All posts by Lynn Cartmell

Flexible Working: The New Normal

A new report has revealed that a total of 75 per cent of companies around the world now have flexible working policies in place.

Published by Vodafone, the report, entitled Flexible: friend or foe?, asked 8,000 employers and employees across three continents about their views on flexible work.

According to the results of the study, 61 per cent of employers stated that flexible working encouraged their company’s profits to increase, 83 per cent said productivity was boosted, and 58 per cent said it improved the firm’s reputation.

The report also confirmed that a total of 75 per cent of worldwide companies have flexible working policies that allow employees to work from home or work remotely via smartphone, tablet and laptop.

Despite these results, the study found that 33 per cent of businesses without flexible working policies in place feel it cannot be part of their business culture, while 30 per cent also stated that it would ruin their relationship between the employees who could work flexibly and those who could not.

Commenting on the research, Vodafone Group Enterprise Chief Executive Nick Jeffery said: “Vodafone’s research reveals a profound and rapid shift in the modern workplace. Employers are telling us that flexible working boosts profits while their employees tell us they’re more productive.”

Government blamed for contractor confidence crisis

An index measuring contractor confidence has dropped significantly in the third quarter of 2015, with government attitudes towards contracting the apparent root cause.

The Freelancer Confidence Index which is conducted by The Association of Independent Professionals and the Self Employed (IPSE) has recorded a significant decline in the latter parts of 2015.

The index score measuring contractor’s business prospects has dropped negative for the first time ever.

When asked whether or not they were confident about the performance of their businesses improving over the next 12 months only 28% of contractors responded positively. This is down from 41% in the previous quarter.

Contractor attitudes to the overall health of the economy were also in decline. The index score tumbled more than 20 points between Q2 and Q3 from +16.1 to – 4.3.

Many contractors cited higher business costs as the root cause of the confidence crisis. Almost two thirds (65%) of freelancers expect their costs to increase in the next 12 months.

Chris Bryce, CEO of IPSE said that proposed public policy changes like the tax and subsistence review are a significant concern for cash-strapped contractors.

He said: “It is clear that freelancer confidence levels have taken a knock. IPSE is deeply concerned over current proposals for changes to travel and subsistence tax relief and more forceful implementation of IR35 – which still operates under an outdated format.

“These changes have the potential to affect a significant driver of the UK economy and put tens of thousands of freelancers out of business. We call on the Government to rethink these proposals to restore freelancers’ lost confidence.”

The findings also showed that contractors were taking less time off, with the average contractor working 83% of Q3, up from 80% in the previous quarter.

This is despite the fact that Q3 includes the key school summer holiday months between July and September.

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NHS recruiting contractors to save money

Saving money is the key concern in the recruitment of specialist contractors in the NHS, according to a new poll.

The survey, conducted by ReThink Healthcare, found that improving efficiency and cost-saving initiatives were ‘major factors’ for all Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs).

Lewis Gould, team leader at ReThink Healthcare, said although cutting costs may be considered a sign of hard times, in this case it is an effective way of reducing costs and making the NHS into a more efficient outfit.

He said: “By hiring smartly and effectively and taking on the right people, CCGs are likely to find that they can start to identify areas of improvement and make a real difference, which can only contribute to better standards of care.” He added that although this is not the only reason contractors are hired, cost is a major factor for all the CCG’s hiring decisions.

Since Primary Care Trusts were replaced by CCGs in 2013, the NHS has hired an increasing number of contractors, including information analysts and service desks professionals.

REC responds to TUC claims over worker mistreatment

In response to the TUC claiming that agency workers are being mistreated by the Agency Workers Regulations, REC head of policy Kate Shoesmith said:

“It is wholly misleading of the TUC to describe pay between assignments (PBA) or Swedish Derogation contracts as a loophole as they are part of the Agency Workers Regulations (AWR) that were assembled following consultation with the unions.

“Most workers are now much better off as a result of AWR as they receive equal pay after 12 weeks. Or they can sign up to become a permanent employee of their recruitment agency where they are paid when not on assignments and have access to benefits that they would not have been eligible to before such as protection from unfair dismissal, maternity leave and statutory redundancy pay by signing a PBA contract.

“The UK economy has made a positive start on the long road to recovery and to disrupt this excellent progress by picking at regulations that the unions played a key role in constructing could put workers’ jobs at risk.”

Gradual rise for Umbrella Company contractor Pay

A gradual increase in umbrella company contractor pay has been recorded among temporary staff in Scotland.

The latest Report on Jobs from the Bank of Scotland revealed that temp pay rates rose slightly during December 2011, with the pace recorded slightly stronger than that of November. Meanwhile, only a marginal rise in permanent salaries was recorded.

Unfortunately the availability of contractor jobs did not perform so well and Aberdeen-based recruitment agencies were the only ones to report high contractor and temporary staff billings, while candidate availability continued to rise.

Across the country, however, the number of temporary vacancies rose at the slowest pace since February 2010, suggesting that competition for contractor jobs will be strong.

Donald MacRae, chief economist at the Bank of Scotland, commented: “The labour market is showing the negative effects of the slowdown in the Scottish economy. The barometer, although still just positive and indicating a marginal improvement in December, is at its lowest for over a year.”

He added that the Scottish economy is continuing to struggle to return to solid growth due to the global slowdown, but the majority of indicators suggest that its jobs market is still slightly outperforming that of the UK as a whole.