UK’s great economic assets.”

In the coming months, as businesses step up their recovery efforts, it looks likely to prove its worth once again.

How do I get started?

If you’re considering becoming a contractor, but are not sure where to start, why not download our guide to contracting, which includes all you need to know to start your contracting career.

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