Availability of staff rises for first time in two years

Conditions in the UK labour market are gradually improving, with signs of optimism among both employers and candidates.

The latest UK Report on Jobs from the Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC) and KPMG shows a much slower decrease in permanent placements in March while billings for temporary workers increased at the fastest pace in six months.

Meanwhile, candidate availability rose for the first time in more than two years amid greater confidence among job seekers.

“This suggests that, while the market is still tight, it should be getting gradually easier for firms to hire over the next few months,” explained REC chief executive Neil Carberry.

Last month saw further increases in starting pay for both permanent and temporary workers due to the ongoing rise in living costs and employers’ efforts to attract and secure suitable staff.

“The continuing fast rate of pay growth is likely reflective of the impact of inflation on wage offers, as well as low labour supply,” Carberry said. “That means increasing pay is likely to persist, despite more people beginning to look for work.”

Carberry added that it was “a good time to be looking for work”, particularly in hospitality, healthcare, accountancy and financial roles.

The Report on Jobs is based on a survey of around 400 recruitment and employment consultancies across the UK.

BCC warns of ‘hiring crisis’ as job vacancies hit record high

Businesses in the UK are facing an “acute crisis” in recruitment, the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) has warned.

It comes as official figures showed that the number of vacancies over the summer rose above one million for the first time since records began in 2001.

There were an estimated 1.03 million job vacancies in June to August 2021, up from 764,000 in the previous three months.

And early figures for August suggest there were more than 1.1 million vacancies that month for the first time ever, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said.

Figures also showed that employee numbers were back at pre-Covid levels in August, although over one million people were still on furlough.

Siren Thiru, head of economics at the BCC, said that the record vacancies highlight the “acute hiring crisis” faced by many firms in the UK.

“With Brexit and Covid driving a more deep-seated decline in labour supply, the end of furlough is unlikely to be a silver bullet to the ongoing shortages,” Thiru explained.

“These recruitment difficulties are likely to dampen the recovery by limiting firms’ ability to fulfil orders and meet customer demand.”

Job vacancies highest for a year

The UK jobs market is showing “early signs of recovery”, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

New data released on Tuesday showed a slight fall in unemployment and job vacancies reaching their highest level since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic.

In the three months to March, the unemployment rate fell to 4.8% from 4.9% a month earlier.

Economists had expected the figure to remain at 4.9% during the first quarter of the year, given that the country was in lockdown, City A.M. reported.

“While sadly not every job can be saved, nearly two million fewer people are now expected to be out of work than initially expected,” said Chancellor Rishi Sunak.

Separate data showed that the number of employees on payroll rose by 97,000 between March and April and is now up 190,000 compared with the low point reached after the onset of the pandemic.

“The number of employees on payroll rose strongly in April as the economy began to reopen, continuing the improvement from its November trough,” said Darren Morgan, ONS director of economic statistics. “There remains, however, three-quarters of a million people fewer on the payroll compared with the pre-pandemic peak.”

Morgan added that, with many businesses reopening, the recent recovery in job vacancies continued into April, especially in sectors such as hospitality and entertainment.

In the February to April period there were 657,000 vacancies, an increase of 48,400 or 8.0% compared with the previous quarter and the highest level since January to March 2020.

“Businesses are starting to report vacancies they’re struggling to fill so government support for skills and retraining is essential,” said Matthew Percival, director of people and skills at business group the CBI.

Report highlights ‘U-shaped’ jobs impact of pandemic

The Covid-19 pandemic has led to the biggest annual fall in employment for older workers since the 1980s, according to a new report.

The Resolution Foundation, supported by the Nuffield Foundation, examined the economic impacts of the pandemic on workers over the age of 50, and how periods of unemployment can affect their prospects upon returning to work.

It found that the crisis has created a “U-shaped” employment shock, with older and younger workers affected far more than those in the middle of the age distribution.

Although workers under 25 have seen by far the largest fall in employment in the past year (3.9 percentage points), the fall in employment among those aged over 50 has been twice as big as for those aged between 25 and 49 (1.4 compared to 0.7 percentage points).

And the report noted that the cost of losing your job can be particularly high for older workers.

After losing work, older workers take the longest, on average, to return to employment – with fewer than two-thirds returning within six months – and they see the biggest drop in earnings.

Some older workers who became unemployed during the pandemic may end up having to either retire earlier than they planned to, thereby reducing their income in retirement, or work for longer to make up for lost earnings.

The think tank called for more retraining opportunities for older workers.

