Moving from contract to permanent employment in life sciences
Contracting is a popular choice for many professionals within the life sciences industry and many use the variety interim working offers to move from company to company as they move from contract to contract. However, there are occasions where you maybe offered permanent employment at the end of their fixed term, either in the same role or in a different capacity, leaving them with a big decision to make.
With aspects such as the introduction of IR35 to the private sector in the UK impacting the contracting opportunities within life sciences, what should a life sciences professional consider when moving from contract to permanent employment in life sciences?
Naturally, the choice to move to a permanent position after contracting is a personal one that will be impacted by many factors. As recruiters for both the permanent and interim markets of life sciences, these are some of the core elements we discuss with candidates:
- Salary vs wages
- Benefits and flexibility
- Company culture vs. contractor independence
- Career development and job stability
- What is the company offering?
How will moving from contract to permanent employment impact your income?
Contracting jobs generally equate to more income per hour than permanent positions. There are numerous reasons for this:
- To secure an expert consultant’s time in the competitive contract market
- To cover costs contractors will have that would be covered by an employer in a permanent role
- To match the high expectations of a contract employee to meet deadlines and work to chargeable hours
Although a base salary may be less income, permanent companies may offer additional benefits such as sick pay, pension scheme contributions or a bonus incentive. It is important that a proposed salary is in line with your expectations and you’re able to maintain financial commitments and living expenses. It is likely when considering a move from contracting to permanent that you will need to consider if you are willing to lower your salary for the benefits of a stable income and other company-funded financial perks such as sick pay and pension contribution.
How do the company benefits weigh up to your contracting freedoms?
There is a lot of rigidity within a contracting as hours are chargeable. Yet, contracting provides a great deal of freedom as well. Contractors have more control over the roles they take, the type of work they accept and can often negotiate their contracts around family and life commitments outside of the work place. This flexibility and ability to define their schedules is a common reason that keeps contractors from moving back to a permanent career.
However, this independence also means contractors have very limited support, and with IR35 changes soon to hit the UK, clients are even more cautious of the benefits they can extend to contractors. When weighing up the option of taking a permanent opportunity, there are a few benefits to consider:
Training and resources – Contractors fund and schedule their own training. Some roles within life sciences, such as biometrics or other digital-based areas, require consistent upkeep with in-demand technologies to keep their skillsets relevant. Would your permanent employer be able to support your personal development through courses and training as part of your employment?
Financial schemes and healthcare support – Sick pay, healthcare, maternity or paternity leave, long-term illness cover, and pension schemes are benefits that permanent employees may be entitled to as standard from their employer. It is key to understand the benefits your potential permanent employer offers and how they impact your current or future plans.
Holiday and flexibility – While we are seeing demand for flexible working hours and working from home, most life sciences companies, are still adapting to introducing these benefits across permanent employment. What are your current flexible benefits with contracting? Will you be able to transfer these to the permanent opportunity?
Could you see yourself in the role permanently?
The benefit of a contract to permanent move is that you essentially get to trial your future job before you commit. At some point within your contract period, you have likely questioned whether you could see yourself working in the role or at that company long-term, but it is important to take the time to reposition your thinking and review those thoughts in closer detail.
Knowing the temporary nature of contracting, it is easier to appease frustrating aspects or monotonous daily tasks while working through your contract period, subconsciously knowing it is only temporary. Similarly, it’s easier for colleagues and the company to maintain some form of distance knowing the temporary nature of your employment. Inviting contractors to company events can have an impact of their IR35 determination so there can be less opportunities to identify how you’d fit into the team.
Once you start considering a permanent opportunity, take the time to reframe your thinking over the aspects of the job that you may have taken for granted:
The team – How close are you with your current colleagues? Would you find yourself fitting into the culture? Would you be comfortable working as part of that team permanently?
The management – Will you keep your current reporting structure? What support and development is offered? Where will you fit into the management structure?
The company – What are the growth plans for the business? Do you like their ethos, their message and their employee considerations? Would you enjoy being part of their company mission?The role – What is the future of that role? Is it something you could do everyday? How much diversity in the role is there and is there opportunity to create more diversity? What do you dislike and is there room to carve out your ideal role?
What is being offered and how does this fit in with your career goals?
Before any of these considerations take place, it’s important to know what the company is actually offering you and why they want you to move from a contracted specialist to a permanent employee.
Are they offering a permanent role or the opportunity to apply for the permanent position?
Policy may dictate that they need to formally interview you for the role. This could be an opportunity to reframe your thinking about the position and get some answers to these questions, or it may be a red flag that you have been offered out of convenience. Perhaps an interview is required because the role on offer is not exactly what you’ve been doing under your contract.
Are they offering the same role on the same project or a permanent opportunity on a different team/project?
If your responsibilities are going to change, it is key to assess if your reasons behind undertaking the contract job initially still balance with the new opportunity. Similarly, do you want to continue with the project? Is there room to negotiate what type of role you want?
Are they creating a new position to keep you?
Undoubtedly a flattering offer; these types of moves imply that your skillset and expertise is so invaluable that the company wants to work with you to find you a place on their team. This is a great opportunity to discuss your career aspirations and how this company could help you achieve them, potentially building your ideal job through negotiation.
As an independent contractor, you are responsible for your career progression, so it is important that you communicate your future plans and aspirations with your contracted employer and they know what you are expecting, where you want your career to go and the reasons behind you not moving to a permanent position sooner.
There are many variables that will impact your decision, whether circumstantial or personal and ultimately, deciding whether to move into permanent employment or continue contracting is filled with many ‘what if’ scenarios. With IR35 impacting the UK and many uncertainties in the global life sciences industry, the option to move into permanent employment may be more prevalent. However, developments across the life science industry continue to create more contracting opportunities amongst employers – demand within the industry is still high, particularly for niche expertise.
If you would like to talk to one of our recruiters about the hiring trends and stability of your sector within life sciences or discuss your interest and options between contract and permanent positions, please contact our team here.