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Life sciences jobs: moving from permanent to contract employment

Suraj Chauhan our consultant managing the role
Posted by Suraj Chauhan
Published on 22 March 2023

The ‘gig’ economy in the UK is on the up. What used to be dominated by a largely permanent workforce, the UK employment market is being flooded by those searching for temporary contracts. The Life Sciences market is no stranger to a contingent workforce, but trends are now showing this to be the preferred way to work.

For some, the great resignation has changed the way they work. People are seeing greater value in shorter, more flexible contracts and freedom to choose their next project or country to work in. The pharmaceutical jobs market in particular is never short of these kinds of contracts. Filled with Capex and project work and always in search of skilled workers, in this industry, it pays to be a contractor.

Why consider contract employment?

Making the decision to become a life science contractor isn’t to be taken lightly, but the great things is, it isn’t permanent! If you try it and find that the security of a full time, permanent role is more suitable for you, you can always switch your job search up. Before you make any decisions, you need to consider which of the following you value more:

  • Job security vs job flexibility
  • Higher pay vs employment benefits
  • International opportunities vs job stability
  • Broad experiences vs career development

Let’s get into the benefits of being a contractor.

Job flexibility

Undoubtedly, having permanent employment can give you great peace of mind. But accompanying this will mean a limited number of holiday days to take per year which can be frustrating for some people's personal circumstances. Contract workers, depending on the length and hours stipulated in their contract, are afforded much more flexibility. For a multitude of reasons - parental responsibilities, disabilities or other commitments - having a break in between contracts can actually be far more beneficial than the security of a permanent role. 

Higher pay

In general, contract workers earn a fairly significant amount more than a permanent employee per hours worked. There are several reasons for this:

  • Companies are happier to pay for more to get sporadic access to specific skillsets as and when they are needed.
  • Contractors do not receive the same employee benefits as full time workers (pension, healthcare, sick pay, holiday pay)
  • Contractors have more scope to negotiate their pay in response to demand in the market

Contractors outside of the UK and outside of IR35 can also benefit from tax deductions for business expenses not covered by the client.


International opportunities

Contract work can be found in multiple locations around the world, particularly so in the Life Sciences world. The industry is universal, and so are the skillsets required to get project work off the ground. With a projected CAGR of 11.34% from 2021 – 2028, opportunities to travel the world whilst you work will only grow. Some particularly hot life sciences markets that we are seeing with a promising future include USA, Europe and even Australia.

Broader experiences

Whilst permanent employment offers more linear career progression, contract work allows you to explore a variety of organisations, projects, and ways to work. Working various contracts helps you build an eclectic portfolio and diversify your skillset. And this does not mean you can’t progress your career, in fact, you have greater control over which contracts you choose that will help further your career progression.  

What is the impact of IR35 on contractors?

Becoming a contractor isn’t always straightforward, particularly within the UK. In 2021, an anti-tax avoidance legislation - IR35 – was passed. It was brought in to prevent ‘disguised’ employment and examines if contractors should be included within the company's payroll or considered as self-employed. To be considered within IR35 can have huge implications for the contractor's tax and payment, especially for those on higher rates but can offer some of the employee benefits they need. Consulting with a life sciences recruitment agency that specialises in contract work is a great way to find out how you can make the move into a contract pharmaceutical job.

Land your next life sciences contract job

Quanta are specialists in placing life sciences contractors across the globe. Staffing some of the biggest life sciences capex projects, we are partners to some of the biggest life sciences organisations in the world. If you are thinking about making the change to contract work, check out our life sciences jobs or get in touch with the team.