Category: Recruitment

The number of jobs for HR professionals fell by almost 40% last year, but it wasn’t all doom and gloom as there was an increase in demand for interim staff.

That was the finding of research carried out for the Association of Professional Staffing Companies (APSCo), using data provided by business intelligence specialist Vacancysoft.

Overall, vacancies for human resources specialists dropped by 38.1% on a year-on-year basis in 2020, which the trade association attributed this largely to an 80.1% drop in hiring in April 2020 during the first lockdown.

It said that the number of jobs on offer began to recover as the year went on and that by the final quarter of last year, vacancies were 12% higher than the same period in 2019.

The data also showed that many employers were reluctant to take on permanent staff due to the uncertainty caused by the pandemic, turning instead to interims. Last year hiring for temporary roles increased to 17.8%, up from 13.2% in 2019.

Ann Swain, CEO of APSCo, said: “It’s no surprise that demand for HR professionals reduced last year as the pandemic took hold, however our data suggests that by the end of the year the recovery was underway with recruitment levels rising once again.

“It is also interesting to note that demand for interims actually increased last year, indicative of the increasing reliance on the professional contingent workforce as employers turn to agile and flexible hiring solutions in an uncertain market. And as we progress throughout 2021 and lockdown measures are eased we expect to see the recruitment market for HR professionals continue on a positive trajectory.”

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The number of job vacancies in the UK has now surpassed pre-pandemic levels, with falls in redundancy and unemployment levels also pointing to much brighter prospects for UK workers than was the case a year ago.

 

The latest figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) showed that there were 862,000 vacancies in the April to June period, 77,500 more than in January to March 2020.

 

The ONS also reported that redundancy rates had fallen back to pre-pandemic levels during the quarter, with the unemployment rate falling 0.2 percentage points to 4.8%.

 

However, the number of payrolled employees has only risen above the levels seen before the first lockdown in some regions – the North East, North West, East Midlands and Northern Ireland.

 

Across the UK as a whole, while the number of employees rose 356,000 in June to 28.9 million, this figure remains 206,000 below February 2020 levels, suggesting that while there may be a high number of vacancies, some are going unfilled.

 

Indeed, Neil Carberry, Chief Executive of the Recruitment & Employment Confederation (REC), said: “Demand for staff is incredibly high right now, and recruiters are working flat out to fill roles – but serious worker shortages across the economy threaten to slow the recovery, especially in sectors like logistics, hospitality and IT.

 

“Firms need to be thinking hard about their offer to potential employees at a time like this, and government can support them by addressing long-standing business concerns about how the skills system supports our economy.”

 

‘Stick rather than twist’

Some of the shortages have come about due to the rapid reopening of the UK economy, but Tania Bowers, Legal Counsel and Head of Public Policy at APSCo, said there are also other factors at play.

 

“Aside from the struggles that staffing companies faced as hiring stalled at the beginning of the pandemic, available talent pools have also been impacted by both Brexit and the roll out of Off Payroll earlier this year.

 

“Temporary resources play a critical role in filling both sudden spikes in demand and resourcing gaps, but this segment of the workforce has been significantly impacted as IR35 was rolled out and the ability to tap into European contingent resources became unnecessarily complex following the UK’s exit from the Bloc.”

 

Emotional factors are also playing a part, added Kieran Boyle, Managing Director at CBK Recruitment: “We’ve found the candidate side of the market is as quiet as we have known, with very few people actively looking to make a move at present.

 

“The pandemic has created a safety first mindset, with people choosing to stick rather than twist. In certain sectors of the market, such as insurance, there are a phenomenal amount of vacancies, which has pushed salaries up as firms compete to nab what little talent there is available.”

 

Vacancies would seem to be leading to pay increases in other industries as well, with the ONS data showing that growth in annual average pay for the March to May period was an inflation-busting 7.3% for total pay and 6.6% for regular pay (excluding bonuses).

