Employers have stepped up their use of flexible staffing while downgrading their plans to increase their permanent workforce, as economic uncertainty continues.
This is according to the latest JobsOutlook survey from the Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC), which highlighted a reduction in the number of employers that said they are planning to increase their permanent workforce in the next three months - down from 74% to 67%.
When asked about their longer-term plans, 49% of employers said that they expect to expand their permanent workforce over the next 12 months, compared with 66% last month.
By contrast, there has been an increase in the number of employers looking to increase their use of agency staff. Some 83% of employers predict their use of temporary staff to either increase or remain the same, an increase from 80% last month.
There has been a fall in the number of employers that forecast a reduction in their use of agency workers - down to 17% from 20% last month.
The REC said that this shift reflects ongoing economic uncertainty and confirms that the need for flexible staffing will not be unduly affected by the forthcoming Agency Workers Regulations.
According to the REC, the overall number of temporary workers in the UK is at an all-time high of 1.6 million, which the REC claims is giving employers more flexible workforce options while the current economic conditions prevail.
Commenting on the current data, Roger Tweedy, the REC's director of research, said: "The fact that employers have reviewed their permanent hiring intentions this month is clearly a reflection of the uncertain economic context. However, overall confidence remains at the same level as this time last year and it is interesting to note that the number of employers planning to maintain or increase their permanent workforce over the coming 12 months still stands at over 90%.
"With the economy continuing to stagnate, businesses will understandably remain cautious, which is why we are seeing an increase in the longer-tem demand for flexible staff such as temporary and contract workers. This is a timely reminder of how a flexible workforce can help employers meet peaks and troughs in demand for services and products during uncertain times."
For more information on the forthcoming Agency Workers Regulations, take a look at Personnel Today's dedicated section on the topic.
XpertHR has information on equal treatment for agency workers, as well as FAQs on the subject.