Work is becoming more secure but more action is needed to enforce employment rights and improve job quality for all, says the UK’s leading HR body.
New research from the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) has found that employment in the UK has generally become more secure on most measures over the past decade, even with the Covid pandemic factored in.
The study, Has Work Become Less Secure?, revealed that, compared with 2010, there are proportionally fewer people today working variable hours, working part-time involuntarily, or wanting to work more hours.
The proportion of people in non-permanent employment and on low pay (earning less than 60% of median earnings) has also fallen.
And, according to the CIPD, the evidence suggests that when it comes to more precarious or “atypical” work, most non-permanent workers choose this type of employment because it suits their lifestyle needs.
Insecurity did, however, remain a significant problem for a large minority of workers, the research highlighted. Because of this, the CIPD called on employers and government to put choice and job quality at the heart of discussions about ways of working, in order to protect people from insecure working arrangements that do not suit their needs.
It said the newly appointed director of labour market enforcement, Margaret Beels, should work towards enhancing the protection of employment right people in insecure roles.
Key findings from the CIPD’s research, gleaned from analysis of ONS figures among other sources, included:
- Almost one in five workers (18.6%) are now non-permanent employees (self-employed or on temporary contracts). This has fallen from 19.2% in 2010;
- People are generally more able to get the hours that they want, and regular hours, more so than a decade ago;
- Zero hours contracts account for just 2.8% of the workforce – although in 2010 there were hardly any such contracts.
Almost two thirds (64.5%) of people on zero hours contracts had a permanent role, the research found, so were likely to have full employment rights, subject to length of service. The vast majority are not looking for a new job (84.6%) and most (75.5%) do not want more hours.
Pockets of insecurity persist in the UK labour market despite the trend for more secure work, the report found. For instance:
- One in 10 people (8%) in the UK’s workforce would like to work more hours
- 3% are involuntarily working part-time as they’re unable to find a full-time role
- A third (33%) of temporary employees (representing 1.9% of all employees) would like a permanent job
- Zero hours contracts are disproportionately concentrated among young people and in sectors such as hospitality (14% of workforce) and in health and social work to a lesser extent.
Flexibility is two-sided
To address these challenges the CIPD has published guidance to help employers use atypical and insecure contracts responsibly, ensuring that flexibility is two-sided and mutually beneficial. It is also urging policy makers to remain focused on improving job quality, by enforcing employment rights across the labour market. This would mean ensuring the forthcoming creation of a single enforcement body was supplemented by the resources to boost inspection capability and support enhanced employer compliance.
Reform of the UK skills system in order to reverse years of declining employer investment in training was also a vital component of the changes that government needed to lead, the CIPD said.
Jonathan Boys, labour market economist for the CIPD, said it was positive to see that work had become more secure over the past 10 years on most measures. But he added: “When it comes to working arrangements, one size does not fit all. One person’s flexibility could be another person’s insecurity. Employers must manage atypical arrangements responsibly, keeping choice and job quality at the heart of discussions about different ways of working.
“And while it’s welcome news that a new director of labour market enforcement has been appointed, the government must ensure the forthcoming creation of a single enforcement body is underpinned by the necessary resources to meaningfully protect people’s rights and improve employment standards.”