Temps take over the British workplace

Temporary life: Short-term contracts become norm
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The Independent Online
Demand for temporary staff is growing faster than at any time since the peak of the economic boom almost a decade ago and is now at its highest level since records began, according to Britain's biggest employment agency.

In a report published today, Reed Personnel Services says that employers continue to rely more heavily on temporary staff than permanent staff - with adverse consequences for the long-term health of the British economy.

Figures for the second quarter of 1996 show that demand for temps jumped by 13 per cent compared with the first three months of the year, making it the largest single quarterly increase since 1987. Demand for permanent staff also continued to grow, but only by 5 per cent over the same period.

The changing nature of the British workplace as employers turn to temporary staff in large numbers has worrying implications for the labour market, according to Alec Reed, executive chairman of Reed Personnel Services, which runs 200 branches across the United Kingdom.

"As demand for temporary staff continues its steep rise, skills shortages are becoming acute," he warns. Mr Reed renewed his call for improvements to be made to the status of temps. In particular, he wants provisions to be made to ensure that temporary staff receive the levels of training, support, sick pay and holiday pay that are automatically given to permanent staff.

"Employers need to realise that pay and benefits for these staff need to be at least in line with the going rate for permanent staff.

"This is proving essential to retain the advantages of high standards combined with flexibility which today's workforce can offer."

Demand for temporary staff rose by 23 per cent year-on-year and now stands at its highest level since Reed began compiling its index in 1982. The index is now 38 per cent higher than its peak in the boom year of 1987.

Mr Reed predicts that demand for permanent staff, which has shown a steady, underlying growth since the depths of the recession four years ago, will return to 1990 levels within two years.