“The government must ensure that older workers are not forgotten in the design and implementation of schemes created in the wake of the crisis to help people back into work,” said Nye Cominetti, senior economist at the Resolution Foundation.

Alex Beer, welfare programme head at the Nuffield Foundation, added: “We urge the government to offer tailored support to older workers, including opportunities to retrain, adequate support to find new jobs and, for all workers, greater rights to flexible working.”

Furlough extension and rise in corporation tax among measures announced in Budget

Chancellor Rishi Sunak has set out new measures to support the UK’s recovery from Covid-19, including an extension to the furlough scheme and a future increase in corporation tax.

The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme will be extended until the end of September and the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS) will?continue with additional grants. Around 600,000 more self-employed people will be eligible for financial help as access to grants is widened.

Meanwhile, there will be a freeze on the income tax personal allowance and higher rate threshold from next year until 2026.

The rate of corporation tax will go up to 25%, but this will not take effect until 2023 in order to support the recovery. The new rate will still be the lowest in the G7, Sunak noted.

There will also be protections for smaller businesses. Firms with profits of £50,000 or less, which represents around 70% of actively trading companies, will continue to be taxed at 19% and a tapered rate will be introduced for profits above £50,000, so that only businesses with profits of £250,000 or greater will be taxed at the full 25% rate.

The Chancellor also unveiled a two-year “super deduction” scheme, allowing companies to reduce their tax bill by 130% of the cost of new investments.

According to new estimates from the Office for Budget Responsibility, the UK economy will grow by 4% this year and return to its pre-pandemic size six months sooner than previously expected.

The pace of growth is forecast to strengthen to 7.3% in 2022, followed by growth of 1.7%, 1.6% and 1.7% in subsequent years.

Unemployment is now expected to peak at a lower rate of 6.5%.

Sunak said that Covid-19 had caused “acute” damage to the UK economy and it would take the country, and the whole world, “a long time to recover from this extraordinary economic situation”.

But he added: “We will recover.”

Four-day week ‘affordable for most firms’

Most firms in the UK could afford to switch to a four-day (32 hour) working week, according to a new study.

The research by think tank Autonomy is based on profitability statistics on over 50,000 UK firms, with a simulation of best- and worst-case scenarios regarding profit rates under a sudden imposition of a four-day week.

It found that under the best-case scenario, a reduction in hours would be fully offset by increases in productivity and price increases.

Even under the worst-case scenario, a four-day week with no loss of pay would be affordable for most firms once the initial phase of the Covid-19 crisis has passed, it said.

However, the organisation warned that some firms in industries with high labour costs could experience cash flow problems if a four-day week was implemented too quickly.

The report recommends that the public sector should lead the way in adopting shorter working hours.

A shorter working week would boost wellbeing, improve productivity and give employees a much better work-life balance, according to Peter Dowd, Labour MP for Bootle and former Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury, who welcomed the findings of the study.

“For the large majority of firms, reducing working hours is an entirely realistic goal for the near future,” said Will Stronge, director of research at Autonomy.

“Any policy push will have to be carefully designed, and different strategies would need to be deployed for different industries,” he added. “However, what is remarkable is that if it happened overnight, with no planning, most firms would still remain profitable.

“The four-day week is picking up momentum across the world post Covid-19 and we’re calling on the government to begin investigating the best options for rolling it out.”

Options After You Have a Baby

When you become a new mother, you may feel like you no longer have any choices available to you. A loss of identity is normal, especially if this is your first child. In the first few weeks after giving birth, you may want to focus solely on your baby, and not give your future a second thought. However, after some time, you might start considering what you want to do with your life outside of parenthood.

It is completely normal and important that you still have personal goals, and an identity, outside of motherhood. Figuring out what you do in the future, when your child is with a childminder, family member, or at preschool, can be fairly daunting. Depending on your home situation, and income, there can be several options at your disposal.

Work from Home

For some women, it may be possible to stay at home with their baby and not need to worry too much about their finances. For others, that may feel like it is not a possibility due to the need for extra income to pay the bills. This is where working from home can benefit you greatly. If you are able to come up with a business idea that will work for you, you could always work from home on a self-employed basis. Using email and telephone communication, your skillset, a computer, and invoicing software, it is possible for you to generate either a full or subsidiary income while also raising your child.

Return to Work

Some women may want to have time away from their family, and that is natural, or perhaps they simply do not want to work within their home. At the same time, these may also be women who have worked hard to build up their career, or simply enjoyed their job prior to giving birth. By discussing a return to work with your employer, as well as the potential for flexible hours to suit your parenting needs, you might be able to continue working and parenting at the same time.

