Women more likely to be furloughed – but only if they are younger

A survey shows younger women are the most likely to have been furloughed during the coronavirus pandemic as new figures show employment fell by 649,000 between March and June.

Doctor and patient


Women are more likely to have been furloughed than men, with younger women the most likely to be furloughed, according to an HMRC study.

It found that employees aged 17 were most likely age group to be furloughed, with women most likely to be on furlough. However, women were less likely to be furloughed at any age past 22, with women employees aged 41 to 58 the least likely to be furloughed. Employees aged in their 60s were slightly more likely to be furloughed than those in their 40s and 50s.

HMRC says this is in part due to the number of women working in sectors such as health and education.

The report was published as Office for National Statistics figures reveal that the number of people employed fell by 649,000 between March and June,  while the number claiming work-related benefits – including the unemployed – was 2.6 million. This is smaller fall than anticipated, in part due to the furlough scheme. In addition, the figures show the number of self-employed people in the UK dropped by 178,000 from last quarter and by 105,000 compared to the same time last year.

The Institute for Employment Studies says the unemployment picture is only set to worsen as the furlough scheme winds down, but it noted a small improvement in the numbers claiming unemployment-related benefits, saying that appeared to be due to self-employed income support payments being made in May.

It also noted that young people continue to be the most hard hit by the crisis, with one in seven now unemployed – double the rate for older workers. Previous IES research shows the low paid are also most likely to have suffered job losses and income reductions due to the crisis. The IES said today’s figures showed new starts to employment were running at just half of pre-crisis levels and that vacancies had fallen by three fifths.

A poll of 7,400 UK firms published by the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) shows that 29% plan to cut the size of their workforce in the next three months. Larger firms were found to be more likely to be plotting redundancies, with more than four in 10 of those with 10 or more staff saying they expect to reduce headcount in the next quarter. It was also found that 28% of respondents have already laid off staff since the lockdown began. The survey was carried out prior to Chancellor Rishi Sunak announcing up to £30bn of fresh tax and spending measures to protect jobs in the aftermath of the COVID-19 crisis.

However, in the City, the figures are more positive. Morgan McKinley’s latest London Employment Monitor shows a 72% year on year drop in vacancies in April, but by June, it said there had been a 72% increase in jobs available, although the year on year figures for the April to June period are down by 66%.

Meanwhile, unions are demanding changes to the law to allow workers to bring claims for unpaid wages, sick pay and holiday pay not only from their immediate employer but also from any contractor higher up the supply chain. The demand comes amid controversy over working conditions in Leicester garment factories supplying big-name fashion brands as the city went into a local lockdown. The TUC said the situation had highlighted a “huge gap in the law” which allowed major firms to “wash their hands” of responsibility over the behaviour of subcontractors. TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady called on the government to extend joint liability laws to make “parent employers” responsible for stopping exploitation of workers in their supply chains.

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