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Job Insecurity May Be Overstated
August 5, 2019
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Employers should focus on improving conditions for all workers, says the CIPD as its research finds insecure work is not as prevalent as people think

Employment insecurity affects many but overall work in the UK is as secure as it was 20 years ago, according to research from the CIPD. Its report

 Megatrends: Is work in the UK really becoming less secure? 

analysed Office for National Statistics data and found that non-permanent employees – which includes the self-employed, temporary workers, unpaid family workers and those on a government training scheme – make up 20% of the UK workforce, a share that has not increased since 1998.

The casualisation of work has received increased media attention over the past few years, with companies including Deliveroo and Uber coming under fire from unions and campaigners for low pay, irregular hours and unclear employment statuses.

However, the share of ‘involuntary’ temporary workers (defined as those who would rather have a permanent job) is highly cyclical and ebbs and flows with the economic climate, the researchers noted.

It peaked at 41.3% in 1995, before falling to 26.4% in 2008, the report stated. It increased again during the economic downturn to 40% in 2013, before falling again to 26.8% by 2018.

There have been no long-term increases in the under-employment rate of workers who want more hours, which was just under 7% between 2002 and 2007. This then peaked at 10.3% in 2013 and fell back to 7.4% in 2017.

The research also drew comparisons between the UK and the EU on various measures of employment security, finding that the UK has a low figure for non-permanent employment compared to other EU countries. However, it also has a more unequal wage structure and a higher share of low-paid jobs than most EU states.

Overall, 85% of the labour force were categorised as ’employees’ in 2018, compared to 87% in 1998. The proportion of full-time employees in 2018 was 63%, compared to 65% in 1998.

The report said that, while it’s important to improve the conditions and rights of people working atypically, policymakers need to focus more attention on improving the quality of employment for people in ‘regular’ jobs by doing more to address the causes of low pay and preventing discrimination at work.

Commenting on the report, Ben Willmott, head of public policy at the CIPD, said:

“This report counters some of the common rhetoric that employment in the UK is becoming more insecure. On a wide range of indicators the evidence suggests that, overall, employment security has remained broadly stable over the past two decades with very little evidence of any big structural increase in casual and insecure work. Increases in employment insecuritywhere they have occurred seem to be cyclical, linked to economic downturns, rather than a long-term trend.”

Willmott said that this means job quality overall should be a priority for employers and the government: “This suggests more attention should be paid by policymakers and employers to improving job quality and workplace productivity across the economy to tackle problems such as low pay and discrimination, not simply on improving the rights and security of atypical workers, important though this is.”

He added that the government needs to offer support for employers on how to improve work, as part of its Industrial Strategy.

“The government needs to outline in its Industrial Strategy additional measures to work with employers to improve how people are managed and developed,” he said. “For example, through ensuring sector deals are contingent on plans to improve leadership and people management practices, providing enhanced business support to small firms, and improving labour market enforcement.”

The research follows the UK’s first Good Work Standard being introduced on 29 July, which will accredit businesses as good employers. It was launched by mayor of London Sadiq Khan in partnership with a number of organisations, including the CIPD.

London-based companies participating in this voluntary scheme will be measured against a set of criteria including fair pay, working conditions, employee wellbeing, the availability of skills training, progression and diversity in recruitment.

A number of employers including EY, KPMG, London City Airport, the Metropolitan Police, Transport for London and the London Fire Brigade have already been accredited. The standard has been heralded as a potential template for other metropolitan or local authorities.

Latest Increase in Unconditional Offers Highlights Need for Radical Change
July 31, 2019
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This year, almost two in five (38 per cent) of 18 year old applicants from England, Northern Ireland, and Wales received an offer for a place at university that could be considered unconditional, compared to a third (34%) last year and just 1% six years ago, according to new analysis released today (30 Jul).

A report from UCAS also reveals that the total number of unconditional offers made to 18-year-olds in England, Wales and Northern Ireland this year was 75,845, which represents 7.8% of all offers. This is up on last year’s 67,915 (7.1% of all offers) and considerably higher than the 2,985 (0.4% of all offers) made in 2013.

