One in three working as contractor or freelance

More than one in three people in the UK has worked as a contractor, freelancer or agency worker at some point in their career and 41 per cent are considering working this way in the future, according to a survey from the Recruitment and Employment Confederation. 

The survey of more than 4,000 people conducted as part of REC’s research project Flex appeal: why freelancers, contractors and agency workers choose to work this way found:

– One in four (24%) has been a temporary agency worker

– One in ten (10%) has worked as a contractor

– One in ten (11%) has worked as a freelancer

– 22% of people who currently earn more than £50,000 have been agency workers,

– 36% of people who currently have hiring responsibilities at work have been an agency worker themselves.

As well as surveying the general public, REC interviewed people about their experiences working in a temporary capacity. It says flexible working is central to understanding why they choose temporary work. It states: “Temporary, freelance and contractor roles provide opportunities for people to work more flexibly and have more choice over their work-life balance.”

The research found that temporary work is particularly beneficial for people at four points of their working lives:

– Entry level workers

– People with specialist skills

– Adults with caring responsibilities

– People approaching retirement.

It has recommendations for recruitment agencies, including telling people of their rights, and for employers, including setting up performance management processes, communicating and giving regular feedback and making training opportunities available to all staff, including temporary workers. It recommends that the government should, among other things, evaluate the rollout of Universal Credit with special care taken to understand how a tapered benefit system supports those who are looking to work flexibly and does not disadvantage people such as carers and women returning to the workforce via temporary work. It says: “Choosing to work, including in a temporary way, must pay.” It also calls for a simplication of the tax system and more guidance for employers on their rights and obligations to temporary workers.

Russam GMS, a leading provider of Interim Managers, has also seen a rise in what they call “self-drive workers” in recent years – with greater numbers of freelancers, contractors, and interim managers who are choosing to work in a more flexible and independent way.

Analysing the latest employment figures from the Office of National Statistics, Russam GMS estimates that 47 per cent of the working population are now self-drive workers and the trend is increasing, with figures up from 46.7% in November 2013 to 47.0% in April 2014.

Out of 30.4 million workers, Russam includes all those not engaged in full time employment – the 4.4 (4.1) million self-employed –full and part time, 1.6 (1.6) million temporary workers, 6.8 (6.7) million part time workers, and those workers engaged in apprenticeships or work schemes,  unpaid carers and workers with second jobs.

Jason Atkinson, managing director, Russam GMS said: “Last month over 200 self-drive workers attended our ‘Great British Workforce Revolution’ conference that brought together top entrepreneurs, economists and influencers in the senior executive market to look at the changing business landscape and what self-drive workers need to do to win work and be at the top of their game.

“More businesses are recognising the benefit of employing highly skilled people on a short-term basis as a flexible and affordable resource, and they offer a great alternative to employing someone full-time,” added Atkinson.

According to the Interim Management Association’s latest figures, demand for interims grew by 15% in the first quarter of this year.

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