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People in low-paid, insecure work faced a rising tide of employment uncertainty in 2020

We follow workers’ employment journeys through 2020, and it highlights the importance of creating jobs that work for all of us.

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This briefing focuses on the millions of workers furloughed or out of work during the first COVID-19 lockdown. What happened next to these workers? Were they able to stay afloat and re-join the labour force when lockdown was over? Were some groups of workers more likely to stay afloat than others?

Key points

  • Six out of ten people who were furloughed or lost their job in the first lockdown managed to return to work by the end of 2020, but concerningly, almost half (48%) of the people made workless between April and June would remain out of work for the rest of 2020.
  • Of those affected by the first lockdown, 18% of with less secure contracts (agency, fixed-term, temporary or casual) and 25% of those on zero-hours contracts would go on to suffer further negative employment shocks. Even when comparing workers with the same characteristics, working in the same sector, we find that those in less secure forms of work were still 13% more likely to suffer a second shock than those on permanent contracts.
  • This means that the type of contract was a significant contributing factor to workers facing a worsening employment status later in the year, and the flexible nature of some jobs did not improve their likelihood of recovering quickly.
  • Age and pay were also factors affecting the employment shocks experienced by workers. Comparing workers with the same sectors, contracts and working patterns, the oldest and the youngest workers had higher probabilities (20% and 6%) of experiencing a second negative employment shock. Low-paid workers were around 6% more likely to experience another negative employment shock than those paid more.
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