A new study suggests that contractors working through umbrella companies are being increasingly sought by the UK’s SMEs, even though economic conditions remain uncertain.

The report by the international office space supplier Regus indicates that SMEs are turning to skilled PAYE umbrella contractors in an effort to remain rapidly scalable in precarious times while simultaneously hiring the staff they need to complete essential business projects.

Moreover, SMEs trading internationally are taking the lead in capitalising on flexible workers – 49% of them plan to hire freelancers, while 39% intend to hire remote workers.

Paradoxically, it seems to be the very grimness of the prevailing economic winds that has prompted the uptake of contractors and other freelancers; business confidence amongst SMEs has actually fallen by 20% since April, the report reveals, and profit and revenue growth has also been tumbling. However, SMEs trading with oversees markets show a markedly better profile than their domestic counterparts, with business confidence reaching 88% (compared to 79% for domestic firms). They’re also more likely to be reporting increasing profitability (30% compared to 20%)

Regus’ Regional Director, Celia Donne, explained, “SMEs realise that they must continue investing in growth, so freelance and remote working are becoming increasingly popular solutions to increase headcount while remaining flexible and rapidly scalable. 27% of the employed population in the UK are now deemed to be flexible workers, which illustrates the significant shift that has already taken place in the employment market.”

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