Return to Education

If you have childcare covered, and are able to survive without working, or on reduced hours, you may also want to consider returning to education. Studying as a mature student is increasingly popular, and there are many educational routes available. Some parents like to study full time, the same way that a lot of school leavers do. Others may prefer to learn on a part time basis, so they can still manage their home. Some providers may also offer courses via distance learning, meaning you could gain a qualification from home while looking after your baby.

Whatever you choose to do, it is important that you recognise that you are still a woman and an individual. Being a mum is just one part of who you are and, while important, you want to continue nurturing the rest of yourself too.

Almost 500,000 redundancies planned since start of pandemic

Employers in Britain were preparing to make 58,000 redundancies in August, taking the total to 498,000 for the first five months of the Covid-19 crisis.

Figures released to the BBC in response to a freedom of information request show that during August a total of 966 employers told the UK Government of plans to cut 20 or more jobs, compared with 214 last August.

Under legislation that applies in England, Scotland and Wales, employers must notify the Insolvency Service if they plan to make 20 or more workers redundant in any single “establishment” using a form called HR1.

The 58,000 positions at risk in August represents an improvement from both June and July, when employers planned to make 150,000 job cuts.

Following the record economic downturn earlier in the year as lockdown was imposed across the country, the UK economy recovered somewhat in the summer as employees were encouraged urged to return to the workplace and schemes such as Eat Out To Help Out enticed consumers to spend more.

“There was a sense of optimism in August, we were starting to see more spending and more activity, there were hopes for a quick recovery,” Rebecca McDonald, senior economist at the Joseph Rowntree Foundation think tank, told BBC News. “That seems a lot less likely now.”

The high numbers for June and July may also have been partly caused by firms initiating redundancy processes ahead of the end of the furlough scheme on 31 October.

According to official data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), employers made 156,000 redundancies from May to July, up from 107,000 in the previous three-month period.

UK employment shows biggest drop in over a decade

UK employment shows biggest drop in over a decade

The number of people in work in the UK has fallen by the largest amount in over a decade, new figures show.

It comes after the UK Government imposed a nationwide lockdown on 23 March to help stop the spread of coronavirus.

Around 730,000 people have become unemployed since March, the Office for National Statistics official statistics (ONS) said — the biggest quarterly decrease since 2009.

Younger workers, older workers and those in lower-skilled jobs were worst hit.

“This is concerning, as it’s harder for these groups to find a new job or get into a job as easily as other workers,” said Jonathan Athow, deputy national statistician at the ONS.

With many people furloughed, the ONS also registered a record low in the number of hours worked.

And there were pay decreases for those still working. Regular pay levels were down 0.2% compared with a year earlier — the first negative pay growth since records began in 2001, BBC News reported.

The next quarterly figures are expected to show a big increase in unemployment as the furlough scheme winds down.

Jeremy Thomson-Cook, chief economist at Equals Money, said that the true level of those out of work had been “very effectively lowered” by the job retention scheme and the worst was still to come.

“Unfortunately, the end of the furlough scheme will present a cliff-edge, statistically and economically, for those currently relying on government support to make up their wages,” he warned.

Capital Economics forecasts that the unemployment rate will rise from 3.9% to around 7% by mid-2021.

Big companies use apprenticeships to cut costs, according to report

Low-skilled jobs are being reclassified as apprenticeships by companies in a bid to gain subsidies for training workers, according to a report from the think tank Reform.

The centre-right think tank says companies are repackaging existing roles since an apprenticeship levy was introduced to incentivise their use. Reform says 40% of government-approved apprenticeship standards would not meet the traditional definition of an apprenticeship.

Companies with a payroll worth more than £3m now have to pay 0.5% of the total salary amount into an HMRC ‘digital account’ which can be ‘spent’ on apprenticeship delivery training through government-registered providers. Employers can claim back 90% of the cost of training.

Offering an apprenticeship enables employers to pay less than the national minimum wage. Minimum rates for apprentices range from £3.70 and hour to £7.38 per hour.

The government has previously said that apprenticeships have to be skilled roles, requiring substantial and sustained training of at least 12 months, leading to full competency and providing the apprentice with transferrable skills in the occupation.

However, large companies have been using the scheme to advertise low-skilled roles such as serving coffees and making fast food.

The report claims that some employers are using the opportunity to offer high quality apprenticeships, but others are simply using the system as a way to reduce costs.