How you can support your contractors come 2021 as a recruiter
So it’s nearly time to say goodbye to 2020, and let’s face it, none of us are going to be sorry to see the back of this year. Kingsbridge have been supporting contractors for nearly 20 years, so we know the issues they face, but this year has been like nothing any of us has ever experienced before. We’ve used our expertise and our understanding of contractor life, gathered from talking directly to our clients every day, to put together this guide which will help recruiters understand the issues that contractors are facing, and what their biggest worries are going to be for 2021.
Coronavirus crisis continues…
This month has seen the first non-trial doses of the COVID vaccine administered – and what a huge achievement and relief that is. However, supplies are limited and rolling out the vaccine is going to take some time. Most of our contractors fall outside the priority groups, so they will be further down the pecking order. In the meantime, there’s worry that mixing over the Christmas break will lead to another spike in cases and ultimately another lockdown, which will once again inevitably mean cancelled jobs, reduced hours and more idle time for some of our contractors. Each time that restrictions increase, contractors and the self-employed are frequently left as an afterthought in government support packages, and this will be a worry for many as we head into the new year.
Even if we do manage to avoid further lockdowns, COVID’s impact on the economy more generally and certain hard-hit sectors in particular has meant that there’s less work to go around and therefore increased competition for jobs. The risk of spreading coronavirus also means that it’s still “business-as-not-usual”. Contractors might not be able to meet new clients in person, and traditional networking events, conferences and expos are all off the agenda for at least the first quarter of 2021.
How can you help?
As a recruiter you are uniquely placed to support your contractor clients to get themselves in a good position in the competitive contractor landscape. Understanding what your contractors are up against and being sensitive to their circumstances will go a long way in building your relationships. Be aware of what support they are entitled to and be prepared to fight their corner and secure them a decent rate. If your client is working as a sole trader or partnership, they may also need your support with providing evidence that coronavirus has adversely affected their profits in order to claim SEISS grants.
It seems incredible, but at the point of writing this, the UK is still scheduled to formally leave the EU on 31st December 2020 and there is still no sign of a deal. This has been a huge source of frustration to our contractors, who feel they haven’t had time to put in adequate preparations because there has been no forthcoming information on what the UK/EU relationship will look like post-Brexit. The impacts of Brexit are unpredictable to some extent, but it is likely to affect some contractors more than others. If your contractors live and pay taxes in the UK, but work a lot with EU firms, there could be anxiety about whether these roles will still be available, how travel will be affected and how much red-tape EU firms will face in trying to hire UK contractors. If the combined effects of Brexit and coronavirus trigger a recession in the UK, and businesses have to make redundancies, contractors may find their engagements terminated at short notice.
Of course, Brexit might present new opportunities for contractors, especially in industries like supply logistics and healthcare strategy, and companies may value the flexibility that taking on contractors gives them in an unstable economy. It’s the uncertainty about the situation that is most troubling to our contractors, who would just like to be able to make plans for 2021!
How can you help?
Keep up to date with developments, and keep your contractors informed as well if you see any likely impacts on their industries or contracts. As ever with situations like this, the key is to be as flexible and responsive as you can. Search for new potential markets or opportunities for contractors who are losing EU business. Come up with encouraging and clear guides and advice to reassure EU end clients looking to recruit UK contractors. For contractors who are EU citizens living in the UK, this is an especially anxious time, so if you can support them with clear guidance and help them gather documentation and evidence to support any citizenship or settled status claims, this will be a big help.
Private-sector IR35 reforms are due to take place in April 2021. Contractors will be worried about the impact this has on their business and income, especially with the legislation passing responsibility for status determinations to the end client. Many of our contractors are anxious about not having control over the determinations; they are worried about what happens if a client makes an incorrect status determination, or about being forced under unsuitable blanket determinations.
How can you help?
If you’re a recruiter, one of the best ways in which you can support your contractors as the new IR35 rules are introduced is by making sure you’re up-to-date with all the changes, and that you understand them with enough conviction to be able to confidently advise both end clients and contractors about what they can do to avoid falling foul of the new rules. If you are well-versed in the key points of the legislation and understand how they affect your clients, you’ll be better placed to query status determinations and to fight your contractors’ corners. There’s a wealth of resources available on our Knowledge Hub which can equip recruiters to understand the incoming changes and to put in place a system for IR35 compliance. If you’d rather not go it alone, the Kingsbridge Status Tool, our unique hybrid IR35 solution, can offer end-to-end support for every stage in the contractor supply chain.