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"Banks are being far too kind to contractors during COVID-19"

I work for a major French bank in London and I am not alone when I say that I am worried about my job. Although the bank I work for has promised not to cut headcount during the pandemic, it's very clear to all of us that something will need to be done. When it is, the bank should start with contractors.

A very large number of contractors continue to work here, both in technical and non-technical roles. Many of them are very, very expensive. I know plenty who are taking home £13k [€15k/$16k] a month, sometimes more. At the moment, there is very little for them to do. Despite this, there have been no rate cuts, no layoffs and no forced periods of leave. 

As a result, a lot of our contractors are effectively enjoying a highly paid period of semi-furlough at home: the bank is still paying them the same as before, but they have very little real work to get on with. They weren't working at full capacity pre-COVID and they're working even less now. 

This is extremely frustrating for us permanent employees who are facing being laid off. In some cases, contractors are still being used for tasks previously covered by a perm member of staff who is already at risk. This makes no sense; there is pervasive disappointment that the bank appears to be prioritising contractors over loyal permanent employees who have worked here for many years. 

Matters have been made worse by the delay in the U.K.'s IR35 legislation. When it seemed that this was going ahead, our contractors were issued with demands that they join the payroll on what were effectively lower rates. However, when IR35 was postponed those demands were dropped and the contractors remained employed at their elevated levels of pay.

I know that this is not the case everywhere. Other banks are taking steps to cut spending on contractors, either by reducing rates, letting them go immediately or by putting their roles have been put on hold.

My bank has never run a 'lean mean operation' but it needs to get an urgent grip on costs if permanent staff are to be preserved. Until then, there is a real sense of disappointment here that management aren't doing more to protect us - these contractors are surplus to requirements and they should be let go as soon as possible to help mitigate the need for far deeper cuts as this year goes on.

Photo by Jake Melara on Unsplash

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AUTHORKévin Bonnel Insider Comment
  • Ma
    14 May 2020

    The circumstances are so exceptional that we people need to think differently from the ultra capitalist approach. You cannot just let go plenty of people like this and expect the world to carry on as normal. Given the circumstances if people are let go, they will retaliate, insecurity will rise, terror will boom and none of us with jobs and our families will be safe. I don't want to live in a world where I fear myself or my family being mugged, robbed, assaulted all the time.

  • pa
    14 May 2020

    i can think of only one French bank that employs these type of complainers: SocGen.
    Having worked there as a contractor in Paris, I know firsthand that contractors do most of the work there... which is why they really cannot afford to let them go.
    SocGen management most likely needs to fire most of the permanent staff currently in place (which would include: you), then hire their contractors instead.

  • Gr
    13 May 2020

    Contractors by far do all the difficult works and have a high turnaround or they have no job. They have no holiday pay, no sick pay, no pension, no benefits at all. They operate their own payroll and pay high tax to HMRC. You talk out of ignorance. Contractors take high risk which many are not willing to take.

  • Le
    13 May 2020

    I think you need to take a look at yourself and think why you are not worth as much as a contractor... They get paid high rates because they add high value. They often have huge numbers of skills and have lots of experience of all sorts of working practices and various problems they have encountered at lots of other clients. However they also have to pay for their own training, their own insurance, their own sick and holiday pay, their own pensions and their own equipment. They also have to live each day not knowing if they could have their contracts cancelled and they can have those cancelled for no reason at all. Contractors fulfill a valuable role in supply of temporary skill for projects. You may need 100s of people to develop software for instance while you only need 10 or so to support it once it is built. Why would a company hire 100s of perm staff when they know they have to get rid of them at the end of the project?

    If you think it is easy then do it yourself rather than moaning about it. You will likely find that you do not have the skills to do the job.

    Also remember that the company also likely pays for contractors out of a different budget to perm staff and they can get tax benefits by doing that so sacking them all and employing perms it's not in their best interests.

  • Gl
    Glen Quinn
    13 May 2020

    If you jealous about contractors then become a contractor it's your choice otherwise be happy with what you have

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