Market update: The changing landscape of health, safety, environment and sustainability recruitment


Market update: The changing landscape of health, safety, environment and sustainability recruitment

Posted on 16 June 2023

​The economy and jobs market has moved with unprecedented speed in the past two years. Rising inflation, IR35, Brexit, the war in Ukraine and Covid have all combined to create a unique employment landscape. The knock-on effects have been increasing salary levels, high demand, and talent shortages. A ‘perfect storm’ which has proven tricky for anyone involved in hiring to navigate.

However, in 2023 with rising interest rates, we have seen a rebalancing with the brakes being somewhat applied to an overheated jobs market. There is still a long way to go to mirror pre-covid, but there are definite signs that the market will continue to be cooler for the remainder of the year with the expectation that this will increase again in 2024.

We have outlined the changes we have seen across our key service offerings:

Contract and Interim

We have seen a major increase in requests for contract and interim professionals in the past 6 months. We would expect to see this in a downturn, as companies become more cautious when looking to add permanent employees and instead opt for the flexibility of the contract (also known as ‘day rate’) option. With increased demand we are seeing an increase in overall day rate cost, although it is difficult to give an accurate figure with the market now being split between ‘inside’ and ‘outside’ IR35 contracts.

The market is buoyant and many of the best interim professionals are currently working in contracts. In this market clients are more inclined to create solutions to attract candidates which may include opting for 4-day weeks, increasing the rate, or moving from a Fixed Term contract to the more attractive day rate. The full impact of IR35 is still to be seen, however we are seeing a trend of more roles being classified as ‘inside’ IR35.

Permanent Recruitment

The ferocious competition for permanent health, safety, sustainability, and environment professionals over the past two years has subsided. The UK economy has boomed and with organisations navigating how to operate post-Covid, health and safety professionals were at the forefront. The spotlight on sustainability has seen a similar boom in this market.

The past 6 months has seen this reduce to a more ‘regular’ recruitment market, with fewer counter offers when candidates resign, and salary increases closer to 10% when candidates are moving roles as opposed to the 20%+ previously seen. This should spell good news for those recruiting, with the only fly in the ointment here being that the best candidates, those who have fewer ‘push factors’ and are very well looked after by their employers, tend to batten the hatches in tougher economic times. So, although there are fewer roles there are also fewer candidates actively looking.

Senior Hires

Irwin and Colton placed 24 ‘Head of’ and Director level roles in 2023 and we have seen no downturn in this area; if anything, there has been an increase in demand which can be seen in the rising salary levels. Pre-covid a Health and Safety Director at a medium sized company was often commanding £110,000 whereas the same role is now set at £140,000. Some of this increase is due to inflation, however Covid really shone a light on senior professionals and gave the individuals exposure across organisations with this driving competition to attract the best senior talent within a small, defined pool of candidates.       

If you are currently looking to hire or would like recruitment advice, our team would be more than happy to help. Get in touch here.

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