UCAS’ report ‘Unconditional offers – an update for 2019’, published within 22 working days of the 30 June application deadline, shows 97,045 students who are typically yet to complete their qualifications received an offer with an unconditional component. This is a rise from 2018, when 87,540 of these applicants received an offer of this type – which represented a third (34 per cent).

In 2019, a quarter of 18 year old applicants (63,830) from England, Northern Ireland, and Wales received a ‘conditional unconditional’ offer, up from a fifth (52,145) at this point last year. ‘Conditional unconditional’ offers are initially made by the university as conditional, then updated to unconditional if the offer is accepted as the student’s first (firm) choice.

Applicants from the most advantaged backgrounds, using the POLAR4 measure, were slightly more likely to receive a conditional unconditional offer than those from the most disadvantaged backgrounds.

Universities’ offer-making policies are typically confirmed up to a year before the start of the admissions cycle, and they will usually be consistent throughout the cycle to ensure fairness. By 31 March 2019, universities and colleges had already made 98% of this year’s offers to 18 year olds from England, Wales, and Northern Ireland.

Previous UCAS survey insight  has shown that around two thirds of students receiving a conditional unconditional offer felt positive about them, with some reporting a reduction in stress levels before sitting their exams. UCAS’ 2018 End of Cycle Report  showed that those holding a confirmed place on an undergraduate course were more likely to miss their predicted grades than those holding a conditional offer.

Clare Marchant, UCAS’ Chief Executive, said:

‘Students’ best interests must be the number one consideration for universities and colleges when making offers. We have expanded our information and advice to students  on all types of offers, as well as producing a series of good practice resources  to support admissions teams when making unconditional offers.

‘The use of unconditional offers remains a complex issue and continues to evolve. We look forward to working with the Office for Students and Universities UK on their respective upcoming admissions practice reviews, to deliver meaningful recommendations.

‘Clearing, the post-qualifications application route, is now open. With student choice at the heart of the UK’s application system, we’ve streamlined the process  for those who have changed their minds and now want to make a new choice. Anyone can apply to the 30,000 courses with places on offer for this September, including those students who might have accepted an unconditional offer.’

A Department for Education spokesperson said:

“What sets the UK’s world-leading universities apart is our relentless focus on quality and this must be protected.

“There is a place for unconditional offers, however this data highlights the continued rise in their use and we know some students who accept unconditional offers can be more likely to miss their predicted A Level grades. We also have particular concerns about the use of conditional unconditional offers, which can potentially pressure students into accepting a place which may not the best option for them.

“Many institutions are already taking steps to address the rise in unconditional offers and we hope these efforts continue, with the figures showing a different picture next year. We look forward to seeing the results of the OfS’ and UUK’s reviews of admissions practices to ensure they work in the best interests of students.”

The University and College Union (UCU) said the time had come to adopt a post-qualification admissions (PQA) system – preferred in the rest of the world – where students apply to university after they receive their exam results.

UCU acting general secretary Paul Cottrell said:

‘Unconditional offers have made a mockery of exams and put teachers under unfair pressure when it comes to predicted grades. Unconditional offers put students under enormous pressure to make a snap decision about their future and can encourage some to take their foot off the gas, instead of striving for excellence.

‘The continuing rise of unconditional offers demonstrates the stark failings of our current admissions system. It is time for us to join the rest of the world and adopt a post-qualifications admission system so we can make university offers based on actual achievements instead of guesswork.’

Alistair Jarvis, Chief Executive of Universities UK, said:

“Our recently announced ‘Fair admissions review’ is bringing together school, college, university and UCAS leaders to ensure offer making practices are fair and transparent, underpinned by clear criteria and operating in the best interests of students.

“There are clear benefits in universities being able to use a variety of offer making practices to reflect an individual student’s circumstances, potential and the context of their application, and to support different groups such as students from disadvantaged backgrounds.

“An important principle of the UK system is that universities decide independently which students they accept; but with this comes a responsibility to explain why and how places are awarded, and to show the public and students why different types of offers are made.”

Research shows that only one in six (16%) university applicants achieve the exam grade points that they were predicted. While UCAS has found that holding an unconditional offer increases the chances of missing a predicted grade by two or more grades by 6.4 percentage points.

