Contract recruitment, also known as "temping", is beginning to gain popularity with Hong Kong's banking and finance sector.
Matthew Hill, managing director at Ambition Hong Kong, says while most of the city's employers lag behind Australia, Britain and the United States in the use of a flexible workforce, the banking sector is increasingly realising the benefits of such arrangements, where staff are hired on a temporary basis to complete a specific project.
"Banks, in particular, are seeing the usefulness of hiring on a temporary basis to meet project timelines and specific requirements, such as a replacement for someone who is ill or on maternity leave," Hill says. "Contract recruitment can also serve as a strategic alternative to permanent staff because it can help reduce fixed headcount costs."
Ambition's clients, who have found the contract-hiring system to be effective, are nearly always willing to use it again, Hill says.
He adds that global banks are the most prolific users of contract staff because they are more familiar with the uses and benefits. As mainland banks broaden their Hong Kong-based activities, they are also beginning to utilise contract recruitment, Hill says.
For contract workers, the attractions include flexibility, the opportunity to experience different working environments and, usually because of an absence of benefits, a higher than usual level of remuneration.
But there are some drawbacks. For instance, contract workers are usually excluded from company benefits and could be overlooked for a permanent position.
Most contract workers are professionals with specialist skills and extensive experience in the finance sector.
Unless a project is time sensitive, contract staff usually work fixed hours.
Hill notes an increasing number of employers are offering potential full-time candidates the option of a period of contract work as some kind of try-out period.
"When this is offered, both parties can decide if there is a good fit and come to a decision on whether or not to continue with the relationship," Hill says.