 

However, the ONS noted the rises were perhaps not quite as impressive as the first appeared: “Annual growth in average employee pay is being affected by temporary factors that have inflated the increase in the headline growth rate. These are compositional effects where there has been a fall in the number and proportion of lower-paid employee jobs so increasing average earnings and base effects where the latest months are now compared with the start of the coronavirus pandemic, when earnings were first affected and pushed down.”

 

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Businesses looking to engage tech contractors may need to rethink their pay rates and conditions, according to new research by Hays Technology.

A survey carried out by the specialist IT recruitment agency in May polled more than 600 contractors and hirers and was used to put together its UK Contractor Day Rate Guide 2021.

The research revealed that demand for technology expertise is increasing, but that skills shortages are hindering many firms’ efforts to hire talent. It reported a 21% increase in demand for IT contractors and a 17% increase in placements from H1 to H2.

Of the organisations polled, 42% said they did not have the required talent to achieve their current business objectives and more than 8 in 10 reported they had found it difficult to recruit contractors over the last year.

This supply and demand mismatch has led to day rate increases for many contractors, with some  project and change managers achieving increases of more than 10%. Overall, data gathered by Hays offices across the UK showed that technology day rates had increased by 0.8% over the last 12 months. Software developers had seen an average day rate rise of 2.4%.

James Hallahan, Director of Hays Technology in UK & Ireland, said: “Skills shortages abound in the technology sector and there are plentiful opportunities for tech contractors to be deployed within organisations that can’t find enough permanent employees with the right skills. Contractors with the most sought-after technical and soft skills, and those with a proven track record for successfully managing projects and leading change are going to expect assignments that deliver on flexibility and terms.”

Beyond pay

However, the Hays research also found that contractors wanted more than just pay increases: the majority now also wanted to be able to work remotely.

Many were already working from home for some of the time and more than half said their work-life balance had improved since March 2020, with almost three-quarters reporting that being able to work remotely was important to them.

Almost half (46%) now want greater flexibility with regard to hours and two in 10 said they wanted to change the expectation for them to work outside of their contracted hours to enhance their work-life balance.

The thorny issue of the IR35 reforms that were introduced in April remains a sticking point between contractors and hirers, found Hays.

“Most contractors want to stay outside of PAYE, presenting a potential shortage for organisations seeking to secure their skills. So, while the increase in activity means there is great demand for tech contractors, organisations are having a difficult time engaging with them. They may need to take an assignment-by-assignment view in order to attract the right skills and work with a recruitment specialist to help them secure the best talent,” said Hallahan.

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The Freelancer & Contractor Services Association (FCSA) has launched revised Codes of Compliance, which it says are tougher and even more transparent than previous versions.

Following a review that took five months, the new codes provide added assurance to agencies, hirers and contractors, according to the FCSA.

In particular, member firms must now provide more transparency to contractors, particularly in relation to holiday pay in umbrella employment contracts and on payslips.

Umbrella companies have come under repeated fire this year, with claims some unscrupulous providers withhold holiday pay and other benefits owed to workers. In April MP Ruth Cadbury went as far as to call for umbrella firms to be banned due to “significant malpractice” in the industry.

Legitimate umbrella providers have argued, however, that especially given the introduction of new IR35 rules earlier this year, there’s a clear need for such structures.

“As market conditions change so too must our codes,” said Phil Pluck, the FCSA’s Chief Executive. “This is to ensure the highest standards of compliance are continued to be met by our member firms. Which is why now, we’re announcing the launch of our latest Code revisions.

“The most comprehensive and compliant set of evidence-based standards now exist in our sector. No one else in the sector can give contractors or the supply chain this level of assurance.”

The FCSA has also introduced new pre-requisite and due diligence checks on all new applicants, which must be passed before proceeding to the accreditation assessment stage.

It said each step in the assessment process is conducted by independent and regulated accountants and solicitors, all with considerable experience in the sector. No member of FCSA staff, the board or membership are involved in this process.

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Claire Leigh, managing director of Brampton Recruitment, shares her thoughts on holiday pay and how temporary workers can ensure they receive what they are entitled to.

Temporary workers have a contract with an agency, but work on a temporary basis for an employer. This differentiates them from full-time employees and the self-employed.

