ONS Labour Market Overview: October 2020



12 November 2020

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) analysis of the UK labour market in the third quarter (July – September) of 2020 was issued this week. 

Given that the nation continues to battle with the COVID-19 pandemic it was to be expected that the numbers of unemployed people would continue to rise, and that is indeed the case.  Key findings from the report include:

  • The unemployment rate in the three months to September 2020 was estimated at 4.8%, 0.9% higher than a year earlier and 0.7% higher than the previous quarter.
  • Estimates for July to September 2020 show an estimated 1.62 million people were unemployed, 318,000 more than a year earlier and 243,000 more than the previous quarter.
  • In the three months to September 2020, redundancies reached a record high of 314,000.

As bad as these figures undoubtedly are, they are still well below the unemployment levels seen in the downturns of the 1980s, 1990s, and also during the financial crisis of 2007 (see this BBC news story for a chart of unemployment rates since the 1970s), and well below the levels initially predicted by analysts at the start of the current crisis.  This anomaly is doubtless a result of the (very welcome) government intervention in the form of the Job Retention Scheme.  This support was intended to end last month, but was recently extended to cover the period from 1st November 2020 to the end of March 2021.

So, at the time of writing, it is impossible to really predict just how far away the peak of the unemployment rate might be, and how many individuals will be impacted. 

A personal and corporate tragedy

But what is clear is that each and every job loss represents a personal tragedy to the employee being made redundant and his/her family too.

It’s also clear that employers are often making these deeply difficult decisions very reluctantly, but the harsh business realities of 2020 - and the still worrying uncertainties of 2021 – continue to make many such decisions inevitable for organisations in all sectors of the British economy.

The employer’s duty of care

Yet employers still have a duty of care to their workers, even those that they are forced to let go.  So offering some form of practical support to help such employees manage their finances, mental and physical health, replace lost workplace insurances, and find a toe-hold in the currently difficult jobs market are all likely to be welcomed. 

For this reason Howden Employee Benefits & Wellbeing (Howden) have this week launched our Specialist Redundancy Support Service to help employers provide important support functions to departing employees.  For a brief summary of the services on offer, please see the short animation in the above link.

Providing such support services to departing employees really doesn’t have to cost much, but is likely to be welcomed by many as they face a worrying and uncertain future.  And the support on offer is designed to support individuals now, and in the months immediately ahead too.

And, aside from being the right thing to do morally, employers will also be able to demonstrate to their remaining workforce that have done what they can to support those they have had to make redundant.  Essentially it’s evidence that the employer takes its duty of care to both departing and remaining workers very seriously indeed. 

Ultimately providing such support can only help workforce relations in these difficult times and beyond, whilst importantly doing all the employer can to support those who have been made redundant. 

For more information on any of the above topics, please speak to your usual Howden Consultant in the first instance, or visit our website for other contact options. For the latest details on COVID-19 & Employee Benefits provision please visit our coronavirus hub.

(Published 12/11/20)

Steve Herbert

Steve is Head of Benefits Strategy, Howden Employee Benefits & Wellbeing, and is an award-winning thought leader on Pensions, Employee Benefits, and Human Resources issues. He is occasionally accused of making Employee Benefits interesting.

Steve Herbert

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