- Jo Faragher
Despite predictions that uncertainty around Brexit would lead to widespread job losses, the latest labour market data has given cause for optimism.
The ONS confirmed last week that there are 31.77 million people now in work – up by more than 550,000 in the past year and by 2.7 million since 2010. This represents a record high of 74.5% employment, while unemployment (at 4.9%) is its lowest in more than a decade.
But these headline figures don’t completely convey what’s going on behind the scenes, namely a marked rise in people making the choice to work for themselves.
As the Association for Independent Professionals points out, “the number of self-employed workers is soaring, growing almost four times faster than employees, and this is a sign of a long-term structural change in the labour market”.
This structural change, the growth of the so-called ‘gig economy’, is a positive choice for many freelance workers. There are risks attached to being self-employed, but the freedom of being your own boss and being able to ramp up work or scale back when necessary appeals.
But not everyone falls into this bracket. Some unscrupulous employers have been accused of pushing workers into self-employment so they can shirk their tax and national insurance obligations. In some cases, this means those workers fail to receive the minimum wage and often miss out on benefits such as paid holidays or sick leave, despite the fact they’re working just as hard as other, permanent colleagues.
While there’s a lot to be celebrated about both high employment and the rise of flexibility in the labour market, let’s not forget those who end up in self-employment because of circumstance.
It’s up to hiring managers, HR professionals and recruiters – when seeking the best solution to skill up their business or support a new business – to not just look for the staffing mix that will have the least impact on profit. Building future careers, alongside supporting strong interim projects and contracts, will help keep those employment rates up, and hopefully mean you have happy and engaged staff as well.