The Agency Worker’s Regulations (2010) which details a worker’s rights, state that all temporary workers are entitled to a minimum of 28 days holiday a year, pro rata.

As temporary workers may not have consistent hours, many do not understand how to calculate their holiday pay and entitlement.

Holiday pay is accrued at a rate of 12.07 per cent of gross pay, therefore it is important that workers keep a detailed record of their earnings.

To put this into context, if a temporary worker is paid £7.50 per hour they will accrue holiday pay at the rate of just over 90p per hour.

Keeping a record of how many hours they have worked may also be useful for temporary workers, but is not essential for calculating holiday pay.

Twelve weeks

Although holiday pay begins accruing immediately, after twelve weeks a temporary worker is entitled to the same working conditions and basic pay, or to be paid within the same salary bracket as a permanent member of staff doing comparable work.

In terms of holiday pay, this means if permanent workers are entitled to more than the minimum of 28 days paid holiday, a temporary worker should receive the same if they have been working for more than twelve weeks.

However, employer benefits which are calculated through a payroll system, such as healthcare might not be offered to a temporary member of staff. After twelve weeks if a temporary worker is with the same agency they will be enrolled onto an autoenrollment pension.

Help and advice

Recruitment agencies should be the first point of contact for any temporary workers concerned or confused about holiday pay or benefits. At Brampton Recruitment, we explain these rights upon registration and again upon placing a candidate in a role.

Temporary workers who have found their role through Brampton Recruitment will have this information in writing in a new starter pack, however we encourage anybody registered with us to get in contact for further advice if it is required.

Alternatively, the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS) provides advice on all areas of employment law, on its website and helpline.

As more people are turning to temporary work, it is essential that this growing pool of workers are aware of their rights. Although legislation can be confusing, help is available to ensure temporary workers fully understand their entitlement to paid holiday and other benefits.

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The Recruitment & Employment Confederation has welcomed an Employment Tribunal decision that ruled that a temporary worker did not accrue holiday leave while on furlough, saying it provides much needed clarity for recruitment agencies.

Mr D Perkins v The Best Connection Group Limited (TBCGL) concerned a contract for services worker who had been placed on the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS).

The Tribunal was asked to consider whether or not the claimant should be entitled to accrue holiday pay while furloughed. It ruled he should not because he was not a worker for the purposes of the Working Time Regulations 1998.

It also highlighted that the terms of his contract with the agency were such that the agreement only existed when he was on assignment. It specified that he would not “receive payment from TBC or its clients for any time not spent on assignment whether in respect of holidays, illness or absence for any other reason”.

As he was unable to work for TBCGL while on furlough, the judge ruled the claimant could not be interpreted to be on assignment.

The ruling is aligned with government guidance on the accrual of holiday pay for furloughed agency workers, which states: “Some agency workers on a contract for services may not be entitled to the accrual of holiday or to take holiday under the Working Time Regulations while on furlough because they are not workers or treated as workers under those regulations when between assignments or otherwise not working on assignments.”

Lorraine Laryea, Director of Recruitment Standards and Compliance at the REC, said: “One of the major issues for recruiters in 2020 as they considered whether to engage with the new Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) to furlough temporary workers, was whether holiday and holiday pay would accrue for those workers who were placed on furlough.

“The REC lobbied the government extensively to release guidance on exactly this, which resulted in advice being published in May 2020. However, this isn’t statutory guidance and it’s important to bear in mind that the judgment is a first instance decision, meaning that other Employment Tribunals presented with similar cases could reach a different decision.

“However, the analysis in this case, which draws out the specific nature of temporary workers on contracts for services and the interaction with the holiday pay legislation and furlough provisions, is compelling and in the view of the REC more accurately reflects how the law should apply in these types of claims.”

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The recovery of family businesses from the pandemic will be crucial in the rebuilding of the UK economy, according to not-for-profit membership organisation IFB Research Foundation (IFBRF).

 

The IFBRF’s latest report revealed that family firms were in rude health before the onset of the pandemic. Its research found that in 2019, family businesses made up almost 30% of the UK’s national income.

