Permanent jobs give way to 'serial employment'

Short-term contracts are on the rise. Companies like them, but employees resent the loss of their ability to plan
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The Independent Online
Short-term contracts may be popular with employers, but they are going down badly with most employees. Job-seekers resent the growing imposition of fixed-term contracts that guarantee them work for only limited periods and so make it difficult to plan mortgages, pensions or even holidays, says a report from outplacement specialist Sanders & Sidney.

On the other hand, says the "On The Move" report published last week, 75 per cent of companies interviewed said they had started to offer fixed- term contracts, mostly for posts of less than a year. Twenty per cent of the jobs they offer are short-term, compared with just 3 per cent five years ago.

Moreover, more than three-quarters of employers say fixed-term contracts are here to stay whether employees like it or not and almost half believe they could become as prevalent as the traditional open-ended contract.

This echoes the findings of another survey published this week by the employment agency Reed Personnel Services. It says employers continue to rely more heavily on temporary staff than on permanent employees - with adverse consequences for the long-term health of the British economy.

The greatest concern among job-seekers was that accepted fixed-term contracts make it difficult to make big financial commitments, such as taking out life insurance or mortgages. As a result, even though "safe" professions such as accountancy are introducing temporary and short-term working, "many employees are failing to face up to the reality of short-term working, with 75 per cent seeing them as a stepping-stone to longer-term employment. Employers, on the other hand, tend not to see the contracts that way."

Job-seekers also argue that fixed-term contracts can adversely affect a company's culture, with 76 per cent saying they make team-building more difficult and 65 per cent agreeing with the proposition that it causes more uncertainty within the company.

However, some employees do see advantages to short-term working. They particularly value the increased freedom and the combination of long-term flexibility with short-term security. Nearly three-quarters said "serial employment" gave them the chance to experience a range of jobs.

Frances Cook, managing director of Sanders & Sidney, said: "Our research has shown a quite understandable resistance to change among employees. The fact is that fixed-term contracts will become a normal, unremarkable way of working, used alongside traditional open-ended contracts."

ROGER TRAPP

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