Overall, 80% of applications from 18 year olds in England, Northern Ireland, and Wales received an offer (either conditional, unconditional, or conditional unconditional) this year, tying the record of 2018.

Apprenticeship Levy an ‘Empty Promise’, Says CIPD
July 24, 2019
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The apprenticeship levy is failing to deliver on government promises to boost skills and spending on workplace training, according to research from the CIPD.

The key objectives of the levy were to increase apprenticeship numbers and investment in workplace training, which was in a 20-year decline when the levy was introduced in April 2017.

But the CIPD’s new report, Addressing employer under-investment in training: The case for a broader training levy, described this as an ’empty promise’.

It found that fewer than a third (31%) of the 2,000 levy-paying employers surveyed said the scheme will incentivise them to increase the amount of training they offer, down from 45% in 2017.

The report also showed that nearly six in 10 (58%) levy-paying employers either believe the levy will have no impact on the amount they spend on training (49%), or will actually lead to a reduction in training spend (9%).

Employers have invested in fewer apprenticeships since the levy’s introduction, with starts falling from 509,400 in 2015/16 to 375,800 in 2017/18, the research highlighted.

It also revealed that the way the levy is designed currently is incentivising employers to use their funds in counterproductive ways. A fifth (22%) of employers said they use their levy money on training that would have happened regardless, and 15% said they use the scheme to accredit skills that staff already have. A further 14% reported that the apprenticeship levy directs funds away from other forms of training that are more appropriate for their organisation.

The CIPD is calling on the government to replace the apprenticeship levy with a broader training levy, which would enable organisations to fund both apprenticeships but also other forms of accredited training better suited to their needs.

A portion of the training levy pot could also be used to create a regional skills fund to address skills challenges at a local level, such as by helping smaller non-levy-paying firms invest in skills, the report added.

The CIPD said it also wants the levy to cover all employers with a headcount of 50 or more. This would double the amount raised by the scheme to £5 billion, which would help make up the shortfall from the decline in investment in training over the past two decades, the body said.

Lizzie Crowley, skills adviser at the CIPD, said there is a case for more flexibility around apprenticeships. “Our research clearly shows the apprenticeship levy has failed to deliver what the government said it would: more investment in workplace training. For this to become a reality we need to have a broader training levy that is much less prescriptive and gives employers more flexibility. This should also help to prevent employers from gaming the system, as is currently the case,” she said.

Crowley outlined the case for obliging a larger pool of employers to invest in the levy:

“With only 2% of employers required to pay the apprenticeship levy, the money raised from it was never going to be enough to close the gap that’s been left by the long-term decline in training investment. But if we had more employers contributing we could make up the shortfall and also help to boost regional investment in skills.”

Employers Turn to Training as Businesses Struggle to Recruit
July 10, 2019
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More than two-thirds (68%) of UK employers have struggled to find skilled workers this year, with Brexit uncertainty making talent scarcer.

An annual report on the skills landscape of the UK, The Open University Business Barometer 2019, reveals that organisations spent £4.4 billion on temporary staff, recruitment fees and increased salaries in the past 12 months due to difficulties finding employees with the right qualifications and experience.

Nearly half (48%) hired temporary staff to plug gaps, while 44 per cent spent more than intended on recruitment fee

Others (38%) took a different approach, increasing salaries in order to make roles more attractive, and nearly a third (31%) were forced to hire at a lower level than intended.

Approach to addressing the skills shortageExpenditure 2019Expenditure 2018Percentage Change
Extra spending on recruitment fees£1.6 billion£1.2 billion+33%
Training to boost skills of those hired at a lower level£1.2 billion£1.5 billion-20%
Increasing salaries on offer£0.9 billion£2.2 billion-59%
Spending on temporary staff while role remained vacant£0.8 billion£1.5 billion-47%
Total£4.4 billion£6.3 billion-30%

The skills shortage comes as the UK employment rate stands at the highest level since 1971, while unemployment is at its lowest since 19741. The dearth of skills in the labour market means that recruitment is taking one month and 27 days longer than anticipated, forcing many to seek external help – leading to a 33 per cent rise in spending on recruitment fees in total.

