From rising redundancies to a longevity action plan

This week’s HR news round-up covers everything from rising redundancies and the impact on recruitment to a bold plan to address greater longevity.

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Wave of redundancies affecting jobseekers

Hiring fell during November for both permanent and temporary jobs and vacancies fell slightly for the second time in the past three months, according to latest KPMG and REC, UK Report on Jobs survey, compiled by S&P Global.

The number of candidates looking for a job rose rapidly at the quickest rate since December 2020, with recruiters widely linking this to redundancies and workers concerned over current job security. At the same time, starting salaries and temporary pay fell.

Permanent staff appointments contracted at the second quickest rate since June 2020, while temp billings fell back into decline after two months of expansion, although at a much softer pace than that seen for permanent staff appointments as some employers sought the flexibility of contract workers in the current economic environment.

London recorded by far the steepest reduction in permanent placements, with The Midlands being the only area to see a mild increase. The public sector was worse hit by the fall in permanent vacancies.

Demand for permanent staff fell most steeply in construction, followed by Executive/Professional. The Nursing/Medical/Care and Engineering sectors, meanwhile, saw the strongest upturns in demand.

Hotel & Catering saw the quickest rise in demand for temporary staff, with the steepest drop in vacancies being for retail staff.

Meanwhile, the REC has commented on the Government announcement on immigration curbs which mean that from next Spring overseas workers will need to earn a minimum of £38,700 to work in the UK.  Health and social care will be exempt, but health and care workers will no longer be able to bring family dependants to the UK. The government is also increasing the annual charge foreign workers pay to use the NHS from £624 to £1,035. The financial requirements for the extension of spouse visas will also rise.

The Government says the curbs will force employers to invest more in upskilling the domestic workforce and will help to move some people off benefits. Neil Carberry, REC Chief Executive, said:  The Government talks about wanting growth and increased productivity. Successful modern economies are international – but these changes will send the wrong signal around the world. They are wholly disproportionate, given that immigration for work in the private sector is such a small part of total immigration.

“From world-leading universities to globally competitive firms, attracting people to the UK for work and study is a benefit to growth and prosperity here…

“Given the recent trend in wages, some uprating of the salary threshold would have been sensible – but such a large rise is likely to negatively effect smaller firms and those in regions farther from London. While many roles we have shortages in are driven by labour availability, the UK also has significant skills shortages. This news also underpins again the government’s serial failure to address the skills system despite half a decade of business feedback about the failed Apprenticeship Levy and the underfunding of Further Education.”

PwC takes action on social mobility

PwC has announced a raft of moves to increase the number of people from lower socio-economic backgrounds joining the firm.

The moves include school leavers and graduates being able to advance up to £1,000 of their first month’s salary.  The option will be open to everyone, helping to reduce any potential stigma associated with the request. Socio-economic background data will also be incorporated into the way PwC monitors work allocation to ensure there is fair access to high profile clients and projects and salaries will be published on job descriptions for PwC’s school leaver apprentice programmes, with a view to expanding this to all entry level roles.

In addition, the professional services firm will offer increased mentoring will be made available for new joiners from lower socio-economic backgrounds.

Meanwhile, nearly half (45 per cent) of employers say having a degree is ‘not important’ when it comes to recruiting, according to a survey by recruitment firm Hays, while two in five (39 per cent) of the 14,925 employers surveyed said a degree was ‘quite important but not essential’. Just 16 per cent said a degree is essential.

Large numbers working while on leave

More than half (53%) of people have had to work while on leave in the past 12 months, with hybrid and remote workers significantly more likely to feel pressure to do so, according to a new survey by Forbes Advisor.

The survey of 2,000 people found that, on average, those who work while on leave spend two-and-a-half hours per day on various tasks. Almost half of these people (48%) reply to work emails or messages and nearly a third (32%) have completed administrative tasks. Almost a quarter (23%) have taken their work laptop or phone away with them on holiday, while one in five (18%) continue to work as normal while on leave.

One in five (22%) have worked while on holiday, either in the UK or abroad.  The most common reason for working on holiday is because people feel a responsibility to reply when a colleague messages them.

Three out of 10 (28%) hybrid and remote employees believe that working remotely means they are expected to do work on holiday more than office workers. Only 44% of office-based employees have worked while on leave, compared to 64% of hybrid and remote workers.

Despite half (50%) of UK employees stating that working on holiday means that they are unable to fully relax, three out of 10 (30%) believe that it is the only way to stay on top of their workload.

Part-time penalty under scrutiny

Nearly half of workers believe part-time working can limit career progression, particularly younger people and managers, despite managers also being the most likely occupational group to express an interest in working part time in the future, according to new research.

The Timewise report, A Question of Time, is based on an Opinium survey of 4,001 full-time and part-time workers and smaller focus groups. It shows 41% of people work part-time to manage either care or home-related responsibilities, and 22% work part-time to better manage their mental and/or physical health. 16% work part time because they have cut their hours as they get closer to retirement. Other reasons include pursuing hobbies and interests beyond work while 10% haven’t been able to secure full-time work.

Over a third of workers thought part-time working was primarily for parents and carers, rising to one in four among those in the managerial occupational group. However, half don’t think working part time means you are less ambitious, with 23% saying it does.

