Women’s Work/life Balance Stalled due to Coronavirus
December 16, 2020
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COVID-19 and national lockdowns have stalled progress for working women as they have had to adapt their working lives more than men. 

Research by the Women’s Budget Group (WBG) and Nottingham University Business School found that working class women and female small employers and self-employed workers are doing more unpaid work throughout the coronavirus pandemic. 

Thirty-three per cent of employed women with children at home adapted their working patterns, while 16% reduced their hours in order to spend time on childcare and home-schooling during the first lockdown. 

This compares with 25% of similar men who adapted working patterns and 9% who reduced hours. 

The research also found that small employers and self-employed women were more likely to do most routine housework than any other social group. 

Clare Lyonette, professor at Warwick Institute for Employment Research presented the new report, Carrying the work burden of Covid-19 : working class women in the UK, at a WBG webinar (14 December). 

She said: “We found that 19% of working-class women carried out over 21 hours a week worth of household chores such as ironing, washing up and cleaning.” 

The findings are part of a new report which looks at the difficulties experienced by working class women throughout the pandemic. 

A further 23% of small employers/self-employed women carried out household chores, compared to 9% of managerial/professional women. 

“We found that 73% were always or usually doing the cooking, 76% the laundry, 68% the grocery shopping and 71% the cleaning,” added Lyonette. 

In September, employed women in a couple were always or usually responsible for laundry in 68% of couples, cleaning in 62%, cooking in 57% and food shopping in 54%. 

Report co-author Tracey Warren added: “It has been working-class women who have had to become adaptable during times of crisis. Very few working-class women had access to good quality flexible working arrangements.” 

Angela O’Hagan, senior lecturer in the Department of Social Sciences in the Glasgow School for Business and Society WBG member said inequality in unpaid work is at the heart of the inequality that women face in the labour market. 

She said: “This reduces the amount of time that women have for paid work which means that women work fewer hours and as a result, earn less.” 

The research surveyed employed women in heterosexual relationships aged between 18 and 65.

Workers Delaying Retirement Plans
December 9, 2020
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One in eight UK adults over the age of 55 who expected to retire in the near future now plan to delay their retirement due to the coronavirus pandemic.

New research conducted by YouGov on behalf of retirement advisor Smart Retire found that the turbulent financial year caused by the COVID-19 has led to one in eight adults (13%) over the age of 55 altering their retirement plans.

The research also found that just a fifth (20%) of UK adults see retirement as a one-off event; they will only do it once.

Additionally, over a third (35%) of UK adults who expect to retire or are already retired would prefer to manage all their retirement finances themselves.

The pandemic has caused many workers to re-think their finances.

A report by the Institute for Fiscal Studies found that a third of UK employees are worse off financially and one in 10 are planning on working for longer than they had originally intended to.

Steve Herbert, head of benefits strategy at Howden Employee Benefits and Wellbeing told HR magazine: “Like so many other elements of our daily and work life, pension savings and personal retirement planning has been impacted by the turbulence of the pandemic in recent months.

“It follows that many employees will currently have some very valid concerns and questions that need to be addressed by their employer’s chosen pension experts.”

Smart Retirement’s research found that people aged 55 and over want control and flexibility over their retirement funds.

Forty-seven per cent who expect to retire or are retired, said they would prefer to manage all of their retirement finances themselves.

However, 37% said they want some support; 7% want someone else to manage their retirement finances entirely, and 30% want some assistance but want to remain involved.

The YouGov survey of 2114 UK adults was conducted on behalf of Smart in November 2020.

By Emma Greedy HRMagazine.

Women Hired at a Slower Rate than Men During Coronavirus
December 8, 2020
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Women have had a tougher time getting hired than men due to the impact COVID-19 has had on businesses.

Exacerbating existing workplace inequalities in the UK, new data from LinkedIn has revealed women over the age of 30, and people working in jobs that typically do not require a university degree, have had a tougher time starting new jobs since the start of the pandemic.

The hiring rate for women over 30 reportedly sank to its lowest point in May 2020 during the first lockdown amidst school closures and picked up significantly once schools reopened in September.

In May 65% of men applying for jobs were hired, compared to 35% of women.

In September, once the schools had opened again, the rate of hiring increased to 45% for women.

Janine Chamberlin, senior director at LinkedIn, said that this trend threatens to send society backwards in its pursuit of equality if employers don’t respond quickly.

She said: “If employers act now, they will have access to a breadth of diverse talent which can bring fresh thinking to their businesses, while also ensuring a fair recovery.

