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Permanent vs Freelance for Quantity Surveyors & Construction Disputes Professionals

As a permanent sector recruiter in UK construction for Quantity Surveyors and Claims & Dispute professionals, I’m sure I speak for many other recruiters that operate under similar criteria when I say the following; I speak to many Quantity Surveyors and Claims professionals that are either already working on a contract / freelance basis and want to stay that way, or permanent members of staff who want to go contract. The fact of the matter is that good Quantity Surveyors and Claims / Disputes sector professionals are still in high demand in the UK, especially in London. With this being the case, it seems that people are taking advantage of this should they have the correct skill-set, to potentially earn more money on a day or hourly rate. But are these contract sector professionals taking into account the potential future risks?

What are the Risks of Working on a Contract Basis?

  • It’s “cut-throat”. It goes without saying that you are more disposable to a company if you are working on a contract basis, which I doubt would appear as rocket science to any of you. Surely this adds extra stresses as well as being at work itself, i.e. What if my contract is cut short? Which company will be my next place of work? Which location will I be working in? How many applications should I make this week in case I’m out of work in a couple of weeks? You could say that these stresses are the equivalent of “unpaid overtime” on a permanent basis.
  • Without contradicting my introducing paragraph too much, there is still some talk of uncertainty post “Brexit”. Personally, I’m still very busy with clients and bringing in new opportunities in the UK for various levels of staff, so haven’t felt the effects. However if you are an extra cautious person, a permanent role may be the best way to prevent being the first out of the door if a larger negative impact on the industry does occur in the coming years.
  • Re-finding work in the event of a recession. In a strong UK Construction market, there will often be available work for contract professionals. However, should growth slow, the freelance professionals taking advantage of the previous growth market will likely be the ones finding it harder to get into work. Business would try to cut costs and an easy way to do that is to remove and stop contract hires until things turn around.

What are the Benefits to Working on a Permanent Basis?

  • If you are a permanent member of staff, an employer is incentivised to give you more guidance and progress you through the ranks of their business into more senior roles. On a contract basis, an employer is less incentivised to do this as they have no guarantee that you will stay with them for a long time. Especially at the early to mid stages of a career, and if you are a career minded individual, this is essential as you won’t want to be static at the same level for too long.
  • Additional benefits + salary. I’m sure any Quantity Surveyors or Construction Disputes professionals reading this, are able to calculate and compare which route would obtain a better overall disposable income for them, as things such as pension contribution and travel allowance are both things that can be calculated with numerical certainty. However, changes in health circumstances can be harder to predict. Paid-for private health cover for yourself and your loved ones can ease this worry, which would otherwise be taken out of your income if you are working on a contract basis and want to go down the private route for healthcare.
  • “Friendly feel”. A more causal reason, but forging long term business relationships and friendships is a great benefit of working permanently within a firm. For this reason, and to feel part of something bigger as part of a team, is why some professionals consider going back to work on a permanent basis instead of the often lonely freelance world.

Why do Employers Prefer Permanent Members of Staff?

  • Cost to business. This is a given, and won’t come as a surprise to anyone. The cost of paying a contract professional is much higher than paying a permanent member of staff and this is also why contract employees see the attraction of a contract role – more money!
  • It is much less likely for a permanent member of staff to “up and leave” in the middle of a project / dispute, whereas more contract professionals would consider moving more frequently and potentially leave an employer in a hole. For this reason, if an employer has the choice between employing someone who has longevity of employment in a staff position, and someone who has worked on a contract basis recently, they will be more inclined to choose the candidate with longevity in a staff role. This option poses less of a risk in the employer’s eyes, as they will feel that this employee would be less likely to leave for contract incentives, reducing potential time wasted on training / fitting them into the business as well. If there is a recruitment fee involved, this preference is exaggerated!

CONCLUSION

There are obviously benefits to both working on a permanent basis, and a contract basis. But as a permanent sector recruiter I wanted to highlight some of the obvious, and maybe not so obvious to some, benefits of working on a permanent basis. Maybe this article will spark some debate, but I personally am an individual who likes the idea of being able to feel part of something bigger, part of a team, and a part of a company that pushes me forward in my career whilst being able to relax in my own time, knowing that I have a permanent job to come to the next day.

Any Quantity Surveying, Claims and Disputes sector professionals who are looking for their next permanent job move in UK construction, please send us your CV, and we will do our best to find the right role for you.

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Adam Cadwaladr
Recruitment Consultant – UK

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