Coronavirus job losses: disproportionate impact on certain groups

by | Sep 18, 2020

Coronavirus job losses: disproportionate impact on certain groups

Six months on from the start of UK lockdown, job losses have hit certain groups harder than others. Data analysis by the Office for National Statistics shows that workers from black and minority ethnic backgrounds, younger workers (18 to 24 year olds) and older workers (aged 50 and over) have been worst affected by the drastic effects of the pandemic on the economy.

During the period March to July 2020 some 730,000 workers lost their jobs. During this time, workers aged 18 to 24 and older workers were found to be at greatest risk of losing their jobs.

In addition to job losses, many workers’ hours were reduced. Those most at risk of losing working hours were young workers. According to research carried out by the campaign group, Hope Not Hate, workers of any age who are of black and minority ethnic heritage were more likely to lose hours. They found that black and minority ethnic workers had a 13 per cent likelihood of losing hours, compared to a risk of 9 per cent for a nationally representative sample.

The use of zero-hours contracts is often criticised for giving businesses flexibility at the expense of workers. Workers have no guaranteed hours and may experience considerable uncertainty in their working lives. During the peak of the pandemic, the number of recorded zero-hours contracts increased phenomenally, to the highest level ever recorded. Before March 2020, the number of zero-hours contracts was 156,000. This increased almost seven-fold to 1.05 million in July.

As the furlough leave scheme enters its final phases, before finishing on 31 October 2020, more and more employers are expected to make redundancies. In early August, Citizens Advice reported in An Unequal Crisis that it was receiving six times the number of requests for advice on redundancy than it did at the same time last year.

Citizens Advice has researched the risk of redundancy for those who were categorised as clinically extremely vulnerable earlier in the pandemic. According to its findings, 48 per cent of these individuals now face redundancy. This is against the backdrop of 17 per cent of the working population facing redundancy.

Many of these individuals are likely to have disabilities and will be protected under the Equality Act 2010. Employees who are selected for redundancy because they require greater health and safety measures to be put in place may also be able to bring claims. The selection of an individual for redundancy must be fair. We can help you through this complex area of law to reduce the risk of employment tribunal claims. 

This article is for general information only and does not constitute legal or professional advice. Please note that the law may have changed since this article was published.

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