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The growing use of temporary and contingent workers from large employers shows prioritising flexibility will be an ongoing trend for 2021

By Tom Pickersgill, co-founder and CEO of Orka

Staffing over the past year has been a bit of a headache for large employers to say the least. Uncertainty has plagued the jobs market and headlines seem to oscillate between concerning unemployment rates and staff shortages in a number of sectors. But one trend that’s happening across the employment sector which hasn’t been talked about so much is the growing tendency for large employers to turn to temporary or contingent staff to fill gaps.

On our own staffing platform, Orka Works, which supports 60,000 workers in the security space, we’ve seen a 400% increase in demand for contingent staff in the last three months, and we’re not the only platform noticing this spike. Other recent stories show that hourly wages for temporary workers in the UK’s hospitality sector has risen by as much as 11% for weekday hospitality staff and by 14% for weekend workers.[1]

So, what’s causing this trend and what does it mean for workers and employers?

Firstly, one of the main drivers is the flexibility using contingent workers gives employers. Businesses have been hit hard by the pandemic and particularly by the unpredictability of moving in and out of national and regional lockdowns. Unsurprisingly, the experience has made many employers tentative about hiring a large number of staff on full-time contracts. Taking workers on a temporary basis until we fully emerge from the pandemic, and are safely on the road to economic recovery, makes much more business sense.

Another reason for the trend, is the increasing popularity of temporary staffing platforms amongst large employers – which offer a far more efficient solution to filling roles. These platforms can help businesses save huge amounts of time and money in sectors with typically very high turnover rates, giving them access to a large pool of reliable, vetted and high-quality workers.

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This is especially important at the moment given the widespread staff shortages across hospitality, retail and logistics as EU nationals choose to leave the UK in the wake of Brexit, and other full-time employees pursue opportunities in other sectors, where there is greater job security. Some figures suggest that searches by EU-based jobseekers for work in the UK were down by 36% in May from average levels in 2019, and low-paid jobs in hospitality, the care sector and warehouses recorded the biggest declines at 41%.[2]

But while part of the jobs market is experiencing talent shortages, there remains a strong pool of temporary workers. This could be for several reasons. In the wake of the pandemic, for example, individuals might be looking for temporary work as a stop gap in between finding permanent work after being made redundant or entering the jobs market for the first time. For others struggling to make ends meet, it’s an opportunity to make a little bit more money on the side.

However, there’s also a bigger reason at play here. Work platforms offering temporary employment were already increasing in popularity before the pandemic, because of the growing trend of people seeking flexible work opportunities that fit around their lifestyle. In the modern world, people don’t always want rigid 9-5 jobs, five days a week. Temporary work platforms allow people to pursue job flexibility, while still offering the security of continuous, regular employment with sick pay, protected holiday and pension packages. COVID-19 and the emphasis it has placed on temporary work will only accentuate this, giving large employers more options.

The temporary work market has seen even more disruption by worker technology, now known as ‘workertech’, giving employers more benefits through automated processes when it comes to hiring temporary employees. And from an employee’s perspective, the technology can create a more streamlined approach to work, allowing them to book in shifts with the click of a button through different employers.

Businesses have had to adapt to the pandemic in all sorts of ways. But large businesses hiring more temporary and contingent workers is a trend that’s here to stay. It’s an approach that delivers much needed flexibility, especially with the onset of workertech, for employers and employees alike, helping both to get back on their feet and better manage any other external shocks that might be coming up further down the line.

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