Pros and Cons of Temporary Work in the Pharmaceutical Industry

Regardless of whether it is imposed on or freely chosen , temporary work has the wind in its sails, particularly in the pharmaceutical industry—which fully knows how to benefit from it. Although less “comfortable” than a permanent job, contract work can also be appealing and advantageous for workers.

Feminization of the pharmaceutical industry 

The sector is increasingly resorting to temporary work because of the large influx of women into its ranks over the past few years. “In the 70s and 80s, the pharmaceutical industry was dominated by men; today women account for 60% of the workforce. Companies have therefore had to adapt,” summarizes Yves Quintal, president and founder of Quintal & Associates, a human resources consulting firm active in the health care sector. Someone on maternity leave will therefore be replaced with a temporary employee, to guarantee that person’s job when she comes back. The same is true of sick leave, with a view to complying with the Act to amend the Act respecting labour standards and other legislative provisions.

Temporary work in the pharmaceutical industry: it’s all about the cost 

Temporary work contracts are the ideal solution to the ups-and-downs of the pharmaceutical industry, which result from research and development outcomes. In such a situation, pharmaceutical firms will strive to turn their fixed costs into variable costs. This involves limiting their hiring and job termination expenses, improving the cost/sales ratio, having a greater flexibility in their operating budget and also chopping expenses considerably for certain jobs. “If a new product is launched, market share will climb and the company will hire a lot of people. If it offers temporary instead of full-time jobs, it can save a bundle: for one employee, no, but for 200, yes, definitely. No need for pension plans or bonuses,” explains Yves Quintal.

All jobs are suitable for temporary work 

Whether in sales, market, research, or manufacturing—all or almost all pharmaceutical industry jobs can be done by temps. Employers therefore enjoy some flexibility to hire more people throughout the product’s life cycle. For example, contract pharmaceutical sales representative positions allow companies to launch a new product, reposition secondary products and temporarily increase the sales force to reach objectives.

Temping by choice…

Temping in the pharmaceutical industry is appealing for students looking for their first job, for mothers returning to the workforce after a prolonged absence or for employees who want to broaden their knowledge or enhance their skills through a variety of assignments. In a retail pharmacy, for example, temps can brush up on their knowledge of various management software, and learn to deal with different types of customers, depending on the neighbourhood. Regardless of which department they work in, they are globally treated the same as permanent workers by co-workers and management—with the same working conditions, the same objectives and even the same pay, but without a pension plan or health care insurance.

Or by default?

While temporary work has advantages for workers, quite rare are those who wish to maintain this status at all costs. “Barely 10% of temps in the pharmaceutical sector are satisfied with this situation. The remaining 90% are after job security and greater benefits,” sums up Yves Quintal. It is therefore increasingly common to start out one’s professional life with a temporary work contract that in many cases serves as a springboard or a pre-hiring condition. And such contracts are far from being badly paid first jobs; recruiting methods prove it: “We are in an industry in which there is no room for error,” Yves Quintal points out. Hiring criteria for a temp job are exactly the same as those for a permanent job. Recruiters, who often have a pharmaceutical background, are responsible for finding candidates with specific, leading-edge skills.

Temporary work in the pharmaceutical industry—a given for drug companies—represents a method of hiring that also satisfies workers in the short or long term, regardless of the economic outlook. We have therefore not heard the last of it!

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