“Giving people the opportunity to develop new skills or retrain entirely, regardless of their background, and offering women and working parents the flexibility they need to manage their work and family commitments is crucial to building diverse workforces where everyone has opportunity and can thrive.”

A decrease in hiring rates for industries that typically employ a high proportion of women has further magnified the problem.

In October 2020 the hiring in recreation and travel was down 43% and retail was down 20% year-on-year.

As a prior report from the Work Foundation found, gender inequality in retail roles has put women’s livelihoods at risk as the sector navigates its coronavirus recovery.

The study reported that women are particularly at risk of job displacement in the future as retail work is moving out of stores and into warehouses and logistics centres.

Women’s share of overall hiring hit its lowest point in April for retail and in May for recreation and travel, further underlining the impact of school closures on job prospects.

Richard Lim, CEO of industry analysts Retail Economics, said: “For many retailers, the immediate challenge is cutting costs, preserving working capital and trading through Christmas to strengthen balance sheets.”

Lim said that a cut back on employment due to cost and uncertainty was understandable for businesses trying to survive the recession.

She added: “With a greater proportion of shopping moving online and vacancy rates on our high streets expected to rise further, it’s inevitable that there will be fewer retail jobs in the future, but those that remain are likely to be more skilled and higher paid.”

By Emma Greedy HRMagazine

Number of Unemployed People in UK Over 50 Rises by Third?
November 25, 2020
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There are now 91,000 more unemployed older people than there were 12 months ago.

The number of unemployed people aged over 50 in the UK has increased by a third in the past year, according to analysis of official figures.

There are 91,000 more unemployed older people than there were 12 months ago, the biggest percentage increase of all age groups and significantly more than the national average increase of 24%.

While the unemployment rateis significantly higher for those aged under 24, analysis shows that it is among older workers that there has been the greatest percentage increase.

Lawrence Wragg, 54, from Sutton Coldfield, was made redundant from his role as a project manager in March this year. Since then, he has applied for dozens of jobs but has only had a handful of interviews.

“My salary and age have definitely been a barrier to me finding a new job during the pandemic,” he said. “I find Zoom interviews challenging because I find it hard to convey a sense of personality.”

The data from the Office for National Statistics, analysed by the over-50s job site Rest Less, shows that unemployment levels for people aged 18-24 increased by 104,000 in the past year – or 25%. For those aged 25-34, the increase was 74,000, or 28%, and for those aged 35-49 years old, the increase was 51,000, or 19%.

Stuart Lewis, founder of Rest Less, said that while the unemployment rate was significantly higher for those aged under 24, the youth unemployment rate was high a year ago before the pandemic arrived.

“There is no doubt that we are facing a youth employment crisis right now but less well documented is the fact that we are also facing a long-term unemployment disaster amongolder workers,” he said.

“Not only have we seen a rapid rise in unemployment in the over-50s since this time last year but our previous research has shown that once unemployed, this group is significantly more likely to remain in long-term unemployment than their younger counterparts,” he added.

Caroline Abrahams, the charity director at Age UK, urged the government to increase back-to-work support for older workers. “It’s of great concern that many older workers appear to have been losing their jobs at such a difficult time, especially as they may face additional barriers returning to work compared to younger workers,” she said.

Earlier research by the Centre for Ageing Better and the Learning and Work Institute found that about 377,000 extra older workers – one in 10 male, and eight in 10 female workers in their 50s and 60s – face a significant risk of losing their jobs when the government’s furlough scheme is wound down next year.

Additional analysis of Department for Work and Pensions data by the Centre for Ageing Better found that over-50s were less likely to bounce back from unemployment than any other age group: just 35% who lose their job return to work “quickly”, with 29% remaining unemployed for more than 12 months.

​Dr John Philpott, a labour market economist, social commentator and former director of the Employment Policy Institute, an independent public policy thinktank, said: “The popular view that the Covid-19 pandemic has … hurt the young far harder when it comes to jobs [but that] does not tell the entire story.

“With the level of job vacancies far below the pre-pandemic high, jobseekers of every age are struggling to find work and endemic age discrimination is making it doubly difficult for unemployed people aged over 50 whose number is climbing fast,” he added.

Employees Becoming ‘Emotionally Remote’ During Coronavirus

More than half (52%) of UK employees have said that the boundaries between their work and home life are becoming increasingly blurred due to working from home during the coronavirus pandemic.

According to insurance provider Aviva’s new Embracing the Age of Ambiguity report, employees said they are becoming emotionally remote whilst working from home. 

Just 15% agreed that their employer is trying hard to understand what motivates them, and a quarter (26%) said their employer is genuinely concerned about their wellbeing. 

