UK firms avoid hiring permanent staff in November lockdown

FILE PHOTO: A person looks at the adverts in the window of a job agency in London, Britain October 13, 2020. REUTERS/Hannah McKay

LONDON (Reuters) – British employers recruited fewer permanent staff during an England-wide lockdown last month, and relied instead on temporary workers to plug the gap, a monthly survey of recruiters showed on Wednesday.

The number of permanent staff recruited fell for a second month in a row in November and dropped by its most since July, when Britain had just emerged from its first coronavirus lockdown, the Recruitment and Employment Confederation said.

“A lot of demand for permanent staff (is) displaced to January as firms hope the COVID crisis is easing. For now though, temporary work continues to help businesses operate and people find jobs,” REC chief executive Neil Carberry said.

Britain’s government has extended a job furlough scheme until the end of March, due to a resurgence in COVID cases, and government forecasters expect the jobless rate to peak at 7.5% after it ends, the highest since the 2013.

While Britain is now rolling out a vaccine against COVID, there has been less progress in trade talks with the European Union before the end of a post-Brexit transition on Jan. 1.

Some 29% of businesses surveyed by the Institute of Directors in the week to Dec. 7 said they were unsure if they would be ready for the end of the transition, which will require exporters to make customs declarations and potentially face tariffs when they ship goods to the EU.

“Right now, Brexit is a moving target for directors. Trying to prepare, while dealing with the impacts of the pandemic, is a tall order,” IoD director general Jonathan Geldart said, urging Prime Minister Boris Johnson to reach a deal with the EU.

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