Large numbers of public sector workers either already know or are anxiously awaiting news of their fate, as the government’s deficit reduction austerity measures begin to bite. It’s old news now that thousands of jobs in the public sector will be lost – but it’s perhaps not so well known that contractors working for umbrella companies or via their own limited companies may benefit from the cutbacks in permanent employment in many public sector organisations.

The UK’s foremost recruitment industry body, the Recruitment and Employment Federation (REC), believes that the public sector will need to adapt to new stringencies by embracing effective flexible working patterns instead of maintaining the traditional employment of permanent staff. The Director of Policy and Professional Services at REC, Tom Hadley, pointed to the shortfall in the availability of midwives in the NHS as an example of the challenges facing the public sector.

Cautioning against “knee-jerk cuts” in response to the public spending squeeze – measures which will not only adversely affect patient care but could place “unsustainable pressure” on remaining personnel – he advocated the greater use of flexible staffing arrangements. Locum and temporary staff can be readily drafted in to meet peaks in demand, he added, providing vital cover in emergencies such as complicated births.

Perhaps some of the more canny public sector employees who are facing redundancy may rise, phoenix-like, from the ashes of their old jobs to return as PAYE umbrella workers, as essential work will still need to be undertaken in the post-cuts world.

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