Every quarter we review our outplacement statistics and one of the categories is resettlement into temporary/interim/fixed term contract roles. As Chiumento is also a provider of permanent and interim HR professionals, we see both sides of the interim story.
If our own experience is typical, the interim market has changed significantly during the recession. In some vertical markets at least it is no longer as viable or attractive a career option as it once was. Day rates have fallen, the length of contracts are shorter, renewals less common and competition from those prepared to accept fixed term contracts increased.
All that might explain why this quarter, those moving to become interims – which is valid resettlement only where our delegate has made a long-term choice to work on interim assignments – has again dropped (from 11% to 7%), with a corresponding drop in those moving into self-employment – often involving contract work – (from 20% to 13%).
This may be good news. The job market is picking up and there are more ‘traditional’ roles available. For many seeking a job move, permanent employment is the first choice, but market conditions have been such that delegates have had to broaden their options. Alongside that, the recession has driven a cautious mindset among employers. Some have cut all external recruitment and others only employed temporary external support when they had no alternative. That has now changed with the re-emergence of the phrase ‘the war for talent’ as organisations vie for the best candidates.
What does that mean for job searchers?
Our experience suggests that opportunities for genuine interim assignments in some professions – usually 6 months working on a specific and non-repeatable project, or covering for a permanent role (eg where the incumbent has taken maternity leave) – have reduced. Organisations have scrutinised their recruitment budgets and policies and look very carefully for internal secondment candidates before bringing in an ‘outsider’. This means the number of interim assignments, certainly in HR, has reduced, so those making this career choice find it an increasingly competitive marketplace.
At the same time, the popularity of ‘fixed term contracts’ has increased. This allows the employer to make the same short-term commitment at what is almost always a much keener price. Whilst many fixed term contracts eventually turn into permanent opportunities, employing staff on this basis continues to foster uncertainty among job searchers who are pleased to have landed a job… but for how long?
The impact is felt in efforts to get a mortgage too, with many banks refusing to lend against a fixed term contract unless it is for more than a year. This flies in the face of what is happening in reality, where fixed term contracts are shorter than ever. Add to that the debate on Zero Hours contracts – for example this recent article and you have to question how enthusiasm from employers for flexibility can sit comfortably with the uncertainty it brings, further exacerbated by the banks’ attitude towards their employment status. That caution again.
It is good to see the job market picking up, but the recession has changed the employment market. It is therefore vital that our banks recognise the new realities happening in the marketplace and respond by not condemning those accepting more flexible contract arrangements. For now, they are making it ever more difficult for those already feeling a bit down on their luck to have any sense of security both in their job and in their property situation.