Report highlights part-time penalty for low-paid workers

A new report from the Resolution Foundation highlights the pay and progression penalty for part-time workers.

Part-time business concept


The highest-paid fifth of workers in the UK work the longest weekly hours and the lowest-paid fifth work the shortest hours, contributing to widening inequality, according to the Resolution Foundation.

It says that the gap in working hours between the top and bottom hourly-pay quintile in 2021 was five hours per week for men and 10 hours per week for women. Despite hourly pay rising by 27% for the lowest earners in line with minimum wage increases since 2021,  weekly low pay has fallen by 4%.

The Foundation says of those workers in low weekly pay, only two-in-five had a low hourly pay, but almost nine-in-ten (88 per cent) were in part-time work. It highlights a pay and progression penalty for part-time workers with part-time work being concentrated in low-paying sectors and those looking for part-time work facing far fewer options of well-paid jobs than those able to work full time. They say that in 2015, only one-quarter of part-time workers felt like their job had prospects for advancement, compared to 38 per cent of full-time workers; and people who switch from part-time to full-time work are more likely to escape low pay that those who remain in part-time work.

Nevertheless, part-time workers have lower levels of work-related stress than full-time workers, says the report: in 2015, less than one-quarter of part-time employees, regularly felt stressed at work compared to over two-fifths of full-time employees.

But they faced particular constraints. For instance, low-paid work is often of poor quality and feels stressful and unfulfilling, and job satisfaction among the lowest earners has fallen from over 70 per cent in the early 1990s (far higher than for those with higher earnings at this point) to 56 per cent in 2017-2019. Workers also said that part-time work is often the only way they can achieve flexibility and balance work with their other commitments. The cost of childcare was also an issue.

The report calls for action on childcare and to incentivise employers to offer part-time jobs over full time (such as employer NI and pensions auto-enrolment). It also says that policymakers should improve job quality and flexibility for low-paid workers so that part-time work is not a coping strategy for people doing unsatisfying work, nor the only option for a lower-earner wanting a sustainable work-life balance. The Foundation says this will involve improving workers’ rights to give low-paid workers more control over their working hours and seeing that rights are enforced through the Single Enforcement Body when it comes into effect. Additionally, the report says policymakers should reduce the incidence of involuntary part-time work among young people by improving careers advice and employment support.

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