By Paul Kelly, head of Employment at Blacks Solicitors LLP (www.LawBlacks.com)
Due to the unprecedented economic impact the 2020/21 lockdowns had on UK business, many were concerned that, once life returned to normal, employers up and down the country would be forced to make swathes of redundancies. Indeed, it generally seemed to be accepted in the media that once furlough ended for good at the end of September 2021, the employment rate in the UK would fall off a cliff.
This did not happen. Instead, we have found ourselves facing the opposite situation. Rather than employers getting rid of employees en masse, it is employees who have been choosing to leave employment in large numbers.
This trend has been christened _‘The Great Resignation’_ (or _‘The Big Quit’_ in the USA).
The Great Resignation is a global phenomenon, which has been seen both as a response to the changes in the working environment prompted by lockdowns and related to the large number of employees who experienced homeworking for the very first time. Many workers leaving their employment are citing dissatisfaction with their current roles, a reassessment of their priorities and a desire to take up new opportunities with a better work-life balance. In addition, after over 18 months of COVID restrictions during which many businesses worked twice as hard just to ‘stand still’, burnout is also a major factor. Many employees feel they are overworked and have too much on their plate.
The severity of The Great Resignation can be seen in the number of available jobs in the UK, which surpassed one million for the first time ever in August 2021. A survey by Randstad UK found that almost a quarter of workers in employment are actively seeking new employment.
When seen against the backdrop of escalating wages in certain sectors, as employers fight to fill vacancies,The Great Resignation highlights the need to focus on the wellbeing of existing employees.This exodus of staff does not appear to have been primarily motivated by money or benefits, but, instead, a desire to work differently and embrace flexibility in working patterns. In practice, what this means is that employers will have to adapt their working practices and recruitment strategy to ensure that the needs of their employees are met or they risk losing the war for talent.With such a large number of employment vacancies, seemingly against all odds, it has become a candidates’ market, with employees more able to be choosy about which employers they want to work for.