 

In the same year, more than 100,000 new family businesses were created across the UK, with 5.2 million family firms in total, employing more than 14 million people.

 

Sir Michael Bibby, Chairman of the IFB Research Foundation, said: “This latest report from the IFB Research Foundation shows how, before the Covid-19 pandemic, family businesses were playing a critical role in the UK economy. The evidence highlights how the sector had been performing well and was largely optimistic about the future.

 

“The pandemic is likely to have had a dramatic impact on the outlook, and expectations of many UK small and medium-sized enterprises and this report will give us a great base from which to analyse the changes especially given some of the sectors in which family firms are most concentrated have been those hardest hit by Covid-19.”

 

IFB Director General Elizabeth Bagger added: “This report from the IFB Research Foundation clearly shows how significant family businesses are to the strength, stability, and success of UK private enterprise. Before the pandemic, family businesses were growing exponentially. Family firms are the driving force across all regions, communities, and sectors of the UK and as such, are pivotal to the future prosperity of the country as we emerge from the pandemic. We must therefore ensure that family businesses are supported to recover and grow.”

 

She said that government-funded initiatives such as Evolve Digital, run by the Lancaster University Management School and part of a national research study aimed at feeding into government policy on small family businesses, should prove useful in helping businesses navigate the changing landscape.

 

“Supporting the adoption of new technologies can help family firms improve their processes and foster innovation, with the move towards these new technologies a trend which has been accelerated by the pandemic.”

 

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People analytics solution will support recruiters managing hybrid & home working teams

Access Recruitment has added to its growing portfolio of staffing industry SaaS solutions with the acquisition of Bristol based NorthStar, whose solution brings appraisal, recruitment analytics and businesses mapping together in one place.

“We are passionate about innovating to help recruiters run and grow their businesses,” said Paul Vogel, MD of Access Recruitment. “The addition of NorthStar to our portfolio of recruitment software allows agencies to translate their data into meaningful action. With many businesses now operating hybrid home/office teams, it has never been more important to have full visibility of your business operations and also critically to support your consultants to develop their skills.

“We have a long history of working together, with NorthStar originally being built around our CRM product, Access RDB. The platform has evolved to support a range of recruitment agencies across the UK and ANZ and integrates with multiple CRMs, including our latest cloud-based offering, Access Recruitment CRM.”

A major challenge for agencies is managing a growing number of consultants as well as tracking key KPIs as they scale. Access NorthStar enables individual consultants to identify where they are performing well and show areas for improvement. Scores can be shared with their peers to create healthy competition and gives team leaders a ready-made appraisal tool to use with their consultants.

APSCO’s UK Recruitment Index, published in October 2020, highlighted that automation and better use of technology was a key area of improvement, with 40% of recruitment firms with net fee income (NFI) greater than £10 million scoring themselves below 7 out of 10 – and 35% of those with less than £2 million NFI scored lower than 5. The report also highlighted that the largest firms with NFI of £50 million+ gave themselves low scores for retaining talent.

NorthStar was created to solve these challenges by automating analytics to enable better staff performance and engagement by highlighting areas where productivity can be enhanced. The platform pulls data from within an agency’s recruitment CRM visualising it across configurable consultant, team and senior leader dashboards.

 

“We are so proud of the Northstar product and where the team have taken it,” said Darren Ryemill, founder of NorthStar. “For us, choosing The Access Group as an acquirer was a no-brainer, because we felt that they would be the best people to take the product even further and fulfil its full potential. We are really excited to see where they take to next.”

To find out more, visit www.theaccessgroup.com/recruitment/software/productivity-performance-software/

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There are encouraging signs that the recent rebound in hiring extends beyond crisis-hit sectors such as hospitality and retail, with skilled vacancies also on the rise.

According to the Recruitment & Employment Confederation’s latest Jobs Recovery Tracker, postings for jobs in hospitality and leisure have started to level off, but adverts for professional and skilled occupations rose at the end of June.

