Contracting: Making the decision to return to permanent work

From increased earnings to a flexible work schedule, life as a contractor can be sweet. But it’s not for everybody. It can be difficult not knowing where your next contract is coming from, spending extended periods away from your family and being responsible for paying your tax and overheads. When things get really tough, these challenges can cause many contractors to question whether they should leave contracting behind in favour of returning to permanent work.

Of course, there’s also the changes to IR35 tax legislation, which were introduced to the public sector last year, which could be causing you concern. This legislation has converted public sector contractors from businesses to employees, but kept their employment status the same. So they don’t get benefits such as pensions or holiday pay, but their tax is deducted for them by their employer, just like they would their permanent employees.

This has caused many public sector contractors to look for work in the private sector where the change in legislation has not yet come into effect. But this is all likely to change in 2019. Under these circumstances, many contractors may have to make the decision to leave their contracting work behind out of necessity rather than choice.

Whatever reason you have for wanting to jump ship, making the decision to go from contracting to permanent work is not one you should take lightly. Here are some key considerations you should think about before committing to a permanent role.

Your wages

It’s common knowledge that contractors often get increased earnings in comparison to permanent staff. That is one of the biggest perks that draws people to contracting in the first place. By making the decision to return to a permanent work position, you may have to come to terms with the fact that your wages will most likely reduce.

However, while your financial standing might not be quite as much as it was when you were contracting, that doesn’t mean you should write off permanent work altogether. As a permanent employee, you can take advantage of perks such as a bonus and pension schemes and sick pay. You’ve also got the security of knowing that you will get paid each month by your employee, without having to source a steady stream of contracts.

Consider whether you could afford to pay your mortgage and support your family on a reduce wage by either looking through your accounts or by asking a financial advisor to assist you.

Joining a team

Even though you’ve probably worked with teams of people at different organisations during your time as a contractor, it’s likely that you’ve done a lot of contracting work by yourself too. When you’re a contractor, you’re brought in as an expert with years of knowledge and expertise behind you. What you say goes and the team at the organisation will follow your lead and trust your judgement. This could all change when you enter permanent employment.

Depending on what role you get, you may find that you now have to report to and have tasks assigned to you by a manager. This could be out of the norm for you after years of making your own decisions in regard to your daily tasks and schedule. It’s likely that you’ll have to abide by the practices of the organisations you’re working for and have to change your style of working to suit.

Even if you enter at management level, it could take some time for you to get used to managing a team of employees who will be relying on you to lead them every day. So be honest and think about whether you might struggle to work in a team environment rather than working independently like you are now.

The variety of work

Due to the flexibility of your work, it’s likely that you’ve had the opportunity to work on a wide range of different contracts for various organisations over the years. This heightened variety means that no two days are the same when you’re a contractor.

However, if you decide to re-join the world of permanent work, there is a possibility that you might not have the same level of variety that you’re used to. This is a big factor that puts many contractors off from returning to permanent work altogether, but on the other hand, a change in pace could be what you’re looking for.

Even though some organisations may only be able to give you one or two projects to focus on, others will be able to give you a similar amount of varied work as your contracting work did. It all depends on the roles and the organisations you apply to work for.

Before applying to a role, find out as much as you can about the job description and the organisation itself. You can do this by doing your own research online or by contacting them directly. Alternatively, you could enlist the help of a recruitment agency who will only steer you towards permanent roles that offer the varied workload you’re looking for.

We can give you advice on whether choosing to return to permanent work after years of working as a contractors is the best option for you. But only you can make the final decision. It’s something that will have a big impact not only on you, but also on those closest to you. So it requires a lot of careful consideration before you choose to make the leap.

If you’re considering making the move into permanent work but you’ve only ever worked as a contractor, this decision is an even bigger one because you’re effectively stepping into the unknown.

Whether you want more job security, a set work location or more career progression, there’s no denying that permanent work does come with plenty of perks. Give it a chance and see if it suits you better. If it doesn’t, you can always go back to contracting. At least you can say you’ve tried it.

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Daniel Carter

29th June

Career Advice