The flexible periphery

27 Nov

The CBI has published this week a major report, with the title: the shape of business – the next 10 years. 500 CBI members, including PCG, participated in workshops across the UK in September to share plans and ideas about the future of UK businesses. This horizon-scanning exercise, which culminated with the report, is giving us an excellent insight into how businesses are likely to adapt and evolve in the aftermath of the credit crunch and the recession. The CBI will use the findings to improve their understanding of how Government policy will need to adapt to changes in businesses.

The debate about how UK businesses can best position themselves for the challenges ahead is finally taking shape. When it comes to the future of the workforce, the report states that “a significant number of businesses will move to a new employment model where the core of permanent staff is smaller and a greater number of freelancers, consultants and temporary workers are used”. We cannot agree more. It is very encouraging to learn that the CBI is recognising the vital role that freelancers play in making businesses more competitive.

Labour flexibility was always seen in terms of employment, i.e. how employers could bend the 9-to-5 traditional arrangement applied to permanent staff. Concepts such as working from home, teleworking, mobile working were often cited as the only way businesses could implement flexibility. This is the first time that the CBI has explicitly acknowledged the value of freelancers in its own publications. Businesses have finally realised that, in time of recovery from recession, engaging freelancers represents a sound way forward. We have been saying that for the past 10 years and have also highlighted it in our Manifesto, launched this week. UK businesses have now a great chance to lead the way in Europe as champions of labour market flexibility and true innovators. Greater flexibility will require new products and new relationships, and the next Government will have to ensure the UK has the best environment to ease this process.

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