In particular, demand was high for education staff, likely due to seasonal fluctuations within the sector. In the week of 21-27, there was a 13.6% rise in adverts for teaching and other education professionals and a 6.3% rise in demand for school secretaries.

The occupation that saw the highest weekly increase in job postings was market research interviewers, with demand up 15.7%.

Neil Carberry, Chief Executive of the REC, welcomed the positive data, but warned there was a need for a plan that “reforms the skills system”.

“Sustained momentum in our jobs market is great news, but vacancies and unemployment don’t just resolve themselves – it takes support to help people find their new role. Rising job adverts for roles that require key skills to get hired – from IT to haulage – highlight the ongoing need to put the skills and job search support people need in place.

“Tackling this mismatch, in the context of a tightening labour market, should be a priority for government and businesses, working together. We need to act now to make sure we do the right thing for jobseekers and our economy.”

Critical roles unfilled

His view was echoed by a report published last week by the Professional & Business Services Council and the Financial Services Skills Commission.

Research for its report, entitled Skills for future success, found that almost one-third of employers in the sector reported skills shortages that resulted in vacancies, with thousands of critical roles in areas such as data and technology going unfilled.

This was leading to increased workloads for staff, higher operating costs and firms struggling to innovate or meet quality standards.

The report said the pandemic had exacerbated trends already in play, with factors such as automation, digitisation, globalisation and changing workforce demographics meaning the skills gap was widening.

Another key finding was that regional employers often struggled to find the talent they needed and the report’s action plan made several recommendations aimed at improving skills across all of the regions.

It suggested that addressing the skills gap within the sector could boost its yearly output by 12%, equivalent to an annual rise of £38bn by 2038.

Mark Hoban, Chair of the Financial Services Skills Commission, said: “Urgent action is needed to build an enduring skills culture across the UK and build a sustainable pipeline of high-level skills. Not only is this vital to delivering on the government’s aims on levelling-up, doing so is essential to developing the digital expertise we need to drive forward industry’s priorities such as improved customer outcomes, realising the full benefits of investment in digitisation and fostering far greater diversity and inclusion in our industry.”

Diversity play

While not in the same industry, a unique virtual work experience programme launched last week by National Grid and HR tech firm MyKindaFuture aims to do just that.

The week-long initiative, available to Year 12 and 13 students in South London, has been designed to give students insight into the energy sector, which needs to fill 400,000 roles by 2050 if the UK is to reach its net zero target.

One of the key goals is to encourage students from diverse backgrounds to consider careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM).

Will Akerman, Founder and Managing Director at MyKindaFuture, said: “Covid-19 has caused uncertainty for everyone, but those from disadvantaged backgrounds have been the hardest hit, and it is time to give back to them. Gaps in social mobility have grown and school closures have led to far greater inequalities in accessing education resources than we have ever seen. By being virtual we are able to get to these underserved communities and help those that need it the most.”

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New study finds that only 46% of businesses invest in anti-bias training for hiring managers 

A new report by global emerging talent and reskill provider, mthree, reveals that 54% do not use deliberately neutral job descriptions, and only 37% anonymise CVs by removing all potentially identifying information such as name, age, and educational history.

Less than a third (31%) said that they request diverse shortlists from recruiters and 9% of those surveyed do not currently have any anti-bias hiring practices in place at all. Of those that do, 88% have noticed some improvement and 49% said there has been a significant improvement.

“It’s really disappointing to see that so many businesses are still not using some of the most tried and tested anti-bias hiring practices,” said Becs Roycroft, senior director at mthree. “Lots of businesses are struggling with a lack of diversity, particularly on their tech teams, and implementing even just one of these tactics could make a real difference. In order to see the biggest difference, businesses should look to tackle bias at all stages of the recruitment process.

“If chosen carefully, recruitment consultancies and other talent partners can be an invaluable tool in the quest for diversity, as they should have their own comprehensive strategies in place to ensure inclusivity. Businesses must ensure that those responsible for recruitment are able to recognise their own unconscious biases, and given the tools to approach the process as objectively as possible, to ensure candidates do not face prejudice at the interview stage.”

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