Speaking to HR magazine, Paul Wilson, chief marketing officer at Aviva UK Life, Savings and Retirement said that employees’ needs and expectations have evolved while remote working. 

He said: “Our evidence suggests that employees are increasingly ‘plodding’ through work. 

“They seek work-life balance, control over career progression and help with wellbeing and retirement planning. Understanding employee motivations is a key opportunity for HR teams to strengthen engagement and combat the sense of ‘employee drift’ in the workplace.” 

The majority (73%) of employees surveyed said where they work hasn’t changed since the start of the March lockdown. This has reportedly had an impact on employee mental health. 

Two in five (43%) employees described their wellbeing as being less than good, and more than a third (34%) said they did carry on working even when they felt unwell. 

Heightened anxiety has also led to employees working longer hours and taking fewer sick days over a three-month period (67% in February vs. 84% in August). 

While the report suggested responsibility is on employers to ensure they provide the right environment for employee work-life balance and wellbeing to thrive, it stated it is “a two-way street” and employees need to play their part too. 

Fifty-four per cent of UK employees said that their employer has worked hard to create a sense of ‘company togetherness’. They are predominantly doing this by embracing an open dialogue and communicating future working arrangements, according to 60% of employees. 

In the report, Laura Stewart Smith, workplace savings manager at Aviva said: “A new ‘psychological contract’ will only work if it’s based on the same unambiguous outcome – better mental health and financial and physical wellbeing – and each party should play their respective roles to uphold this.” 

In response to the report’s findings, Aviva made a series of recommendations it believes will help employers reset relationships with employees. 

It advised that employers should personalise mental health and wellbeing support; maintain a sense of purpose, clarity and autonomy in the workplace; prepare workers for fuller working lives and the transition from work to retirement and create more targeted interventions by understanding personality types.

By Emma Greedy HRMagazine

One in Five Freelancers Could Quit Self-employment

By: Rachel Miller

After two decades of growth in UK self-employment, a new study by the London School of Economics has found that one in five freelancers consider it likely that they’ll leave self-employment as a result of the coronavirus crisis.

The research, undertaken by the Centre for Economic Performance at the London School of Economics (LSE), found that the easing of pandemic restrictions over the summer only had a marginal effect on the self-employed, with 58% saying they had less work than usual in August 2020.

The LSE report – COVID-19 and the Self-Employed: Six Months into the Crisis – has found that even after England’s first lockdown lifted, 32% of self-employed workers had fewer than 10 hours of work a week in August.

Self-employed workers who operate through digital apps in the gig economy have had more work, according to the LSE report. However, 78% of these workers – including parcel delivery workers and private hire drivers – said they felt their health was at risk while working.

Other key findings include:

  • 28% of respondents had applied for a second grant under the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS);
  • Of those who had not applied for either the first or second rounds of the SEISS grant, 38% were not sure of their eligibility;
  • A third of respondents think normal activity will not resume until after February 2021;
  • One in ten think it will never resume.

Of most concern is that 20% of freelancers polled said they “consider it likely” that they’ll leave self-employment as a result of the crisis – this rises to 59% among those aged under 25. The newly self-employed are more than twice as likely to report having trouble with basic expenses when compared to other self-employed workers (52% versus 24%).

Stephen Machin, co-author and CEP director, said:

“While the growth in self-employment has been one of the key trends in the labour market in the past two decades, there are now early signals that this trend could be set to reverse.

“By the summer, there had already been a sharp fall in the number of self-employed workers – this may be primarily due to the lockdown, but for some it will be due to realising the risks of self-employment. The COVID-19 crisis has vividly illustrated the social insurance available to different types of workers, with many experiencing the basic safety net of Universal Credit for the first time.”

According to the Association of Independent Professionals and the Self-Employed (IPSE), “glaring gaps in support” are leading to “long-term, avoidable decline” in the self-employment sector.

The latest data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) shows that the number of self-employed workers in the UK has already fallen to 4.53 million, down from 5.1 million at the end of 2019.

Derek Cribb, IPSE ceo, said:

“After the 2008 financial crisis, it was rising self-employed numbers that kept unemployment comparatively low – as uncertain employers looked for more flexible expertise instead of permanent employees. Now, this does not appear to be happening and the self-employed sector is in precipitous decline. Some self-employed are finding their way into full-time roles, but many others are joining the record flow into unemployment.

“Government must work quickly to stem this flow by urgently getting support to the left-behind self-employed groups. Extending support would be a cost now, yes, but it would be a temporary cost during the pandemic, to hold back an even worse unemployment problem later.”

Written by Rachel Miller.

