Half of UK employees still expect to be furloughed, fired, or take a pay cut in the next three months

Only half of current employees (51%) expect to continue to work normally over the coming three months, according to new research from professional services consultancy Barnett Waddingham. The rest expect to be furloughed, made redundant, or take a pay or benefits cut.

Nearly a quarter of UK employees have already been furloughed; HMRC has announced that a total of 6.3m jobs had been temporarily laid off by 800,000 companies, with claims amounting to £8bn by 3rd May. Concerningly, the new research from Barnett Waddingham suggests that many employees expect no return to normality anytime soon.

Almost one in seven employees (14%) expect to lose their jobs in the next three months. 9% expect to become/continue to be furloughed for a period of time and then be made redundant, and a further 5% expect to be made redundant immediately. This is especially pertinent as we approach an announcement from the Chancellor on how he expects to phase out the furlough scheme. 23% expect to become/ continue to be furloughed for a period of time and then return to work, and 11% expect to take a pay or benefits cut.

The younger generations see themselves as most at risk. Just a third (36%) of 18-24 year-olds expect to continue to work normally – 23% expect to be made redundant. The most confident in their job security are those age 45-64; 59% expect to continue to work normally, and a mere 9% expect to be fired as a result of the Coronavirus crisis. 

Concerningly, disabled employees are almost twice as likely to expect to be made redundant as their non-disabled counterparts; 22% expect to be fired either outright or after a period of furlough, compared to 13% of non-disabled employees. 12% expect to take a pay or benefits cut compared to 10% of non-disabled staff, and only 40% anticipate working normally for the next three months.

And similar trends exist when it comes to race. 52% of white employees expect to continue working normally, compared to 45% of BME staff, and vice versa with redundancies; 21% of BME staff expect to be fired compared to 13% of their white colleagues. While other factors like employment trends may be having an effect here, there’s no doubt that the impact of Covid-19 is not being felt equally.

Of course, the type of company has a part to play. Those in the public sector are the most confident in their job security for the foreseeable future, with 73% expecting to work normally and just 4% anticipating being made redundant. Perhaps unsurprisingly, this is followed by those working in medical and pharma, with 71% expecting to continue as normally. Consumer & industrial goods and services are the least confident, with just 41% expecting to continue to work normally.

There’s a direct correlation between confidence and the size of a company too. Employees in small companies are by far the least confident about the next three months – in firms of 1-9 people just 42% expect to work normally, rising to 43% in those with 10-49 employees and 46% in those with 50-200. Contrastingly, at firms with 5000+ employees, 64% of employees expect to be able to work normally, as do 52% of those in the 1001-4999 range. However, with the launch of the 100% state-backed ‘bounce back’ loans last week, we may see this trend reverse soon.

Peter Meyler, Associate and Head of Workplace Consultancy at Barnett Waddingham, said: “The UK Government in standing on the precipice of having to make and communicate some big decisions in the next few  days about how the UK is going to come out of the Covid-19 lockdown in a way that does the least damage to public health and confidence, societal cohesion, and of course the economy. We are now in an employment landscape that was unthinkable at the start of this year. Economic recovery is dependent on people getting back to normal/near normal work in healthy, refreshed, motivated and engaged states. Our research reinforces many will be far from that as they struggle mentally and financially to cope during this pandemic, with limited clarity about what the future might hold for them.

Financially, the Government has invested heavily in the Job Retention Scheme, and even with such comprehensive support, unemployment is still soaring. Has this scheme become the “Job Retention until-such-time-as-you-lose-your-Job Scheme”? Only time will tell. Employees are understandably anxious and disheartened, and even those currently in work are pessimistic about the next three months. Crucially, the issues are not just economic. The current situation is perpetuating, and even worsening, social inequalities, and it will be sad day if a crisis that initially brought the country together starts to drive it apart.

“While employers have a swathe of concerns at the moment, it’s absolutely vital that employee communication, engagement, wellbeing and support does not get deprioritised. Good employers will continue to communicate clearly and comprehensively with their employees, and this will create longer-term loyalty and support from them. Those who let their people down and leave them to deal with the anxiety and stress alone are likely to see the effects go far past those directly caused by Covid-19.”

Author: Editorial Team

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