Three in five (63%) employers report that their organisation is currently facing a skills shortage (up from 62% in 2018). And while spending on recruiters is on the rise in an attempt to attract necessary skills, there is also a greater focus on re-training existing staff, with more than half (53%) of organisations increasing their training and development budgets in the past year – by an average of 10 per cent.

In the past, many employers have relied on buying talent rather than building it, but with more than three in five (62%) expecting it to become harder to find the right skills in the next year many are now looking internally.

Three in five (61%) think that they will have to focus on developing talent from within their organisation if they want to guarantee access to the skills they need in order to be productive and efficient. And the benefits of this approach can be felt throughout an organisation, with the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills citing training as one of the most commonly cited channels through which spillovers of knowledge and productivity can occur2.

While one in five (21%) employers think that Brexit will open up new growth opportunities for their organisation, the current uncertainty surrounding the UK’s departure from the EU may be a key driver of this sudden change in gear. Three in five (59%) senior business leaders agree that the skills shortage will worsen after the UK officially leaves the European Union, which may explain the shift to focus on home-grown talent.

While seven in 10 (71%) employers agree that developing the skills of the existing workforce is a more sustainable approach, it is crucial that any training helps to support business objectives, while offering as much as value as possible. The Open University’s flexible, technology-enabled degrees and apprenticeships, allow employees to fit learning around work and personal commitments, whilst being able to stay local and contribute to their community – and at the same time nearly three in five (58%) employers believe is less disruptive than other forms of training.

David Willett, Corporate Director at The Open University, responded to the findings: “It’s encouraging that employers are looking to invest in the talent of their existing workforce, with businesses increasingly turning to strategies that will serve their skills requirements for the years to come. While many are starting to focus more on building up skills from within, rather than buying them in, it is essential that training ultimately delivers results, while fitting around employees’ existing commitments.

“Current uncertainties may see businesses understandably focusing on the short term, but initiatives like work-based training are essential for those looking to remain agile and competitive throughout in a rapidly changing business environment. Training, such as apprenticeships, provides a long-term solution to UK organisations looking to adapt to challenges on the horizon such as Brexit, digitisation and new technologies.”

Further findings, including specific skills shortages by region and sector and employers’ expectations for the year ahead, as well as details of The Open University’s offering, are available in The Open University Business Barometer 2019.

Methodology: The Open University Business Barometer was developed using the expertise and experience of The Open University in conjunction with quantitative market research amongst a range of businesses across the UK. A full methodology, detailing all extrapolations and calculations, can be found on The Open University’s business website.

The Open University commissioned PCP Research Limited to undertake a survey of 950 senior business leaders across the UK between 9 and 21 May 2019. The data was weighted by UK nation, region, business size and sector. Data for financial calculations was analysed and extrapolated by Third City.

About The Open University: The largest academic institution in the UK and a world leader in flexible distance learning. Since it began in 1969, the OU has taught more than 2 million students, and it currently has almost 175,000 current students, including more than 7,000 overseas.

Over 75% of students are in full-time or part-time employment, and 78 per cent of the FTSE 100 companies have sponsored staff to take OU courses. The OU has been delivering work-based learning to organisations since the mid-90s, and has an employer satisfaction rating of 98%, according to the Skills Funding Agency. The OU launched its higher and degree apprenticeships offering in 2016 to provide employers with flexible, technology-enabled apprenticeship training for new and existing staff in leadership and management, digital, policing, healthcare and nursing.

In the latest assessment exercise for university research (Research Excellence Framework, 2014), nearly three quarters (72%) of The Open University’s research was assessed as 4 or 3 star – the highest ratings available – and awarded to research that is world-leading or internationally excellent. The Open University is unique among UK universities in having both a strong social mission and demonstrating research excellence.

Regarded as the UK’s major e-learning institution, the OU is a world leader in developing technology to increase access to education on a global scale. Its vast ‘open content portfolio’ includes free study units, as well as games, videos and academic articles and has reached audiences of up to 9.8 million across a variety of online formats including OpenLearn, YouTube and iTunes U.