The survey found differences in the perception of the status of part-time work by age, ethnicity, education and occupation:

  • While 51% of younger workers (18-35) agree that ‘part-time working limits career progression’, only 37% of workers over 50 do.
  • Asian workers are more likely to say that part-time work limits career progression than workers from white backgrounds (58% versus 45%).
  • People in managerial and professional occupations hold a more negative view of part-time working than those in routine occupations (53% versus 36%).

Read more here.

Parents held back from career progression

Parents are being held back at work and their skills are being underutilised because of a lack of flexible working in senior roles, unrealistic workloads and a lack of proactive encouragement to progress and line manager support, according to a new report, which says half of mums think parenting is holding them back in their careers.

The Career progression gaps: The next frontier report by Leaders Plus, based on an online survey of 878 parents, found 61% of parents would like to progress within the next two years and 86% within five years, but since returning to work only 48% said they had been promoted and only 30% think promotion is likely. But parents don’t see parenting as a barrier themselves: half feel it’s made them more productive.

The minority (25%) of parents who did not feel held back by having children were more likely to feel their organisation offered good opportunities for working parents to progress and that the CEO and leadership team were supportive, says the report. 66% said more role models of working parents with children in senior roles is extremely or very important to their motivation to progress. Flexible working is key, including informal flexibility around unexpected family issues.

Many parents have been dissuaded from applying for promotion because of workload or flexibility concerns. 67% of mums said they had decided against applying for promotion in the past due to their caring responsibilities, with half saying the required start and finish times of the job didn’t fit with caring responsibilities. Yet there was little reporting of negotiation. The report says: “Parents are accepting or moving on rather than driving demand, which suggests HR teams need to take the proactive role in offering this.”

Read more here.

Sexual harassment Act gets Royal Assent

The Worker Protection (Amendment of Equality Act 2010) Act which covers sexual harassment at work has been given Royal Assent and will come into force in October 2024.

The Act imposes a new duty on UK employers to take reasonable steps to prevent their employees being sexually harassed at work. Employment tribunals will also be able to increase awards by 25 per cent where the duty to prevent harassment has not been complied with. The Equalities and Human Rights Commission will have the power to take enforcement action against firms that breach this duty, and businesses may face increased compensation claims if they fail to prevent sexual harassment.

The Act has proved controversial after a proposed liability on employers for harassment of their employees by third parties was dropped and a proactive duty on employers to take ‘all reasonable steps’ to prevent harassment was diluted, removing the word ‘all’.

Read more here.

Bold new plan for making the most of greater longevity

A new report calls for bold action to capitalise on our greater longevity after years of procrastination and for a Parliamentary Demographic Change Select Committee to be set up to audit the government’s progress.

The report, One hundred not out: A route map for long lives, published today by the International Longevity Centre UK (ILC), also calls for the appointment of a cross-governmental inter-ministerial group focused on future generations, led by a cabinet minister, that reports regularly to Parliament. Its remit would be “to consider demographic change, the implications of technological change and environmental sustainability, over a long-term horizon”.

It highlights how society and Government need to rethink and invest more in public policies to ensure a more equitable and healthier lifetime, given life expectancy which was growing for many years has been stalling since 2013 amid growing social inequality.

The report says what is needed is action to promote the benefits of longer lives, to address ageism and to focus on prevention of ill health and poverty throughout people’s lives. It states that “too little modelling of the costs of ageing considers how an increasingly economically active older population could add to economic growth rather than take away from it”.

It sets out wide-ranging ideas for improving health, tackling poverty, building community infrastructure and helping people build relationships and have fun throughout their lives. Among the issues it tackles is work. It cites new research that almost one in ten people (9.54%) aged between 50 and the State Pension Age left work involuntarily in 2023.

It says: “The state pension age is still set significantly higher than healthy life expectancy in many parts of the country, and workplaces aren’t adequately adapted to health needs. And wide health inequalities persist.”

Measures to address this include:

  • Providing funding for employees of all ages to pursue age discrimination claims through the courts
  • Using business rate relief and tax incentives to support the development of co-working hubs and community spaces based within communities
  • Requiring all jobs to be ‘flexible by default’ and encouraging employers to look at reducing hours/4-day weeks
  • Developing Occupational Health Hubs alongside JobCentre Plus
  • Ensuring all workers have access to Midlife MOTs
  • Creating a new scheme to encourage workplace savings; an escalator on auto-enrolment minimum contributions and new ways for self-employed people to save

Other broader measures to promote health include:

  • Ensuring that at least 6% of health spending goes towards preventative activity while embracing the ‘nanny state’ with new measures to curb unhealthy behaviour
  • Opening an innovation fund – the Healthy Ageing Challenge 2.0 – with a focus on developing and scaling new ideas to improve health, adapt workplaces and tackle isolation and loneliness.
  • Creating a new Duke of Edinburgh Award offering fun, fitness, skills development alongside social action for people of all ages
  • Developing new multigenerational community hubs building on the best of Sure Start Centres, community hubs and neighbourhood networks.

The report also proposes some “bold ideas” for more ambitious changes. These include setting up citizens’ panels with the power to make proposals directly to Parliament; developing a new ‘Lifetime Work Standard’, guaranteeing flexible working arrangements, support for carers and access to training and occupational health; and providing financial incentives for physical activity.

Read more here.

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