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A UK labour market snapshot: what’s the outlook for the coming months?

By Mark Staniland, Managing Director of Hays Ireland

The first six months of 2022 have been tumultuous to say the least, with war in Ukraine, surging energy prices, a rise in the cost of living and political change at the top all converging to create uncertainty that’s proving increasingly hard to navigate. Despite these disruptions, however, the UK labour market has remained strong, with demand in many industries stronger than it was even before the pandemic, and job vacancies seeing record highs.

But what’s the hiring outlook for the coming months? Against a landscape of acute skills shortages and a challenging Brexit aftermath, what benefits are professionals looking to secure in exchange for their expertise, and how are employers taking action to secure the right talent?

Our latest quarterly insights survey, which ran in the second half of June and received over 8,000 responses from professionals across the UK, shows the trends and challenges currently shaping the UK labour market:

Hiring intentions – do plans remain in place?

Almost three quarters (71%) of employers who responded to our survey are currently hiring staff, but this isn’t without its challenges. Less than a quarter (22%) said they currently have access to the right skills, and 63% cited competition from other employers as the biggest barrier to finding the people they need. Many acknowledged the impact of Brexit, with 43% saying the new regulations for EU workers are decreasing their organisation’s access to talent and skills.

Remote hiring, meanwhile, remains a popular strategy for overcoming skills shortages. Over a quarter (28%) of employers say they are currently hiring staff who are based fully remotely, and of these, over a third (36%) are hiring staff based outside the UK.

Salary, of course, is still the main incentive for candidates looking to move, so it’s unsurprising that almost half (43%) of employers have increased salaries over the last three months. Furthermore, 54% of employers who plan to increase pay over the next three months are doing so due to the rising cost of living.

Hybrid working – is it here to stay?

The results of our surveys through the pandemic showed a dramatic increase in the importance attributed to hybrid and flexible working, as people in a variety of sectors realised they could do their jobs efficiently without having to be in the workplace every day.

More fluid working patterns have remained an ongoing fixture since lockdowns have eased, with over two thirds (68%) of employers offering hybrid working at their organisation. While 65% of organisations who are currently offering hybrid working don’t expect this to change, over a quarter (28%) believe that they will require staff to be in the office more often. 19% of professionals expect that their employer will ask them to come into the office more often over the next three months, also.

If employers begin to rethink their policies on hybrid working and insist people come to the office more frequently, there will likely be some consequences. Around half of those we surveyed said hybrid is their preferred working pattern.

Benefits – what are people looking for in a role?

There was a great deal of talk about the great resignation during the height of the pandemic, although it might be better to think of this more as a reshuffle, driven by people having the opportunity to think more carefully about what they want from a job, and indeed from life, than ever before. Movement plans do remain high, with 58% of professionals planning to move jobs within the next 12 months, and a third (33%) intending to do so within the next three months.

Employers, meanwhile, are taking significant steps to offset the impact of these movement plans. As a result of a competitive labour market, 47% of employers say they would consider offering flexible working hours to attract more talent to their organisation, while 13% are offering a signing-on bonus – a one-time payment given to an employee starting a new job. We’re also seeing more organisations considering offering four-day working weeks, providing enhanced parental leave and allowing people to take bank holidays at other times in the year, all in order to get that slight advantage over the competition.

The working landscape is likely to remain subject to continuing evolution for the foreseeable future. For employers, this will mean staying consistently up to date regarding the hiring challenges they are likely to face and planning accordingly, while employees will need to think carefully about what they truly want from a role, which may not just include salary.

For more insights and advice, or to find out how we can support your career or help fill a vacancy at your organisation, speak to one of our expert consultants today.

About this author

Mark joined Hays in 1985 as a trainee consultant and has been in various roles, sectors and locations during his time at Hays. He is a Board member and in 2019 his responsibilities extended to Hays Ireland.

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