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Brexit and the contractor market

As we approach the 2nd anniversary of the UK’s EU referendum, we thought we would discuss a topic that has come up time and time again with our contractor network, and that is how Brexit changed the contracting landscape.

After speaking to our contractor network, we have gained some great insights and opinions we want to share and hopefully discuss with you.

The Background

As you are most likely aware on 23rd June 2016 the UK voted by 51.9% to leave the European Union. With Theresa May becoming Prime Minister after David Cameron stood down after losing the referendum. Brexit negotiations began a year on from the vote on the 19th June 2017 and talks about future relations between the UK and EU continue. Brexit has caused some uncertainty about what it would mean for the United Kingdom and its position throughout the world. The UK is scheduled to depart the Union at 11pm on Friday 29th March 2019.

The Opportunities

So, what does Brexit mean for the job market and in particular contracting? One of our long term contractors who has enjoyed over 6 years continuous project work commented that since the referendum there seemed to be “a drop-in the number of opportunities available”.  Is this isolated or does it ring true across the whole digital learning sector?

Overall, Brexit has and will continue to cause uncertainty which will impact hiring decisions and potentially cause projects to be delayed / shelved. However, we have also seen the flip side of this with some of our clients preferring the more flexible nature of hiring contractors and not committing to an increase permanent headcount.

The Projects

As alluded to above there is uncertainty in the overall marketplace and digital leaning is no exception. Some feedback we have received from contractors paints a picture of “projects being delayed”, “work being broken down in to smaller segments” and sometimes “a complete halt to programmes”. Clearly, this can be viewed as worrying as at the very best contract durations are being negatively impacted.

However, others within our network are “working with clients”, “agreeing milestones” and “establishing plans to ensure long term L&D goals are achieved”. When we delved deeper into these comments it was the contractors who were confident in their ability to add value to clients that were prepared to take shorter initial assignments with the understanding that further work would follow if they delivered.

When there is uncertainly it is important to fully analyse opportunities and appreciate the long term goals of the organisation. If there is a firm commitment to training and development then taking a shorter assignment (with the likelihood of further work) could still be a good option.  Communication is key and if there is no explanation for a reduced assignment that should be a red flag.

The Rates

As with contract durations, rates can take a hit if there is indecision within companies.  Budgets can get squeezed and ultimately this is passed onto the contractor. Although we have actually seen rates hold up pretty well since the Brexit announcement some of our contractors have reported a “stagnation” or “slight decrease” in daily rates.

It is our belief that due to the talent shortage that still exists within the UK digital leaning market that rates should remain competitive. Companies that appreciate the long term cost savings of a robust digital learning strategy are prepared to invest in the short to medium term.

We have seen some rate reduction associated with the offer of longer term assignments which makes sound commercial sense. From a contractor perspective that is a decision for the individual to make. Running with the same theme if the duration and rate of an assignment is reduced there at least needs to be the question of why?

Findings

The conclusions drawn from our numerous conversations are that Brexit has impacted contracting in that it has caused a degree of indecision. This has resulted in some projects being delayed / shelved, some assignments being shortened and some rates being negatively impacted.  However, companies that understand that importance of digital learning have continued to operate as usual. These companies appreciate that continuing to invest in learning & development is key to employee attraction and retention. This is true both now and after 29th March 2019.

Our advice is that contractors should view opportunities on their merits and gain an understanding of the long term company strategy. When this is fully understood it will be a lot easier to make an informed, commercial decision about specific assignments.

If as a contractor you’ve felt the impact of Brexit on your career, let us know.

Finally, If you are looking for a new project, our contract team are here to help you with your search. Get in contact with us today on 0161 714 0600.