Employers report temporary worker shortages

The latest Jobs Outlook survey from the Recruitment & Employment Confederation (REC) warns almost half of employers say there aren’t enough temporary workers to cover their needs.

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Published as seasonal hiring reaches its peak, and the day after new ONS data showing the number of people on zero-hours contracts remaining close to historic highs, the REC’s Jobs Outlook identified the “availability of temporary agency workers is becoming a bigger problem”.  

Recruiter confidence in the economy returning?

The professional body for the recruitment industry’s monthly index asked 600 UK employers and business owners about their hiring intentions. It found for permanent roles, the trend continues downward. The REC found only 14% of employers it surveyed are planning to increase their headcount in the short-term, down from 22% this time last year. Looking back over the past 12 months, the proportion of employers that increased their headcount (44%) or pay (47%) also fell.Despite the figures, the REC found recruiter confidence seven points higher than in previous surveys, bringing the measure closer to positive territory. Just over a quarter (26%) believe economic conditions have improved. However, confidence overall remains negative on the index at -3, with 29% saying economic conditions have worsened over the last month.
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Greater certainty on hiring intentions – but temporary worker availability squeezed?

Coinciding with improving employer sentiment on the economy is greater certainty around hiring intentions, particularly for temporary workers.This measure has been improving since its low in February, when 34% said they didn’t know what their short-term plans were. In March, this figure fell to 18%. It declined further in the most recent study to 12%, perhaps relating to the annual seasonal hiring spike for hotel, catering, tourism and agricultural jobs.With caution around hiring into permanent roles and greater certainty around short-term plans for temporary workers, almost half (47%) of employers now believe there will be a shortage of appropriate candidates in any of the sectors they cover, up from a third (35%) last month. 

‘Post-Brexit immigration system has to reflect the importance of temporary staff’

Commenting on these trends, the REC’s director of policy, Tom Hadley, said: “The boosted mood of employers is an important step forward, especially as permanent hiring has been on a downwards trajectory. This more positive vibe will hopefully see more businesses growing their teams and ramping up their hiring plans. “However, we can’t get ahead of ourselves. Too many employers still feel down about the economy. Even if they want to expand their workforce, they are worried about finding the workers they need, especially for temporary roles.“Short-term placements are crucial for jobs that are seasonal or project-based, like hotel staff during holiday season, or construction workers on major infrastructure projects.  “Employers in hospitality, construction and health especially rely on temporary workers from the EU and will suffer if they can’t access them. The post-Brexit immigration system has to reflect the importance of temporary staff and ensure that processes are as quick and efficient as possible.”
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