Recruiters specialising in the professional end of the UK jobs market are forecasting that employers will respond to impending Brexit negotiations by adopting a “wait and see” approach to permanent hiring while increasing their professional contracting assignments.

These findings come from a survey by the Association of Professional Staffing Companies (APSCo) as part of its Growing Together project to unlock new insights into the current issues that the professional recruitment sector must grapple with to ensure continued growth.

While 85 per cent of the professional recruitment leaders surveyed report confidence in the successful growth of their businesses in the coming 12 months, nearly a third (30 per cent) believe that Brexit will have a subduing effect on financial performance.

There is near-unanimity amongst the respondents that talent is essential to growth: 98 per cent agree that “having the right people on board” is either “important” or “very important.” When asked what they see as the main obstacle to growth, over half (57 per cent) of the respondents cited the necessity for upskilling the workforce as their primary concern.

Considering the specific impact of Brexit, half of those polled expect a decline in permanent vacancies as end clients take a “wait and see” approach. A similar proportion (44 per cent) expect professional contracting assignments to increase as employers turn to skilled Umbrella Company Employees and other independent freelancers to manage fluctuations in demand and fulfil business-critical projects. Additionally, 40 per cent intend to review their business strategy in response to the UK exiting the European Union.

When asked about the usefulness of APSCo membership, 70 per cent of current members said that the services provided by the trade body to reduce risk, including legal support, are most useful. Of the non-members polled, 72 per cent rate APSCo’s market intelligence as its most useful service.

Commenting on the findings, APSCo’s CEO, Ann Swain, said that they conformed what she and her colleagues have long suspected: that access to “great talent” is essential for growth. She also expressed continuing concern for the professional recruitment sector.

Staff turnover and limited access to continuing professional development (CPD) opportunities can impact negatively on productivity, she noted, although recruiters are adamant that having the right people “on the bus” is the single-most important factor in propelling business success.

Ms Swain continued: “It is unsurprising that the impact of Brexit is being felt by the professional recruitment sector. However, it is encouraging that business leaders are pre-empting possible consequences so that they can flex and adapt in response. We may well see a drop in permanent vacancies and a subsequent uptick in contract roles, but professional recruiters are nothing if not resilient, and the most successful businesses continually respond to market demand.”

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