Now it's sex and drugs and writing code

A job as a computer programmer or systems analyst has long been seen as one with a career path leading down the road to Dullsville. But a new survey has found that boozing and bonking are rife in the IT department. Lynne Curry reports.

Sex among the terminals, drunkenness in the office and bum-pinching in the corridors - it seems the new lad has arrived in the IT department. No longer content with upsetting his peers by tossing down a set of car keys indicating the Porsche parked outside (the cardinal sin of the flash git freelance) or wearing Jesus sandals and jeans to work (the cardinal sin of his "I'm my own boss" colleague), temporary IT people are said to be showing more sophisticated signs of decadence, such as turning up drunk and having sex at work.

The high earners of the matt grey world of analysing and programming, whose skills are usually unintelligible to the rest of us (being in double Dutch or capital letters), IT contractors have up to now been seen as more Reginald Perrin than Marlon Brando; the perceived dullness of their professional lives has put off droves of bright graduates.

The new, swaggering, womanising veneer comes courtesy of one of the industry's regular surveys. Elan Computing's six UK branches asked its customers their most common reasons for showing contractors the door. Besides sheer incompetence - cited by 89 per cent of respondents - and being late, more than a third mentioned sexual harassment and drunkenness at work, and a quarter had got rid of contractors who used the placement as an opportunity for an illicit sexual fling.

Almost half the 60 companies surveyed had sacked contractors for being unwilling to become part of the team, and two talked of finding IT temps asleep in the lavatories. The catalogue of decline and defiance went on: one contractor was fired for "borrowing" a senior manager's car without permission, and crashing it. Another was escorted to the door for running an escort agency from his desk during working hours. One freelance was sacked for "trouble with the police"; another because he smelt, which "became increasingly offensive to other staff".

Peter Anthony, Elan's UK sales and marketing director, denies that the responses indicate that standards of behaviour are dropping, or that contractors are adopting a cavalier attitude. "We place 200 contractors a month and fewer than 1 per cent are terminated, which is less than the market average. I don't say that the problem is worsening, but as the skills shortage increases, it's a possibility that people need to be aware of.

"If standards are dropping, it's because there is poaching and gazumping, and contractors are getting phone calls in the middle of their contracts encouraging them to breach their contract and leave early for what is perceived to be a better job."

Andy Baker, chief executive of Glotel, a neighbour of Elan's, says he is astonished at its findings. "People do get sacked. I worked in four different pubs and I was sacked from one of them for turning up late and not being bothered about the landlord," he says. "Human beings do drink, and get involved in sexual liaisons where they work. But contractors are ambassadors for the agencies they work for, and if they've been referenced properly and checked properly, and they've worked for the agency on other occasions, these things aren't typical.

"But there are more and more agencies coming into this market, and a lot of them aren't doing their job properly," Baker continues. "That causes a quality problem; even big-name agencies don't work the right way; they're phone hogs, and take on used-car salesmen types as recruiters, and they don't give the industry a good name.

"A lot of companies don't even meet their contractors and don't bother screening them," Baker claims. "Ascertaining whether somebody is a drunken pervert is possible by the human eye. You can also tell something about them if, say, they've had six jobs in two years, which would be a lot when, usually, a six-month contract is extended.

"If you had a permanent member of staff working for you for a couple of years and he went out at lunchtime and came back smashed at four in the afternoon, you'd forgive him, because you can't just sack a permanent member of staff," Baker points out. "Typically, contractors are sacked because they can be."

A West Midlands freelance, who does not wish to be named, says he has seen two colleagues sacked for fiddling their clocking hours, one for putting pornography on to the Internet and one for taking swigs from a plastic bottle of whisky throughout the day. "But that's in 20 years. What I've noticed in the last 12 months is freelances terminating their contracts early.'' Employers are using "golden handcuffs'', he says, to ensure they do not slip off early to another contract.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Elizabeth McGovern as Cora, Countess of Grantham and Richard E Grant as Simon Bricker

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Art
Arts and Entertainment
Diana Beard, nicknamed by the press as 'Dirty Diana'

Bake Off
Arts and Entertainment
The X Factor 2014 judges: Simon Cowell, Cheryl Cole, Mel B and Louis Walsh

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Gregg Wallace was caught by a camera van driving 32mph over the speed limit

TV
Arts and Entertainment
books
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor and the Dalek meet
tvReview: Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Arts and Entertainment
Star turns: Montacute House
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Iain reacts to his GBBO disaster

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Outlaw Pete is based on an eight-minute ballad from Springsteen’s 2009 Working on a Dream album

books
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne made her acting debut in Anna Karenina in 2012

film
Arts and Entertainment
Simon Cowell is less than impressed with the Strictly/X Factor scheduling clash

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Gothic revival: artist Dave McKean’s poster for Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination
Exhibition
Arts and Entertainment
Diana Beard has left the Great British Bake Off 2014

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Lisa Kudrow, Courtney Cox and Jennifer Anniston reunite for a mini Friends sketch on Jimmy Kimmel Live

TV
Arts and Entertainment
TVDessert week was full of the usual dramas as 'bingate' ensued
Arts and Entertainment
Clara and the twelfth Doctor embark on their first adventure together
TVThe regulator received six complaints on Saturday night
Arts and Entertainment
Vinyl demand: a factory making the old-style discs
musicManufacturers are struggling to keep up with the resurgence in vinyl
Arts and Entertainment
David Baddiel concedes his show takes its inspiration from the hit US series 'Modern Family'
comedyNew comedy festival out to show that there’s more to Jewish humour than rabbi jokes
Arts and Entertainment
Puff Daddy: One Direction may actually be able to use the outrage to boost their credibility

music
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes': US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food served at diplomatic dinners

    'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes'

    US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food
    Radio Times female powerlist: A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

    A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

    Inside the Radio Times female powerlist
    Endgame: James Frey's literary treasure hunt

    James Frey's literary treasure hunt

    Riddling trilogy could net you $3m
    Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

    Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

    What David Sedaris learnt about the world from his fitness tracker
    Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

    Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

    Second-holiest site in Islam attracts millions of pilgrims each year
    Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

    The big names to look for this fashion week

    This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
    Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

    'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

    Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
    Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

    Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

    Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
    Al Pacino wows Venice

    Al Pacino wows Venice

    Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
    Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

    Neil Lawson Baker interview

    ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
    The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

    The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

    Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
    The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

    The model for a gadget launch

    Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
    Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

    She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

    Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
    Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

    Get well soon, Joan Rivers

    She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
    Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

    A fresh take on an old foe

    Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering