Demand still high for public service contractors but there will be a hit from COVID-19

Karyn Starmer14 April 2020
Office workers

ICT looks to be the most secure and in-demand sector for contractors. Photo: File.

At a time of employment uncertainty caused by COVID-19, permanent public servants may be feeling a little more secure in their jobs than many in the private sector, but what if you contract to the federal or ACT public service?

Thousands of contractors are used for specialised or professional skills in areas such as broad as IT, engineering, recruitment, communications and business administration, helping government departments manage special projects as well as peaks during the year.

Recruitment and contracting firms say the outlook for contractors depends on which sector they are working in, with ICT looking to be the most secure and in-demand sector for contractors.

“Contrary to the high levels of unemployment that we are seeing in other parts of the country, many people working as ICT labour hire contractors to the ACT or Commonwealth public services are feeling positive about their work outlook as both public sectors are increasing the number of skilled ICT contractors they require,” PayMe Group Executive Chairman Ian Lindgren says.

“But, we are seeing a decrease in the need for contractors in the banking sector in the skill sets of business intelligence and analytics.”

Effective People, part of the PayMe Group, and other recruitment companies have experienced an increase in requests for ICT contractors. Mr Lindgren says this can be attributed to a number of ACT and Commonwealth agencies taking the opportunity to initiate projects to contribute to maintaining the economy. He says there are also a number of large planned projects in Defence that are calling on the available ICT contractor workforce.

As the public service transitions to work from home arrangements, Mr Lindgren says contractors will be doing the same.

“The majority of the people we pay are working at Commonwealth and state offices as essential services and at this moment in time, we have been advised that upwards of 70 per cent will continue to work full time either in their current office or from home,” Mr Lindgren said.

Rubik3 Associate Partner Anthony Mora reports that none of their contractors are losing their jobs at present.

“If anything, the government is being as supportive of contractors as they are to their employees. Many are now transitioning to working from home but the issue for a lot of departments seems to be technology. There are just not enough work stations available to move everyone home,” Mr Mora said.

He explained that contractors are essential to government operations, particularly in technology or corporate service delivery.

“Anyone working on an existing program should be OK during the pandemic downturn as they will already be funded in the budget through the forward estimates. There may be a risk with new budget measures that haven’t been funded, it really depends on what those programs are focused on. Anything to do with IT, digital transformation, governance and risk are going to be in demand, and they are going to need accountants,” Mr Mora added.

Mr Lindgren said that some contractors, whose contracts expired recently, have taken a rate cut when renewing their next 12-week contract but there were some positive to counteract that negative.

“Overall the majority are dealing with it because they have a job and while working from home they will be saving on transport, parking, coffee and other day-to-day expenses at the workplace.”

The next round of extensions are in June.

Mr Lindgren says there is a sense of concern being expressed by about 40 per cent of contractors who appear to be in a heightened level of anxiety but, for now, the reality is that most contractors are retaining their work.

For more information on contractor payroll services visit PayMe Australia.

For information on professional services visit Rubik3 Business Solutions.

Ian Lindgren from PMG

PayMe Group Executive Chairman, Ian Lindgren. Photo: Region Media.

Original Article published by Karyn Starmer on The RiotACT.

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