Jobcentre Guidance on New National Covid Restrictions
November 11, 2020
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DWP PRESS RELEASE 9 November 2020: On 31 October 2020, the Prime Minister announced that the Government will be introducing new national COVID-19 measures in England to protect the NHS and save lives.

This means from 5 November 2020 until 2 December 2020 in England, the following updated jobcentre guidance will apply to customers, and will ensure essential support is provided whilst keeping colleagues and customers safe.

  • Jobcentres will remain open, as they have throughout this pandemic, to provide essential services and support to those whom we cannot help in any other way.
  • We will ensure that this support continues to be delivered in line with the latest government and PHE guidance – such as maintaining social distancing and rigorous cleaning regimes – keeping our colleagues and customers safe.
  • Customers will continue to be supported by Work Coaches online and over the phone, with jobcentres remaining open to help those who need extra support and are unable to interact with us on the phone or digitally.
  • Our Work Coaches will continue to deliver employment support programmes such as Kickstart and JETS, by phone or through online channels.
  • Face-to-face assessments for disability benefits remain suspended.
  • If you think you might be entitled to a health and disability benefit, you should contact us as soon as possible to make a claim in the usual way.
  • For existing customers, payments will continue as normal. Anyone who has a change in their needs should contact us immediately so we can ensure they are receiving the correct level of support.

On 3 November 2020, we also confirmed that the suspension of the Minimum Income Floor – for self-employed customers claiming Universal Credit in England, Scotland, and Wales – has been extended to the end of April 2021. This means that self-employed customers on Universal Credit will receive a payment that reflects their earnings at this difficult time.

For Scotland:

On 2 November, the Scottish Government introduced a new five level tiered system. The following will therefore apply to jobcentres and customers in Scotland:

Levels 0, 1 and 2 guidance:

  • Customers will continue to be supported by Work Coaches online and over the phone, with jobcentres remaining open to help those who need extra support and are unable to interact with us on the phone or digitally.
  • All jobcentres to remain open – maintaining social distancing and regular desk and communal space cleaning in line with current Covid-19 guidance.
  • If you think you might be entitled to a health and disability benefit you should contact us as soon as possible to make a claim in the usual way.
  • For existing customers, payments will continue as normal. Anyone who has a change in their needs should contact us immediately so we can ensure they are receiving the correct level of support.

Levels 3 and 4:

  • For these levels, the jobcentre guidance in place for the new national restrictions in England until 2 December 2020 (above) will apply.

For Wales:

The Welsh Government introduced the two week ‘firebreak’ restrictions in Wales on 26 October 2020 that will last until 9 November 2020. The jobcentre guidance in place for the new national restrictions in England until 2 December 2020 (above) will apply during this period.

After 9 November 2020, the Welsh Government announced an easing of restrictions. From then, the following will apply to jobcentres and customers in Wales:

  • All jobcentres to remain open – maintaining social distancing and regular desk and communal space cleaning in line with current Covid-19 guidance.
  • Customers will continue to be supported by Work Coaches online and over the phone, with jobcentres remaining open to help those who need extra support and are unable to interact with us on the phone or digitally.

For Northern Ireland:

Please contact the Department for Communities for more information on measures introduced in Northern Ireland – 028 9082 9000.

A DWP spokesperson said:

Jobcentres have remained open throughout this pandemic to provide vital support and essential services to those whom we cannot help remotely.

These new measures will ensure that we can continue this support while keeping our colleagues and customers safe, following the latest Government and PHE guidance.”

FBS Small Business Index

The latest FSB Small Business Index has found that times are tougher than ever for small firms after two difficult years.

The survey of 1,500 UK small firms, conducted by the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), finds that SME confidence has been in negative territory for nine consecutive quarters – since July 2018. It comes as small business revenue growth hits an all-time low and staff lay-offs hit an all-time high.

The Q3 SBI confidence figure stands at -32.6, down 28 points on last quarter. Only a third (34%) of those surveyed at the end of last month expect their performance to improve over the coming three months. The significant majority (66%) expect performance to worsen.

The findings also show that a record one in four (25%) small firms reduced headcounts last quarter. An even higher proportion (29%) expect to make redundancies over the coming three months; 12% say they expect to let at least a quarter of their staff go.

COVID-related disruption has caused revenue growth to fall to its lowest recorded ebb, with more than half (56%) of those surveyed reporting a drop. A similar share (50%) expect revenues to fall next quarter.

The FSB is warning that any potential economic recovery is stalling ahead of a difficult trading period in the run-up to Christmas and the end of the Brexit transition period. More than half of exporters polled say international sales have fallen over the past three months.

