‘Only for those that can’t find a permanent position?’: time to change the way we think of temporary work
Temporary work is much more vital to the economy and rewarding to employees than its largely negative press would suggest. Temporary workers are extremely important to the estimated 80% of British business that does not have access to a surplus workforce. There has for a while existed a perception within wider society that the sole purpose of this nature of employment is to provide a ‘stopgap’ for desperate businesses. However, this is far from being the only purpose that temporary work serves, and the employer isn’t the only party that can benefit from this arrangement. To recent graduates, those considering a career change or looking to get back into the office environment after a break, temporary work offers a great way to help these groups to further their career. It is important that the negative connotations surrounding the idea of temporary work are removed and more people are encouraged to embrace what can be an extremely beneficial tool to candidates at all stages of their career.
Negative press of temporary work
Many of the issues people take with temporary employment are based on their perception that it is purely beneficial to the employer. The idea that the power is exclusively held by the employer has been rife within the national media in the last few years. Stories have been published from high profile newspapers publicising cases of temporary candidate being mistreated at the hands of employers. However, it is important to recognise how such mistreatment has occurred to the minority and that for many the benefits enjoyed by temporary workers even exceed those on permanent contracts. 36% of employers in a recent JobsOutlook survey admitted that temp workers earn more than they would on a permanent contract at their company. Moreover, the legal loopholes that permit the ability of the employer to manipulate the worker to suit their need will be closed off by government reforms made within the last few months. Two of the most important of those reforms prevent UK businesses from employing their temporary workers on cheaper rates than permanent staff or denying their workers the chance to request a more stable contract. The worker being better protected by the law will hopefully be a significant factor in convincing more people to be open to the option of temporary employment.
This legislation comes off the back of the government’s realisation of the increased importance of temporary workers to the economy in recent times. During the last quarter of 2018 there were more than 900,000 UK workers employed in a temporary capacity. The rising tide of people actively making themselves available for temporary employment is helping to challenge the stereotype that temporary workers only resort to this employment out of necessity. It is now estimated that over 80% of temporary employees in Germany work on those terms by choice. People now more than ever realise the benefits of temporary work and do not only consider it only as a last resort. The value that this form of work can provide to workers at all stages of their career is gradually becoming more widely appreciated.
A great option for recent graduates
Perhaps the group that can benefit most from temping are graduates. This is for a number of reasons. The first being, that temporary work is a great way to get a feel for an industry without having to make a long-term commitment to working within it. Many graduates who are unsure of their career path after graduation, can get their foot in the door in an industry of interest and try their hand at it with no obligation to commit long term. In other words, temporary work can constitute a trial period in this instance. If you try it for a couple of weeks and do not especially enjoy it, you have the freedom to discontinue your work within that industry and take on work in a separate industry of interest. However, if you do find this temporary placement has provided the challenge you were looking for you can concentrate your job search upon the industry which you temped in. Not only this but you now have invaluable experience within this industry which increases your attractiveness to a potential employer. Getting your foot in the door is much harder if you apply for permanent positions fresh out of university without being awarded the luxury of a placement year. Employers will generally bypass the interview stage for a temporary position due to the lack of long-term commitment and a need to get someone in as soon as possible. Therefore, even if you have no experience in the said area you will get a chance to showcase what you can do much easier than if you attempt to look for a permanent position without the correct skills/experience apparent on your CV.
Increasing your attractiveness to an employer in an alternative industry of interest
This leads us into how temporary work can be advantageous for those considering a career change further down the line in their careers. For a similar reason to graduates, those considering a career change can tend to struggle securing a permanent position without the relevant experience in their chosen field. Many in this position will tend to see temporary work as a step backwards or time wasted that could be spent concentrating on a position with more security. However, the reality is that a temporary position could be the best route to advancing your career. Aside from just providing an easier way to gaining experience, the position could well end up being the permanent job you are looking for. Many more companies than you would think offer the opportunity for the right candidate to go permanent should they so desire. This is because the ‘trial period’ provided by temporary work is hugely helpful to the employer as well as the employee. It gives the employer the chance to view and evaluate first-hand how effective the worker is in the position and also how that person fits within the team and the working environment. Consequently, temporary contracts remove the need to guess the fit and productivity of a potential permanent candidate from a couple of interviews and provide arguably a more efficient way of assessing the potential success of a candidate working for your organisation. Therefore, if an employer of interest has an opportunity available in a temporary position you would be wise to take this on the basis that it could end up becoming the permanent job you are looking for in time!
Avoiding the dreaded gap in your employment history
A further way in which temporary employment can aid the candidate is through eliminating the dreaded gap in employment history. Rightly or wrongly, most employers will be concerned by an extensive gap between jobs regardless of the reason behind it. Participating in temporary work whilst between jobs is the best way to show an employer a strong work ethic and motivation to get back into the workplace. To most employers today taking on temporary assignments does not automatically indicate your inability to attain a permanent job, as they are increasingly aware of the importance of candidates finding a position which is right for them. Employers are now extremely wary of the problems caused by high staff turnover. Rather than seeing candidates taking temporary assignments as a negative, employers in modern times are now starting to see this as something that enhances your reputation. Your reputation will be enhanced by appearing to be a candidate with a highly commendable attitude to work; opting to get back into the workplace rather than spend time outside of the workplace waiting for the perfect opportunity to arise. An employer is much, much more likely to question why you spent an extended period of time outside of work completely rather than why you ‘only’ attained a temporary rather than permanent contract for your last position.
Society’s perception of temporary work revitalised?
It is often hard to reform a reputation of something that is so widely believed for so long. However, it would appear as though people are beginning to warm to the idea of temporary work being beneficial to the employee as well as the employer. With the temporary work force set to reach one million by 2020, it would suggest the numbers embracing this form of work is set to continue to rise. I for one welcome this trend. Particularly now that the recent reform to temp worker rights been implemented, ensuring that in theory that the exploitation of agency workers by UK business is brought to an end. If these reforms do not totally stop this, they will at least reduce it significantly and encourage yet more workers of all ages to consider how temporary work can provide a boost to their career prospects. There is a slight concern that businesses will reduce the availability of temporary vacancies as a result of the reforms. However, many have no option but to turn to temp workers to plug gaps caused by holiday, illness or maternity leave. Moreover, the benefits to the business will still vastly outweigh the potential for increased costs that the reforms may cause. This is why I believe that temporary work will only continue to rise in popularity, with yet more businesses and candidates reaping the benefits that this arrangement provides.