Need a new HRIS? Our new buyer’s guide is packed with all the things you need to know. Get your free guide now

Full-time’s up in the UK – but not much else is changing

This is a modified section from Workable's comprehensive new survey report on the Great Discontent in 2023 in the United Kingdom. Visit here to see the report in full.

Keith MacKenzie
Keith MacKenzie

Passionate about human resources, employment, and business management, and an expert at sharing that expertise.

What’s happening in the ever-changing UK job market right now? We have data for you on what employment looks like here, what other dynamics are at play, and why those who aren’t working are not working.

What do UK workers want now?

Our Great Discontent 2.0 survey report contains a wealth of data revealing how employee priorities in the UK have changed since 2021. Learn more here.

View the report highlights

Top 3 takeaways

  1. Seven out of 10 are now working full time, compared with 60.1% two years earlier
  2. The percentage of those working part-time or for themselves is down
  3. Those not working are due to health or government benefits

In 2023, nearly seven out of every 10 respondents (68.8%) report working full time, a significant growth from the 60.1% recorded in 2021. This shouldn’t come as a surprise – the data in 2021 was fresh off the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic which saw considerable job loss across numerous sectors. And of course, Brexit made for further complications in the system.

The percentages of those in part-time and self-employed work are also down in 2023.

This ultimately means we’re seeing relative stabilization of the UK job market after those two horsemen set foot on British soil – more full-time workers means greater security, after all.

Big differences between UK and US

The percentage of those who aren’t working hasn’t changed at all – it’s 10.4% in both 2021 and 2023 – this is interesting because in the same survey in the United States, that percentage is half of what it was two years earlier (9.9% now, down from 20.8%).

Meanwhile, those actively looking for new work also didn’t change much, from 29.5% in 2021 to 29.1% now – again, markedly different from US-based respondents (22.6% now vs. 33.4% two years earlier).

What did change in the UK job market over the two-year time period is the reason why those not working aren’t actively working: it’s more due to health and government benefits now. A full third (33.3%) cited “health priorities” as the reason they’re not working, up from 26.9% two years earlier – and “government benefits” also grew in importance fro 15.4% to 22.2%.

What can you do?

Retain your employees by supporting their health

The increase in employed workers means employers should focus on enhancing retention strategies. And the emphasis on health as a reason to not work highlights the need for that kind of support in the workplace.

Allow your teams to be flexible

As personal reasons, i.e. health priorities, are leading factors for not working, employers need to consider flexible work policies that can accommodate personal needs. This might include offering remote work options, flexible hours, ease of commute, accessibility, or increased family and health support.

Market yourself as a great place to work

The higher rate of employment combined with the increased emphasis on government benefits points to the latter as being potentially by choice rather than by necessity. If you market yourself as a great place to work via more generous compensation, supportive environments, flexibility, etc., you may inspire those not working to reenter the workforce.

Frequently asked questions

Let's grow together

Explore our full platform with a 15-day free trial.
Post jobs, get candidates and onboard employees all in one place.

Start a free trial