The contractor and freelance market cover the entire breadth and depth of industry and job roles. At one end, you have high-earning professionals such as doctors, lawyers and IT contractors on significant day and single shift rates. However, at the other end, there are those whose skills and experience are more commoditised, such as those working in roles such as food processing, warehousing and delivery.
For the professionals, unless they have over-extended themselves in their monthly outgoings, the cost of living crisis should not represent too much of a challenge. However, for those in temp and contract roles that are much lower down the pecking order, it is a very different story, and this may pose a real problem for recruiters and businesses going forward.
Such jobs can be insecure and may be subject to variable demand, such as those related to seasonal events like Harvest, or Christmas. The global resurgence of demand that has accompanied the world recovery from Covid has created a huge requirement for resources and commodities, the production of which was cut back during the pandemic.
With markets surging and the increased costs being passed down to consumers, the last thing needed was a military conflict that has severely shaken the energy, grain and commodities markets. And the least well off workers are set to feel the worst effects as prices spiral to levels that many will find unaffordable.
Work benefits and the tax system may provide some help, but with domestic energy prices set to triple and road fuel prices seemingly out of control, tax credits and other benefits can only go so far. Direct government intervention has so far been lightweight, blaming runaway costs on market forces.
Some may already be in debt, while many others may be about to be tipped over the edge. The problem for businesses is that the psychological impact of poverty could precipitate a skills shortage as workers fold under the mental strain.
A recruitment agency cannot be a social welfare organisation, but it does owe a duty of care to temp and contract workers in terms of securing appropriate pay and conditions for their particular industry, skill level and responsibilities.
So, what can agencies do to help temp and contract workers, maximise their incomes in response to the cost of living crisis? Here are some ideas that may help.
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