With restrictions coming to an end, the UK is once again, cautiously, peeping its head over the edge to see some semblance of normality. The nation has yo-yoed in and out of measures for nearly two years, and scepticism around this really being ‘the end’ is high.
Nevertheless, whether one is joyous to receive the news about being able to have a little more liberty or worried about the cycle potentially being perpetuated, there are many questions being asked. Will home working still be an option? What might happen to salary levels this year? Will the labour shortages begin to ease?
Of course, no one has a crystal ball. However, based on the current market, previous patterns, consumer confidence levels and just a little of our own opinion, we have tried to give answers to a few burning questions in this blog.
Will I still be able to work from home?
In this post-pandemic era, it’s no secret that employees are calling on employers to improve their flexible working policies. An incredible number of UK companies (87 per cent, to be precise) have now implemented some sort of hybrid working model. And because of this shift, there have been clear, positive effects of the UK’s happiness.
A third of staff say that this change has enabled then to pursue other hobbies and interests, over half say that they can use their lunch breaks to focus on their personal lives and 44 per cent are working the same number of hours but in patterns more suitable to their lifestyle.
Of course, working from home has its pitfalls. From feelings of being disengaged with teams to the fear of missing out on progression opportunities, it hasn’t been the perfect shift for everyone. However, with these issues being brought to the forefront, there is far more understanding than there was two years ago of how to tackle issues such as unconscious bias, the inability to separate work life and home life when working remotely and avoiding unequal opportunity.
We don’t envisage employers removing the option of homeworking or flexible working practices post-pandemic. It’s now an integral request from most of the UK workforce, with 85 per cent wanting a hybrid working approach.
Those companies who do take the risk to revert back to a full-time office-based model risk losing staff, current and prospective. Indeed, the number of employment tribunals relating to employers blocking flexible working requests has increased by an immense 52 per cent. In 2021, there were 193 cases – the highest on record.
Will labour shortages continue to be an issue?
In November of last year, the UK saw a record high of job vacancies. 1.2 million gaps were left unfilled as the country grappled with the fallout of both the pandemic and Brexit. Now, while the story is looking a little brighter with the level of unemployment falling, there are still concerns levels will not be back to where they need to be to meet demand.
One driver of this concern is the Omicron variant which seems to be wreaking havoc amongst a large percentage of the population. In a BBC article, firms had reported seeing 50 per cent of their workforces off while unwell with COVID-19, and some warning of full closure of certain outlets and redeployment of staff.
However, illness due to the pandemic is only part of the problem. As an article in the Big Issue refers to it, the UK is dealing with a ‘triple threat’: the pandemic, Brexit and an ageing population. Combined, these are mixing up a recipe for disaster if Governments do not intervene or contingency plans aren’t put into place. Indeed, if things continue on this trajectory, labour shortages of 2.6 million are expected to be seen in less than a decade.
And because of this continued uncertainty in the labour market, companies are doing all they can to retain staff and keep their workforces ticking over.
Will pay rises be viable in 2022?
One key retention strategy for many employers has been to review, and subsequently increase, staff salaries across the board. According to recent research, new starters have witnessed a six to eight per cent pay rise in the last 12 months, with some industries, such as technology, reporting hikes of anywhere between 15 and 20 per cent.
In the same research, it became evident that this trend of sky-rocketing salaries shows no signs of stopping. 75 per cent of employees are very confident about job opportunities in their sector in 2022. Additionally, 54 per cent said they were expecting a pay rise. On the other side of the coin, two-thirds of employees stated that if they felt unrewarded in their current role, they would look to leave.
And for some employers, the prospect of pay rises doesn’t just stem from retention efforts for 2022. With inflation rising to a 10-year high to 5.1 per cent, many are also looking at helping to ease their team’s troubles with the cost-of-living crisis that lies on the horizon.
Like many years prior to this one, no one quite knows what awaits in 2022.
However, as the country begins to heal once again from another lockdown and the job market becomes to thaw after a frosty winter, there is hope that positive change is on the horizon.