‘More part-time roles needed to build back from Covid’

Timewise highlights need for more part-time jobs due to disproportionate Covid impact on part-time roles.

Part time working or full time working spelled out in dice


Half of part-time workers have been furloughed or had their hours reduced compared to just a third of full-time workers, according to new research.

The report, entitled ‘The impact of COVID-19 on part-time employees’, is published by Timewise with analysis from the Institute for Employment Studies to conduct this analysis.

It found that 80% of part-time workers do not want to work more hours, often due to caring responsibilities. While people in part time roles have borne the brunt of job losses, furlough and reduction in hours during Covid, there are fears over future jobs, given just 8 per cent of UK vacancies mention part-time possibilities.

The survey found that, during 2020, full-time employees began to return to their normal hours – from having had their hours reduced – in greater proportions to part-time employees. 44% of part-time employees who were ‘away from work’ (as classified by the ONS) during the first lockdown continued to be away from work between July-September 2020. The comparable figure for full-time employees was about a third (33.6%).

It also says that the impact of furlough has left many part-timers feeling they are “clinging on to disappearing jobs” and that rates of part-time employment have fallen to the lowest level seen since 2010 (24% of all those in work). Moreover, the share of women in part-time work has fallen to its lowest since records began, at 37% (down from 41% a year ago).

Fall in part time roles

Tony Wilson, Director of Institute for Employment Studies, says: “This crisis has seen part-time employment fall at its fastest rate in at least 30 years, while the share of women working part time has dropped to its lowest since records began.  We think that there are two things driving this.  First, part-time workers have been hit harder by successive lockdowns, with today’s research showing that they have also benefited less when lockdowns have ended.  But secondly, we’ve seen more part-time workers take on full-time hours, either to make up for lost earnings from a partner or because they’re in the frontline of the pandemic, particularly in the NHS.  Either way, the signs are that far from heralding a new era of flexible working, this recovery may see far fewer people getting the hours and the flexibility that they need.  Today’s report also provides more evidence for why we need a new Employment Bill, to improve security for part time workers and strengthen people’s rights to work flexibly.”

Timewise is calling on the Government to make the right to request flexible working a day one right, to incentivise flexible working through job creation, to provide better employment support for flexible job seekers and to launch a Challenge Fund for flexible work, targeted at supporting a sector-led approach to designing better quality part-time and flexible roles in industries where it is more operationally complex.

Meanwhile, Cranfield School of Management has announced an 18-month research project to determine to what extent so-called ‘flexible furlough’ during the coronavirus pandemic has increased employer openness to part-time working.

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