According to flexible working campaigners, Timewise, many part time workers who are currently on the government’s furlough scheme are very apprehensive of being made redundant. In July the UK government reduces the proportion of employees wages it subsidises to 70%, from 80%, with employers having to pay the missing 10%. Timewise is warning that the UK’s 7.8 million part-time workers, of which most are women, will bear the brunt of job losses when the furlough scheme eventually ends in September.
The study found that half of all part-time workers had at one point been furloughed during the pandemic, compared to a third of full-time employees.
Emma Stewart, Timewise’s director of development, says “It seems to me that lots of businesses are getting rid of their part-timers, scaling down on more experienced personnel and keeping on to junior staff, to save costs.”
Meanwhile, part-time employment during the pamdemic crisis has fallen at its fastest rate in the last 30 years, with the share of women working part-time at its lowest since records began. Emma Stewart said, part-time workers could “effectively be locked out of work” after analysis of job adverts revealed just 8% of UK job vacancies are advertised as part-time.
The flexibilty of part time work for women is vital in allowing them to work and also look after their children outside of school hours.
The Timewise survey showed that in 2020, 44% of part-time workers have been on furlough since the first lockdown in March 2020, which compared with about a third of full-time workers.
Tony Wilson, director of Institute for Employment Studies, says part-time workers have been “hit harder” by the length of the reoccuring lockdowns, leading them to take on full-time jobs to “make up for lost earnings”. These are both factors which are causing the fall in availability of part-time roles.
“Either way, the signs are that far from heralding a new era of flexible working, this recovery may see far fewer people getting the hours and the flexibility that they need,” he says.
The Office for National Statistics figures show 7.8 million people were employed in part time jobs between January and March 2020. Which compares to 8.7 million in the same period last year. The number of women employed part-time fell from 6.4 million to 5.7 million.
Mr Wilson says a new Employment Bill is needed to improve security for part-time workers and to “strengthen people’s rights to work flexibly”.
A Department for Business spokeswoman said the government was “wholeheartedly committed to protecting and enhancing workers’ rights”.
They said it had set up the Flexible Working Taskforce to “properly understand the changes in ways of working that are emerging as a result of the pandemic”. We are also taking forward plans to consult on making flexible work the default, unless employers have good reasons not to allow it”.