Covid – 19: faced with absenteeism, companies are turning to temporary workers


Already affected by recruitment difficulties, the sectors in tension are recruiting temporary workers to compensate for the absence of employees. Agencies sometimes struggle to keep up with demand.

This is one of the most visible and problematic consequences of the Omicron variant: the surge in absenteeism in the world of work due to its high contagiousness. Employee absences threaten some companies with deep disorganization. “Since the beginning of January, absenteeism has reached up to + 40% in some factories which are forced to close lines”, observes Gaëtan Deffrennes, the managing director of Randstad, one of the three main interim groups in France.

In this context, the use of temporary workers is essential as an emergency solution. The number of temporary workers in work is thus up 15% over one year at Randstad. At Connectt, another temporary agency, demand has grown particularly quickly since the start of the school year: + 10% between December and January.

This request relates to contracts that are shorter than usual with assignments that extend over a few days, rarely more than a week, with profiles of relatively unskilled temporary workers capable of being operational overnight. . “Companies have little visibility on the length of their employees’ absence”, justifies the leader of Randstad Gaëtan Deffrennes as to the brevity of the missions. “However, not all absences can be compensated by acting. In some positions, you need former employees to integrate the new ones, with an adjustment period which is not always possible over a few days ”, nuance the leader.

Construction, industry and health very demanding

The need for temporary workers linked to Omicron is concentrated on certain sectors, in particular construction and industry, which tend to call on temporary work agencies. Dynamics and consumers of labor, logistics, agribusiness and distribution also rely heavily on temping agencies. In health, nurses and temporary auxiliaries are also in great demand to compensate for the absence of caregivers.

But this sudden surge in demand in January often exceeds the capacity of temp agencies. “Absenteeism also strikes our own temporary workers with a large number of contact cases, of infected people. Today, 20% of our 2000 temporary workers are unavailable ”, regrets the CEO of Connectt Eric Haddad. Paradoxically, the manager fears that his activity will slow down because of his difficulties in meeting demand. Indeed, even before the surge in absenteeism, the temporary work market was already “In tension” because of the labor shortages affecting the French economy.

As a result, some highly demanded profiles with technical skills such as electricians, heating engineers, maintenance managers are in a strong position. They are demanding increases in their hourly wage rate between + 4% and + 8% according to the Connectt network. The scarcity of these technical profiles leads the agencies to train their temporary workers themselves, such as Randstad, which offers welder training near industrial basins. Interim signs indeed expect the temporary work market to remain under pressure in the coming months.



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