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“We are the first port of call in a crisis and this year each week has been a crisis”.

23rd March 2020 was the day that the UK was first told to stay at home and when our lives, both professionally and personally, were turned upside down.

The pandemic has forced uncertainties and upheaval into the lives of millions across the globe. The struggle to navigate the ever-changing health crisis and subsequent environmental demands has had a significant impact on mental health, employment, loneliness, and fundamentally has been a life or death catastrophe.

But where are we now? Read on to find out some of the most current UK employment statistics that HR professionals need to know.

1. Unemployment rate continues to rise and is estimated at 5.1%

As of February 2021, the UK unemployment rate is estimated at 5.1%, 1.3 percentage points higher than a year earlier and 0.4% higher than the previous quarter.

The annual increase in the unemployment rate was the largest since Q4 2009, with the rate at its highest level since Q1 2016.

For Q4 2020, an estimated 1.74 million people were unemployed, up 454,000 on the same period the previous year and up 121,000 on the previous quarter. The UK unemployment rate is predicted to continue rising in 2021 with the government predicting numbers to rise to 2.2 million people out of work by the end of the year, equating to 6.5% of all workers.

Unemployment rates rose for all industries based on the same period of time the previous year. The industries to suffer the most were those within wholesale, retail & repair of motor vehicles (215,000) accommodation & food service activities (171,000) and manufacturing (127,000).

2.  Redundancy rate increased by 8.4 per thousand on the year to 12.3 per thousand

The age group with the highest redundancy rate was those aged 50 years and over, up 8.9 per thousand on the year to 14.1 per thousand. London suffered the most in terms of geographical region, up 15.4 per thousand on the year to 18.8 per thousand.

3. Live job vacancies have reduced by 26%

The number of job vacancies in November 2020 to January 2021 was 26% lower than a year ago. This is an improvement on the position in July 2020 where vacancies were down by nearly 60% year on year. However, the rate of improvement has slowed in the past few months due to further restrictions and national lockdown. Some industries have naturally been impacted more greatly than others; with food services and accommodation being the most severely impacted.

There were an estimated 599,000 vacancies in the UK in November 2020 to January 2021; this is 211,000 fewer than a year ago but 64,000 more than the previous quarter. Although the vacancies have increased overall, we’re now beginning to see signs that the job market is moving in the right direction.

4. The number of people leaving home to work is increasing to 53%

Statistics from 15th March 2021 reported that over half (53%) of working adults reported leaving home for work in the past seven days, compared to just under half (48%) the week before. This proportion has been gradually increasing since mid-February (44% in the period 10 to 14 February 2021). This increase is likely due to the population gaining confidence in the vaccine rollout and business leaders’ recognition of mental health.

5. Mental health is still a cause for concern with the number of adults reported to have depression doubling over the past year

Employee wellbeing has always been a focus for HR teams, however, never has it been more relevant as through a pandemic.

With online searches for topics such as ‘signs of burnout’ increasing by 24 per cent throughout 2020 compared to the previous year, there’s no doubt that well-being and mental health is a rising issue.

The number of adults reported to have depression has doubled since the start of the pandemic with almost one in five people (19.2%) experiencing the illness in June 2020. This is almost double the number of people who experienced depressive symptoms in the nine months leading up to March 2020 (9.7%).

Some of our very own mental health research in 2020 showed that workers in hospitality, construction and healthcare were most likely to have experienced reduction in their mental health. We’ve created some helpful resources to support you or your peers with key contacts and specialist services.

6. Connectivity at work – 31% of employees feel less connected to their leaders

Whilst recent months have seen a general improvement in feelings of positivity, employee connectivity levels are still low with 37% feeling less connected to their colleagues. This has prompted organisations to implement employee engagement programmes and introduce new benefits and incentives to create a positive culture and to increase communication.

This recent article from Deloitte has some great tips for improving employee engagement. Plus, check out some of our own advice for managing teams remotely if you’re organisation isn’t ready for a return to the office just yet.

7.  Absence rates over the past year have dropped to 1.8%

Absence rates dropped to 1.8% which is the lowest since 1995. COVID-19 has accounted for 14% of all sickness absence cases over the last year and includes people self-isolating whether they have contracted the illness or not. Whilst it is clear that Covid-19 will have increased sickness absence levels, it appears that the measures the government and businesses have put in place to combat the pandemic (furlough, remote working, social distancing, isolating) has ultimately reduced absenteeism in other forms.

Working from home has no doubt helped the cause here. Where people may have ordinarily taken a sick day having felt too ill to travel into work, they have felt well enough to complete their shift from home.

About the author

My name is Jessie Swinfield. I am a nomad, a third culture kid with a totally cute (but often overbearing) obsession with my dog, Frank. I have worked in the HR recruitment world for 5 years now and I really can’t imagine doing anything else.

I love writing about the HR market in my spare time and on top of the day job because I have a real passion and interest in the subject.

How can I help?

Over the coming weeks, I’ll be sharing more HR insights, so stay tuned for more updates from me. 

Whether you’re an HR professional looking for some help or advice in finding a new HR job, or you’re looking to hire, I’d love to hear from you. Get in touch with me today.

Thanks to the Office of National Statistics for their insights on this piece.

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