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Demand for contractors expected to increase following postponed IR35 reforms

Firms are showing increased interest for contractors, following the announcement of the postponed new off-payroll rules (IR35), according to recruiter Robert Walters.

Robert Walters says greater accessibility to contractors will help plug any short-term skills gaps in the coming months

The legislation, which was due to come into effect on 6 April 2020, relates to the use of temporary contractors, which would see every medium and large private sector business in the UK become responsible for determining the tax status of any contract worker. The new rules were designed to address perceived ‘tax abuses’ associated with off-payroll working.

However, last week saw the Treasury announce a yearlong delay as part of a package of measures to protect the economy from the coronavirus outbreak.

Chris Hickey, UK CEO at Robert Walters, said: “Whilst it is too early to predict how this will change hiring patterns for the next year, we have already noticed an increase in companies (and contractors alike) getting in touch with us following the announcement.

“Greater accessibility to contractors will no doubt help plug any short-term skills gaps we may likely experience in the coming months, as well as ease pressure on industries experiencing a particularly high level of demand – such as e-commerce, telecommunications, healthcare & pharma, and supply chain.”

Reinforcing this, Robert Walters data shows a positive ‘gig economy’; contractors represent approximately two million of the UK working population and according to the firm’s insight, the gig economy has been performing particularly well in the past few years.

However, a recent Robert Walters survey of 1,500 contractors, had found three-quarters of respondents (71%) stated that they had considered becoming a permanent employee as a response to the pending changes to tax rules.

Whilst only 5% of contractors admitted to having a plan in place with their client post-IR35, 20% did state that they had undertaken research and were in current conversation with their client at the time of the survey (January 2020).

Chris Hickey added: “It is important to note that we were less than a week away from IR35 implementation, and so hirers [or businesses] had already put in a vast amount of time and investment to prepare for this change.

“In some cases, we were seeing firms convert contractors to permanent employees, or choose to issue blanket bans on certain contractors who operate under personal service companies (PSCs).

“One thing is for certain, contractors play an important role in our economy and business operations. Now more than ever, contractors’ ability to ‘hit the ground running’ on projects, experience of remote on-boarding, and working away from the office or teams, will prove helpful for firms.”

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Natalie Middleton

Natalie has worked as a fleet journalist for 16 years, previously as assistant editor on the former Company Car magazine before joining Fleet World in 2006. Prior to this, she worked on a range of B2B titles, including Insurance Age and Insurance Day. As Business Editor, Natalie ensures the group websites and newsletters are updated with the latest news.

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