Contractor Furlough – Not necessarily a negative, from a contractor’s point of view

26th October 2016

Article written by:


More and more businesses are cottoning onto the fact that, to quickly reduce their spend in a month and hit the current year costs targets, they have to stop their variable cost… in our world, this means contractors.

They do not stop them altogether, because the need around why they are there will still remain come January 1st. However, during the “quiet period” over Christmas and New Year, companies would prefer to enforce a mandated leave (typically two weeks) over their temporary workforce.

In some instances this mandated leave, turns into an annual policy dictating how many days’ temporary staff can actually charge their client. Fully accepting from a cost perspective that due to the variable nature of a contractors cost, it makes it very hard for the COOs of the world to properly plan and forecast for a year. Will that contractor work 210 days, or 230? And in some cases this is a difference of c. £20k – say you employ 50 contractors and the variable gap starts to become noticeable.

As a contractor, the whole essence of why we are there is either to deliver a job outside of Business as Usual, or mind one whilst the employee is away. Sometimes there is a need to fulfil a role whilst it gets evaluated whether it should be a permanent requirement or not. Having to do this whilst not being able to work the days needed to either; deliver, cover for, allow evaluation – is sometimes challenging.

This inflexibility from the client can make your opportunities grow. Use the loss of work time at one shop, to increase the time spent at another. Turn the negative to a positive, and use it to develop your network, client base and earning potential. Using iContract, the opportunity to pick-up one off short term roles will allow you to (if you so wish) earn even through these mandated furloughs set by your main client.

Making this furlough work for you

Most contractors work for one client, possibly two. However the most successful, are working for a few at least.

I met a contractor who had three on the go. Two days a month consulting with one, eighteen days a month maternity leave cover with another and the one day a month providing training to the workforce for a client she had known for a number of years. Which days do you think paid her the most?

She agrees that her network and client base had grown substantially as her client at the time enforced her to take August off. Disappointed in their decision, she approached another client in a similar field and a decade later is still providing them with a service, at a day rate far higher than that being achieved with her more regular maternity cover role.

This example is a small one of how to take a negative and turn it positively. I wrote an article on how you make contracting work for you from a work-life balance, focusing on taking these enforced layoff’s and using it as an opportunity to get some ‘me’ time. If you are in a different mind-set, as shown by one of my acquaintances, you can use this time to make it work for you. Why provide a great service to just one client, when you could provide a great service to a number of them.

More similar stories exist and it can lead to a solid base to launch a consulting company, increase your individual earning potential, experience and enjoy other fields and industries. Find your niche and passion, develop your network and the tools are there to help you find roles to work.

iContract will be launching soon. Pre-register for contracting opportunities.