Economic fragility sees move towards flexible staffing

23rd August 2011

The uncertainty that still surrounds the economic recovery has led employers to boost their long-term plans for flexible staffing but to curtail their ambitions to increase their permanent workforces in the medium and the long-term.

Those were the findings of the Recruitment and Employment Confederation's latest JobsOutlook survey.

Of the employers polled, two-thirds reported short-term plans to increase their permanent workforce over the next three months, compared with 74 per cent in the previous month.

The picture is even less hopeful when it comes to the longer perspective. Barely a half of respondents (49 per cent) expected to expand their permanent recruitment over the next twelve months. Last month the figure was 66 per cent.

However, employers' long-term demand for temporary staff has risen, with 83 per cent saying that their use of agency workers will either grow or stay the same during the next 12 months. For the short-term, 79 per cent foresaw either taking on extra agency staff or keeping current levels static.

The overall number of temporary workers in the UK is at an all-time high at 1.6 million, the REC said.

Roger Tweedy, the REC's director of research, commented: "The fact that employers have reviewed their permanent hiring intentions this month is clearly a reflection of the uncertain economic context. However, overall confidence remains at the same level as this time last year and it is interesting to note that the number of employers planning to maintain or increase their permanent workforce over the coming 12 months still stands at over 90 per cent."

Mr Tweedy added that, with the economy continuing to stagnate, businesses will understandably remain cautious which is why there has been an increase in the longer-term demand for flexible staff such as temporary and contract workers.

He concluded: "This is a timely reminder of how a flexible workforce to help employers meet peaks and troughs in demand for services and products during uncertain times."