Contractors in the driving seat as skills gap bites

08/21/2015 - 11:39

Most UK businesses plan to take on more contractors and freelancers in the next three months, new data suggests.

The latest JobsOutlook survey by the Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC) reveals that 98% of companies intend to maintain or increase the size of their non-permanent workforce during the next quarter.

The need to gain “short-term access to key strategic skills” is the main factor driving this growth in demand, as UK plc struggles to find suitably qualified and experienced permanent candidates.

Indeed, 79% of the 600 organisations quizzed cited this as the primary reason for engaging contractors.

Other key findings include the fact that 95% of employers have little or no spare capacity to accommodate increases in demand, and that pay rises were twice as likely in the private sector as the public sector during the past 12 months.

Neil Armitage, operations director at, described REC’s findings as evidence of the value that hiring organisations now attach to contractors and other contingent professionals.

He said: “Long gone are the days when businesses would engage contractors in order to cover for permanent staff or cope with sudden spikes in demand.

“These survey results prove what we and other service providers have been saying for a long time, namely that contractors play a vital role in the UK economy by giving organisations access to niche skills and expertise that may otherwise have been beyond their reach.”

Kevin Green, chief executive at REC, added: “A continued lack of workers with the appropriate skills means that temporary staff are increasingly needed to fill areas of skills shortage. With capacity tight and employers already aware of candidate shortages, it’s clear that competition for top talent will be stiff.”