Employers face temp worker shortage over busy festive season

Employers should brace themselves for a shortage of temporary agency cover over the busy Christmas period despite rising unemployment levels, according to new research.

A survey of 2,500 recruitment agencies by de Poel, a purchaser of temporary labour, reveals that more than two-thirds (69%) expected a dearth of workers over the festive season.

The logistics industry has the most negative outlook, with 42% of agencies predicting a heavy shortfall of workers, while nearly a quarter (24%) of care sector employers anticipated a shortage of workers.

Manufacturing is also likely to feel the pinch of a lack of temporary staff, according to 14% of agencies in that sector. Elsewhere, the retail and construction industries came out the best with only 8% of those surveyed in the retail sector expecting a shortage and 7% in the construction industry.

John Salisbury, managing director of de Poel, said that the shortage of temporary staff is worse than last Christmas because demand for staff has risen with companies preparing themselves for a spending rush before the VAT rise and public sector cuts kick in. He also said that there was an onus on employers to do their best to attract temporary employees. He said: “HR professionals need to do everything possible to attract and retain the best workers if they’re to survive this shortfall and prevent it happening next year.

“Temps can be more selective in the jobs they choose and often migrate to the better paid ones, leaving the companies that pay lower with a shortfall of workers. Managing holiday time and monitoring levels of absenteeism is also critical. EU workers often save and take all their holidays over Christmas to visit family and the festive season can be a time when absenteeism and sickness increases.”

He added that the Agency Workers Regulations, which come into force in 2011 and give temporary agency workers the same rights as permanent staff after 12 weeks in a job, should encourage more people to consider temporary agency labour as an alternative to permanent work.

John Philpott, CIPD chief economist, said he was unsurprised by the news: “The CIPD isn’t surprised by strong demand for temps at present. Our own surveys suggest this and it’s normal at this stage of an economic recovery. But with unemployment still very high a shortage of temps is unexpected, which might suggest that many job seekers still prefer to stick it out in the hope of finding a permanent job.”

Last month, Personnel Today reported how a double-dip trend in employment remained a possibility with staff appointments in October increasing at their slowest rate for 14 months.

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