Contractors are divided between optimists, pessimists and stoics vis-à-vis business prospects for 2012, according to a recent PCG poll amongst its members.

23% of respondents appeared quite bullish about business in 2012, declaring that they expected prospects to improve. However, the confirmed optimists were a relative minority: the rest were split right down the middle. 38% believe that things would be much the same as in 2011 (the stoics) and 39% believe that things can only get worse. It remains to be seen, of course, which of these three turns out to be the realists.

The PCG claims that 2011 was a “tumultuous year” for PAYE umbrella contactors and other freelancers. They have had to contend with the implementation of the Agency Workers Regulations, which generated a good deal of uncertainty amongst many industry commentators who feared that it may have unintended, destructive effects on skilled temporary contractors. It was designed to protect vulnerable, low-skilled workers from exploitation, but some feared it would deter employers from using the services of high-end temporary professionals as well.

Not only that, but for contractors working through limited companies particularly, there has been ongoing uncertainty about the effects of IR35, which the Chancellor decided to retain with improved administration by HMRC earlier in the year. The reform process is underway, but the decision to keep the controversial rules means that uncertainties continue for those affected by them.

However, a number of recent polls (including the REC/KPMG’s latest Report on Jobs) suggest that demand for experts in IT contracting is rising healthily, a trend that is expected to continue into 2012.

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