HR · 26 May 2017

Employers turn to temporary workers as availability of permanent staff falls

Agency workers
Workers employed through an agency earn £430 less in a year than fully employed counterparts performing an identical role

Almost nine in ten UK employers plan to increase or maintain their headcount of temporary workers in the next three months, according to new survey findings.

The research, undertaken by the Recruitment & Employment Confederation (REC), suggested business owners were struggling to recruit staff on a permanent basis.

Two-thirds of employers looked to temporary workers in response to increased business demand, while 57 per cent needed agency staff in order to grow their company.

However, almost half of those recruiting temporary workers were seeking to access key skills absent from the pool of available permanent candidates.

The same survey was taken back in March 2017, when eight in ten employers signalled their intention to hire more temporary workers.

Demand for temps increased alongside Britain’s record-high employment numbers­ – recent figures from the Office for National Statistics showed Britain’s unemployment rate at a 42-year low.

Commenting on the struggle to fill permanent positions, Kevin Green, REC chief executive, said the potential rush for temporary workers represented a “tipping point” for the UK labour market. 

“Faced with chronic skills shortages, some employers are giving up on trying to fill permanent vacancies, and instead looking for temp resource to ensure they have the manpower needed to meet demand,” Green said in a statement.

With one in five employers paying agency staff more than permanent employees for the same role, the use of temporary workers could add to the financial burdens of small business owners.

“We could see this become a more attractive option for people in the context of rising inflation and poor pay growth,” Green added.

As employers create more temporary positions than ever, there is a fear that small companies in the construction, engineering and social care sectors could face a significant shortage of talent.

“For employers there is a growing sense of urgency about the skills shortage because it threatens to throw the UK jobs market off track,” Green warned.

“Whichever party forms a government after 8 June, we need to see action to improve the employability and skills of our young people, and to improve inclusion with underrepresented groups. We also need an immigration system which reflects the reality that more not fewer people from abroad are needed to boost the capacity of the UK workforce.”

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ABOUT THE EXPERT

Praseeda Nair is the editorial director of Business Advice, and its sister publication for growing businesses, Real Business. She's an impassioned advocate for women in leadership, and likes to profile business owners, advisors and experts in the field of entrepreneurship and management.

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