The latest labour market figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) reveal that people in temporary work numbered 1.6 million in the three months between September and November, a year-on-year decrease of 1.4 per cent. Compared to the previous three months (June to August), this represents a fall of 2.1 per cent.
The total number of people in employment (encompassing those in temporary, part-time and full-time work) climbed by 294,000 between September and November to reach 31.8 million, a rise of 0.9 per cent year-on-year, although a virtual standstill on the previous three months (June to August).
The UK employment rate reached 74.5 per cent – the joint highest level attained since comparable records began being compiled in 1971. The unemployment rate fell year-on-year from 5.1 per cent in September to November 2015 to 4.8 per cent in the same period in 2016.
Commenting, Julia Kermode, the CEO of Umbrella Company trade association the Freelancer and Contractor Services Association (FCSA), noted the drop of 22,000 in the number of temporary employees and the fact that 71 per cent of new employees are working full-time.
Both developments, she said, fly in the face of recent claims in the media portraying the UK’s employment figures as propelled by rising numbers of people in non-permanent, part-time ‘precarious’ roles.
She added that perceptions of temporary workers as not having a choice over their status is contradicted by the fact that there was an increase of 29,000 people who chose temporary employment specifically because they did not want a permanent role.
Alongside the reduction in temporary employment, she observed, there was a concomitant year-on-year increase in the number of people choosing self-employment amounting to 133,000 – a trend that confirms a clear change in the dynamics of work.
Ms Kermode continued to say that the self-employed are essential pillars of the UK economy, serving a critical role in economic recovery. She demanded that the government ensures self-employed workers are supported in order for the stability of the workforce to be ongoing.
Meanwhile, Lorence Nye, Economic Policy Adviser at the Association of Independent Professionals and the Self-Employed (IPSE), also applauded the rise of freelancing and self-employment while noting that more than half of these workers are highly skilled contracting professionals. This, he said, makes the UK economy one of the world’s most knowledge-based and flexible.
Of these professionals, he noted “They’re on hand to help companies manage peaks and troughs in demand,” which is especially important in these uncertain times.
The changing structure of the labour market, added Mr Nye, highlights the importance of the Taylor Review of modern working practices, which will hopefully create an improved understanding of the innovative ways in which people are now working and how tax legislation and employment status reflect them.