The coronavirus pandemic is undoubtedly hitting all of us hard, but particularly affected are those who work freelance or are self-employed – 63% of freelance trainers who responded to our survey currently have no caseload.

With permanent employees being paid in many cases through the government’s furlough scheme, which guarantees 80% of their wages, the support available for those not on permanent contracts has not been as comprehensive or clearly defined.

Financial woes

Of those that responded to our candidate survey who work freelance and currently have no caseload, 78% feel that there is not enough support available to them to help them get through the current crisis. The majority of these were referring to a lack of financial support, feeling that they have no ‘clarification on what can be claimed to offset loss of income’ and not being provided with a ‘basic income to match furloughed staff’.

This has been the most difficult for the 27% of candidates who have been self-employed for less than 12 months, who are having to rely on Universal Credit. Many trainers told us that they have received no guidance on what they can claim, as the emphasis has largely been on conveying the details of the furlough scheme.

Not all bad?

For those freelancers who still have their caseloads, they may have had an easier transition into the current situation than their permanently employed counterparts, 75% of whom have reported ‘business as usual’. Many freelance workers were perhaps already set up to work from home, and potentially had prior experience using remote learning technologies.

Despite delivery methods changing, 74% of trainers reported they remain as motivated as before which is very encouraging for the sector, with some saying they are enjoying the freedom of using innovative new ways to deliver training. Others feel that they have benefitted from increased peer to peer engagement through various social media channels.

Moving towards freelance

We have seen an increase in freelance opportunities since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, with many employers choosing to fill urgent vacancies with contract workers rather than permanent hires. This has undoubtedly benefitted learners, as there will be fewer gaps in learning, with freelance trainers set up and ready to go in a new position.

Yet this can also be problematic long term, as many candidates we have spoken to would prefer to be working in a permanent position, but are taking whatever they can get in the current circumstances.

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We would therefore advise training providers to take on seasoned freelancers (like the 52% of freelance survey respondents who have been freelancing for 3 years or more) when they are looking to fill these vacancies. This is a way to avoid losing trainers to permanent roles once the country returns to some kind of normality.

Full-time freelancers

Of the over 300 freelancers who responded to our survey, a huge 85% told us that freelancing is their only source of income. For these people, the financial support and guidance offered to workers without permanent employment is crucial.

The remaining 15% told us that they undertake freelance work to top up their income as they have other employment or for other reasons such as being semi-retired. For employers, full-time freelancers may be more suited to current vacancies, as again they will be less likely to revert to full-time permanent positions once we start to return to normal.

If you are an employer with current freelance vacancies, 2741 of our seasoned freelance candidates have communicated with us in the past month seeking opportunities, due to reduced caseloads, covering many industries across the UK. We know how difficult and time consuming recruiting for freelance roles can be for employers (we had in excess of 400 applications last week for 1 freelance position in London!), so please get in touch with us 01785 430500 for more information on how we can help. Remember that we are offering a 60% reduction on our usual introduction fees during this period to assist our clients.

*The survey was conducted between 6th and 10th April 2020. The survey had 1,598 responses.*

Sarah Burns, GPRS Recruitment

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