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Temp staff in a skills shortage – The hidden benefit to workers

Given a choice, we would all live in a world where supply and demand were equally matched. It would be perfect if every open vacancy in any business meant the perfect candidate walked through the door and everyone simply went back to work. However, while it may not be quite having the impact some of the gloomier commentators predicted, there is a skills shortage in some areas, and we need to think about it. One method of approaching the situation is via an increased reliance on temporary staff.

In a recent post, we were looking at the impact of technological development and A.I. on the job market and, while accepting that old adages like the one about people buying from people are still true, we basically said that change was coming and the best option was to accept that and roll with it. Flexibility is probably going to be a key skill in the coming years. That principle of flexibility applies equally well to the skills shortage. One approach, and it is one that many employers are now adopting, is to switch the workflow of the business to a more ‘project’ based system to allow for the inclusion of more temporary workers.

Unexpected benefits

One thing that is sometimes forgotten when we are discussing the skills shortage and low unemployment data is that for a lot of candidates, job seekers and even people currently in placements, being a temporary worker could provide an unexpected benefit.

To elaborate; as employers move to a more contract-based approach – so the opportunities for contract work increase. As the opportunities increase, the instability of being a contract worker decreases. In addition, the work available on contract may well be based on a more competitive approach by the employer. In a shortage, supply rules the market, so if you have particular specialist skills, then you may find that demand results in an increased street value for your experience. Being a freelance or contract worker usually means self-employment, and with a little planning, despite recent changes to the IR35 system, that can work in your favour financially and in a host of other ways. So, in practical terms, you could end up earning more than you would as a full-time employee.

For many people though, a good market for contract and temp work means a possible period of freedom to pursue a long-term goal such as focusing on a hobby, starting a business for themselves or simply spending more time with a loved one or as a carer. If you always wanted to row across the channel dressed as Paddington Bear for charity, then now may be a good time to do it.


So, are there downsides to being a temporary contract worker? Well, yes there are. The obvious instability question and the fear of not finding the next contract are still there. You need to be far more self-reliant about your pension and health care, and there is the question of the best route for self-employment status. It isn’t for everyone but, at the moment, it is probably right for more people than ever before.

Gig economy

Finally though, there is another aspect to the skills shortage and the use of temporary workers which is that despite the issues surrounding it the so-called ‘gig economy’ looks very much like it’s here for a while, if not to stay. Flexibility in how we approach the whole world of work may well be needed for many occupations in the near future. In terms of the short-term future, the current skills shortage could well be breaking ground for the new long-term employer/employee relationship.

As always we are glad to look at your career planning and talk through any of the possibilities in this article with either candidate or employer. Just give us a call, and we will be happy to help.