Disabled Choosing Self-Employment for Better Working Conditions
June 25, 2019
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More disabled people are choosing self-employment but are being let down by poor support fromthe government, according to new research from IPSE.

The Association of Independent Professionals and the Self-Employed (IPSE ) study, Making self-employment work for disabled people, found that 611,000 people with disabilities in the UK now work for themselves in their main job.

The report found that one in seven (14%) of the self-employed UK workforce are disabled, up by 30% in five years. The research emphasised that disabled people actively choose self-employment, with only 12% feeling they were ‘pushed’ into it by a lack of opportunities or redundancy. Read more

UK Workers Most Likely to Feel Discriminated Against in Europe
June 18, 2019
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New research from ADP ‘The Workforce View in Europe 2019’, reveals that reports of discrimination are highest in the UK where more than a third (38%) of respondents say they have been targeted, compared to a European average of 30%.

It seems young people are also particularly affected, with 49% of UK workers aged 25-34 reporting feeling discriminated against.

The ADP Workforce View in Europe 2019 surveyed over 10,000 employees in the UK, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland and Spain, delving into how employees feel about issues in the workplace.

Despite numerous high-profile scandals, such as the #MeToo movement, bringing discrimination and workplace harassment into the public eye, the findings indicate it is still an issue in the UK. Read more

Millions are Unhappy at Work, but Some Apprentice Employers are Bucking the Trend
June 14, 2019
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By Emma Finamore. Editor, AllAboutSchoolLeavers.co.uk

A staggering 4.3 million UK employees report being unhappy at work – 13% of us nationwide – and over 15,000,000 days are lost per year due to reported mental health problems caused or worsened by work.

The findings come from research conducted by Robert Half UK published this year, and shows how our workforce is becoming increasingly held back by mental health problems such as stress, depression and anxiety.

According to this research, the UK has the highest rate of unhappiness in the workplace among the countries surveyed, including Canada, Australia, Germany and 4% higher than in the US. The research found that one in three (31%) UK respondents admit to finding their work stressful, while one in 10 (12%) employees say they are dissatisfied with their work–life balance. Read more

Financial Returns, Job Prospects and Lifestyle Factors – Post-18 Choices
June 13, 2019
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Young people are making decisions about what they plan to do after leaving formal education as early as Year 7 or 8, with parents, teachers and friends being their preferred information sources, according to a new report,Choices students make between different post-18 education routes” by the University of Warwick’s Institute for Employment Research for the Department for Education.

While school pupils who were aiming for university report being well-provided with information, advice, and guidance, young people considering technical or vocational options can feel left out, with school sources perceived as pushing HE as the preferred option for most.

Report author Peter Dickinson, Senior Research Fellow at IER, said:

“The evidence clearly shows that young people start to make their post-16 choices at an early age.  This means that careers advice and guidance needs to start earlier, even in primary school. This is particularly the case for disadvantaged young people who are less likely to progress into higher education and more likely to become NEET (not in education, employment or training).”

The study, commissioned to inform the Government’s thinking on post-18 education, also found that: Read more

Careers Lessons Push up GCSE Grades
May 24, 2019
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Teenagers taught about the world of work are more motivated to get higher GCSE results, say, researchersEducation and Employers logo

A careers charity study found pupils who heard directly from employers about the realities of getting a job went on to get better grades.

It also seemed to provide the incentive for increased revision.

Education Secretary Damian Hinds says it shows the value of telling students how subjects taught in school are “relevant in later life”.

The research, on behalf of the Education and Employers charity, examined the progress of a group of about 650 secondary school pupils in England in the year before their GCSEs – with some given careers talks and meetings with employers. Read more

Permanent Staff Appointments Decline as Brexit-Related Uncertainty Intensifies
April 24, 2019
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The latest KPMG and REC, UK Report on Jobs showed that heightened uncertainty towards the outlook underpinned the fastest decline in permanent staff appointments since mid-2016 in March.

Brexit-related uncertainty also contributed to a further steep decline in staff availability.

Key findings 

  • Permanent placements fall at quickest pace since July 2016
  • Vacancies increase at slowest rate since August 2016
  •  Availability of candidates continues to decline sharply

Read more