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Employers could turn to temps to plug skills gap, says REC

The Recruitment & Employment Confederation (REC) has released its JobsOutlook survey for May. Nine in ten UK employers (89%) will increase or maintain their temporary workforce in the next three months, according to a survey by the REC. This is a rise of nine percentage points compared to findings reported in March (80%), suggesting that businesses may become increasingly reliant on temporary workers.

The increasing demand for temporary workers appears to be in response to falling availability of candidates to fill permanent vacancies. Following the publication of official data showing that UK unemployment has fallen to 4.6% (the lowest level since 1975) this month’s JobsOutlook survey of 606 employers reveals: 

  • A third (33%) report having no spare workforce capacity within their organisation;
  • Nearly half (46%) anticipate a shortage of candidates to fill permanent roles in the next year, with construction, engineering & technical, and health & social care highlighted as particular areas of concern;
  • Of those that use temporary workers, 65% do so to manage peaks in demand, 57% need them to respond to growth, and 48% say they want to gain access to key strategic skills.

The increased use of temporary workers may have a financial burden for some businesses, with one in five (19%) claiming that agency workers earn more than permanent staff in equivalent roles.

REC chief executive, Kevin Green, said, “This looks like a tipping point for the jobs 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.

“For jobseekers this means there are opportunities out there to boost earnings, because employers are prepared to pay a premium for people to fill vacancies on an interim basis. We could see this become a more attractive option for people in the context of rising inflation and poor pay growth.

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