Employers increasingly rely on agency staff

A new REC survey shows agency worker hiring is increasing amid economic instability.

a care worker bandaging an elderly man's arm


Employers’ intentions to hire temporary agency workers have risen dramatically amidst pessimism about the economic outlook, according to the Recruitment & Employment Confederation’s April JobsOutlook report.

It shows employer intentions to hire agency workers in the short term is 10% higher in April than in March with medium term hiring up 9% on the previous month.

Employers’ confidence in economic prospects for the UK dropped by 3% in the last month to the lowest level since the JobsOutlook survey began measuring sentiment about the economy amongst Britain’s businesses. It has fallen by 57 percentage points since June 2016.

Their confidence in making hiring and investment decisions in their own businesses was significantly higher,  but is still in the negative and has fallen by 3% since last month.

Neil Carberry, chief executive of the Recruitment & Employment Confederation, said the figures on agency workers “suggest that many businesses are turning to agency work to help them navigate the unpredictability they currently face”. He added: “This might be driven by waiting to see whether permanent hiring is justified, or by using additional labour to meet demand rather than making big capital investments.”

He said the delay to Brexit has given firms breathing space and that anecdotes from recruiters suggest that the jobs market has improved in the past few weeks. However, he stressed that employers needed stability.

The REC survey also showed that flexible working is now seen as a key way to boost productivity. Some 58% of employers plan to offer more flexible working practices in an effort to increase productivity. Seven in 10 employers also said they plan to actively promote inclusion and diversity.

Skills shortages were a key them of the survey. Employers expressed concerns that there were enough agency workers with the skills they require, that they are ready to hire in areas where there are skills shortages and 80% said they had no spare workforce capacity so would need more staff if demand increased. Many were upskilling existing staff.

Almost half (46 per cent) of UK employers expressed concern about the availability of permanent-hire candidates, with a lack of engineering and technical and health and social care workers continuing to cause most concern.

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