Over half of permanent employees now open to contract roles amid current climate

According to staffing firm Walters People, 58% of professionals in full-time work have stated that they would consider switching to a contract role for the right pay, with 43% stating that the primary driver is the current economic climate.

It also seems company culture and workplace perks are declining in value, with just 11% of professionals stating that this would be a deterrent for them when considering contract roles.

Just a fifth of professionals stated that they would not at all be interested in switching to a contract role – a small number given that 48% of workers admitted that their biggest concern about switching to a contract position was the role end date, followed by lack of employment rights (26%).

The new Contractor Recruitment Guide from staffing firm Walters People reveals professionals are increasingly considering whether a contract role could be their next career move.

Janine Blacksley, director of Walters People, said: “With the rise of fully remote working and four-day week trails, it is no surprise to hear that professionals are rethinking how they carry out their day job – and contracting can be a viable option.

“Once upon a time, permanent jobs provided the best level of job security, but with the economy as turbulent as it is, professionals are becoming more comfortable with jobs not being ‘for life’ and that is where the gig economy comes in.”

Mindset over experience

When asked what they considered the core attributes are for a successful contractor, over a third of permanent employees (36%) stated that being ‘hard working/ goals driven’ was the primary trait, followed by an individual needing to have ‘a lot of contacts and connects’ (29%).

Surprisingly, just a fifth believed that skills or experience (21%) is the primary characteristic of a successful contractor, followed by the ability to work autonomously (14%).

In fact, 40% of employers have stated that the primary reason they have hired contractors is down to the speed of hire, with just a quarter (27%) stating that it was so that they could hire a specialist skillset.

Janine added: “There has been a misconception that contracting belongs only to highly experienced workers or those with a specialist skillset, but the very nature of contracting is professionals who are able to come into a role quickly, hit the ground running and help to complete a project or fill a temporary hole within a business – and that can be any individual at any seniority level.”

Job-hoppers

Considering young professionals are increasingly adopting tactics like ‘job-hopping’ as a way of career fast-tracking, Walters People identifies this cohort as ideally suited for contract positions.

Junior professionals (with up to a years’ experience in a professional services field) have a median tenure of just three months, with this increasing to six months for those with up to three years’ experience.

The key to work-life balance

46% of contract professionals noted the promise of a good work-life balance as a top feature that attracts them to a new role. Currently, in the UK, almost three quarters (74%) of contractors are working remotely.

In fact, just a minority of permanent employees (15%) are concerned about the responsibility they will need to take over their workload if they were to contract, with many feeling like this won’t impact their work-life balance.

Janine said: “We are all too aware of how much young professionals value attaining a work-life balance, as well as their habit of getting itchy feet and being quick to consider their next career step. Both of these aspects are foundational to contractor roles – as is the ability to earn more than their permanent counterparts.

“Added to that, young workers have been described as the most entrepreneurial – they place real value on being able to let their work do the talking rather than the hours served.

“Contract roles provide young professionals with the perfect springboard to be the best in their field. They are also great resume-builders and provide opportunity to build-up experience as well as hone a host of new skills.”

Better pay than permanent

Robert Walters’ 2023 Salary Survey calculates that a data analyst working in a large company can earn up to £80k, however, working as a contractor on a full-time basis for a year they can see annual earnings of just over £112k – over £30k more. Both salary projections are before tax.

Typically, the value of a permanent job can come in the soft benefits and perks. However, considering the average UK company’s spend on benefits & perks packages is £1,200k per employee, per year, this pales in comparison to the higher pay you can receive for the same job as a contractor.

The top five sectors for hiring contractors in 2023 are:

  • IT and digital
  • Healthcare and life sciences
  • Engineering and construction
  • Finance and accounting
  • Creative industries

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