Work becoming more secure for most

A new CIPD report suggests that work has become more secure over the last decade, despite the pandemic.

Worried woman wearing mask speaking on phone in empty cafe


Employment in the UK has become more secure on most measures over the last decade – despite the impact of the pandemic, according to a new report from the Chartered Institute for Personnel and Development.

Compared with 2010, there are proportionally fewer people today working variable hours, working part-time involuntarily, or wanting to work more hours, according to the report. The proportion of people in non-permanent employment and on low pay (earning 60% of median earnings) has also fallen. And where people are in atypical arrangements, the CIPD says the evidence suggests most non-permanent workers choose this type of employment because it suits their lifestyle needs.

However, the ‘Has work become less secure?’ report – based on data analysis from a range of sources including the ONS – confirms that insecurity does remain a problem for a significant minority of workers. The CIPD is therefore calling 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 finds that 18.6% are 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 at the beginning of the 2010s; and zero hours contracts account for just 2.8% of the workforce with 64.5% of people on such contracts having a permanent role and therefore being 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, says the report.

However, while work is more secure on most measures, the study recognises that pockets of insecurity persist in the UK labour market:

  • One in 10 people (8%) of 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 account for just 2.8% of the workforce, but they 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.

Jonathan Boys, labour market economist for the CIPD, says: “It’s positive to see that work has become more secure in the last 10 years on most measures. The worst of the impact of the pandemic on jobs is expected to be temporary and the positives, such as more flexible working and homeworking, seem likely to settle at above pre-pandemic norms.

“However, 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.”

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 making changes in enforcement [through properly resourcing the new Single Enforcement Body], providing more opportunities for people to gain skills and progress at work and measuring and tracking job quality through the inclusion of a subjective job satisfaction question in the ONS Labour Force Survey.

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