Although the FSB has welcomed the chancellor’s improvements to the current business and job support schemes, it is now calling for new measures, including:

  • Support for those that have received no income support to date;
  • A reduction in the cost of hiring new staff;
  • Lessening the burden of business rates;
  • Providing more resources for those looking to start a business for the first time.

“We must not forget that small firms were already under the cosh thanks to political uncertainty, rising costs and creaking infrastructure well before the Spring,” said Mike Cherry, FSB national chairman.

“The chancellor made some very welcome adjustments to support measures last week … However, too many are still without the help they need to weather current disruption – not least company directors, the newly self-employed, those without premises and those further down supply chains in the retail, leisure and hospitality sectors. An ambitious rescue package for these groups is urgently needed.

“If we want small business owners to create jobs, we have to bring down the costs of employment, starting with employer national insurance contributions. If we want them to invest, innovate and expand, we have to alleviate the strain of wider government-imposed overheads, including those stemming from an outdated business rates system which continues to stifle too many community businesses all over the country.”

Written by Rachel Miller.

Generation Covid in Need of More Educational Support
October 30, 2020
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The coronavirus pandemic has reportedly had the biggest impact on young people, especially those from a deprived background, as their education and job prospects have been largely affected.

Under 25s have been named ‘Generation Covid’ due to cuts to their earnings, education and job prospects, leading to fears for the long-term impact on the futures.

BBC Panorama found that people aged 16-to-25 were more than twice as likely as older workers to have lost their job, while six in 10 saw their earnings fall.

Jonathan Smith, chief executive at logistics firm APC Overnight told HR magazine:

“Whilst this year has understandably proved challenging for many, it’s critical that wherever possible, businesses consider the longer-term opportunities they can make available.

“Recruiting young people is key not just to businesses, but also to communities; without employment opportunities the young can’t contribute to their local areas and are ultimately forced to go elsewhere for employment.

“This could create real problems for future recruitment and talent acquisition,” said Smith.

Panorama’s research also highlighted the impact that school closures have had on young people, and how students from poorer backgrounds have received far less education than those from more privileged families.

Remote Working Leading to ‘Hidden Fractures’ in the Workforce
October 16, 2020
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Hidden fractures’ caused by working from home are forming in the workforce and risk causing irreparable damage to cultures and productivity, according to new research from digital culture platform Totem.

The organisation’s survey of 1,000 UK employees found that while the shift to home working during the coronavirus pandemic has been a positive experience for many, there have been issues emerging around a lack of interaction, collaboration, recognition and support that could cause lasting damage to workplace trust, culture and engagement.

Nearly two-thirds (64%) of employees feel that working from home has had a positive impact on workplace culture, with the majority (61%) saying they are able to complete their work effectively while working from home.

But despite these benefits, Totem also found that while working from home, over half (55%) of employees feel it has been harder to work as a team, 54% feel less motivated, and 51% feel it is harder to reach out for help from teammates.

Totem warned that unless employers address these issues, surviving and maintaining growth as the economy recovers after the pandemic will be a much bigger challenge, particularly as remote working is likely to remain the norm for most in the short and medium term.

Marcus Thornley, CEO of Totem, said that businesses would have to find new ways to celebrate daily successes if remote teams are to stay motivated.

Speaking to HR magazine, he said: “The saying goes ‘out of sight, out of mind’ and, worryingly, for many companies working remotely right now, that may be the case as they struggle to communicate – and recognise each other’s successes – as they would in the office environment.”

The research also found there is a strong desire from many employees for remote working to continue.

While the majority (88%) of respondents worked from an office before COVID-19 hit, many people said they would now feel anxious (28%) or unhappy (18%) if their employer made it mandatory to return to the office full-time.

If they could choose, only 25% said they would work from an office full-time while 44% would choose hybrid working and the remaining 31% would choose to work from home full-time.

In addition to recognition (critical for 33% of respondents) the study found that accessible support and guidance when you need it (31%) was one of the most important elements to creating a positive remote working culture.

Thornley added: “First and foremost, business leaders need to design for remote. The reality is that many teams will have to operate on some sort of remote basis for the foreseeable future, so you need to ensure that you are working to create a shared experience, regardless of their location.

“For instance, although people may be sitting in their kitchen or living room, this doesn’t mean you can’t create meaningful experiences at key moments in employee life-cycles – whether that’s onboarding, promotions, new business wins, or leaving.

“If effectively supported, these key moments can positively shape sentiment towards employers, role and colleagues.”

Consumer research for the survey was undertaken on behalf of Totem by Pollfish, with fieldwork conducted online on 11September 2020.