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With ONS figures showing a rise in contractor numbers, there will soon be more need for regulation around the umbrella sector.

That’s according to the Association of Professional Staffing Companies (APSCo), which has responded to the latest Office for National Statistics (ONS) data.

Tania Bowers, Global Public Policy Director at the APSCo, commented, “While the latest data indicates that vacancies fell in the final quarter of 2022, the figures show that jobs remain at historically high levels, highlighting the continued pressure on the labour market. In this environment, the uptick in part-time self-employed professionals between September and November 2022 is promising in a skill short market.

“Access to this flexible segment of the workforce has been limited since the roll out of IR35, Brexit and the pandemic. With employers struggling to attract highly skilled professionals, the growth of the flexible workforce provides greater access to skills that have been long overdue.

“With the number of over 50s re-entering the workforce following early retirement out of both necessity in response to the Cost-of-Living crisis, and following incentives to encourage them back into employment, this level of part-time self-employed individuals is likely to increase in the coming months.”

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Tania added, “This growth of the flexible workforce does, however, increase the need for elements of the Employment Bill, which has now been shelved, to be reconsidered. In particular, the regulation of the umbrella sector will only become more critical as self-employed levels grow.

“The ONS data on days lost due to strike action in November – which hit the highest level recorded since November 2011 – does raise concerns with further strike action from teachers and nurses confirmed. The unrest across the public sector is indicative of a range of problems that extend beyond pay.

“With those industries planning strikes reporting skills shortages for some time now, these disputes are further evidence of recruitment systems which are broken. Education and healthcare public sector recruitment in particular needs an overhaul to not only close skills gaps, but also improve budgets by reducing the reliance on costly agency workers.

“Without swift action, the first quarter of 2023 will likely see the number of working days lost continue to increase.”

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