A new study by the CBI and Accenture has found that 95% of the firms polled see the UK’s flexible labour market as crucial to the UK economy in 2015.

With no other issue commanding such overwhelming unanimity, 82% of the responding firms said that the UK’s flexible labour market, which includes highly-skilled Umbrella Company employees and other independent professionals, helped them to respond rapidly to growth opportunities, while 81% valued their fast response to fluctuating business demands.

The survey covered over 320 businesses employing more than 1.25 million people. While 50% of the respondents, covering all UK regions, wished to expand their permanent headcounts during 2015, there were clearly also growing concerns that a skills shortage could thwart these plans. The skills gap was cited as the biggest workforce threat by 63%, closely followed by the growing burden of employment regulation at 61%.

Addressing recent employment law reforms, CBI director-general Katja Hall said that eroding the fabric of the country’s flexible labour market could result in additional cost being piled onto businesses, jeopardising jobs in the process. Politicians, she said, “must take care.”

Ms Hall added: “As the survey shows, the UK’s flexibility makes it attractive as a place to create jobs and it has been crucial to the recovery, allowing firms to hire quickly or tailor their staff levels to meet customer needs. In areas such as agency work and other flexible forms of employment, politicians of all shades need to appreciate the jobs and opportunity that these approaches bring.”

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