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74.6% of UK workers open to new work, survey finds

In such a volatile time, it’s crucial to establish a clear baseline when conducting such a comprehensive talent attraction study in our Great Discontent survey report for the UK. That'll give us insight into the details around job motivators and employer attractors in the working environment.

Keith MacKenzie
Keith MacKenzie

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

74.6% of UK workers open to new work, survey finds

So, we asked questions to learn the current professional situation of our respondents.

Here’s what we learned:

Most of our respondents say they’re working full-time (60.1%), and another fifth (22.2%) working part time. Just one in 10 (10.4%) say they’re not working right now.

Another 7.4% of respondents say they’re working for themselves, whether that means they’re a contractor, freelancing, or running their own business.

One in 10 respondents (10.4%) say they’re not working right now.

Working status (UK) Great Discontent survey


But when we looked at the responses by gender, the numbers were more striking. Those identifying as females are far more likely to be not working (14.5% vs. 6.1%) or working part-time (31.3% vs. 13%) than males.

Females working for themselves also represented a much higher percentage than their male counterparts (10.8% vs. 4%).

On the flip side, more than three quarters of males (76.9%) are working full-time, compared with just 43.4% of females, a significant difference of 33.5 percentage points.

Working status (UK) Great Discontent survey, by gender


Of those not working, nearly two out of five (38.5%) have not worked in more than five years.

Three out of 10 (30.7%) say they last worked within the last year, with 19.2% saying they have not been working for less than six months.

Great Discontent: If you’re not working, how long have you not been working? (UK)

And now, the important part for you, the employer: a vast majority (74.6%) say they are either actively (29.6%) or passively (45.1%) looking at new opportunities.

That’s three quarters of all respondents who might leave you at any time – meaning when you look at your current workforce, just one in four are pretty settled in their current working capacity.

Great Discontent: Regardless of whether you’re working or not, are you: (UK)


And many are actually just starting to look for other opportunities right now. Of those actively looking or passively open to new work, 56.6% started looking within the last half year (26.7% just started now, 29.9% in the last half year).

Great Discontent: How long have you been looking for – or open to – new opportunities? (UK)


Employers take note: this means a majority of your people are looking to leave or they’re open to that possibility. On the flip side, if you’re looking to hire or build teams, you have a wealth of available talent to tap into here.

This requires a deeper understanding of who these people are and why they’re looking so you can evolve your recruitment and people strategy, as Personio’s CEO recommends. Let’s dig in.

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Minorities are looking

One of the demographic questions we asked in the survey was; “Do you identify as a member of a minority group (be it race, ethnicity, language, religion, country of origin, sexual orientation, gender, or another characteristic)?”. Three out of 10 (30.9%) say they do, compared with 66.1% who say they don’t, and 3% prefer not to say.

So we looked at responses based on those answers. Those identifying as minorities are also much more likely to be actively looking (41.3% vs. 24.2%) than those not identifying as minorities. And nearly twice as many non-minorities say they’re not looking for new opportunities when compared with minorities (29% vs. 15.5%).

Great Discontent: Regardless of whether you’re working or not, are you: 
(UK, by minority/non-minority status)


Younger people are looking

Those in the “actively looking” category are more significantly represented by younger cohorts. More than two out of five (41.7%) of those aged 21-29 say they’re outright looking for new opportunities, with that number skewing sharply downwards when looking at higher age groups.

When combined, the numbers are striking: a staggering 79.8% of those aged 21-29 and a significantly higher 85.1% of those aged 31-39 are either actively looking for or passively open to new work right now. This means just one in five of those aged 21 to 29 and less than 15% of those aged 30 to 39 can be seen as quite settled in their current roles.

Interestingly, the top age group passively open to new opportunities is 50-59 (54.1%).

Great Discontent: Regardless of whether you’re working or not, are you: 
(UK, by age group)


We know that tenures are usually shorter for younger people. Also younger people tend to be more in rank-and-file positions than managerial/upper-crust positions, and those roles tend to see higher turnover.

But it also indicates younger generations in the UK expect more from their employers and are less willing to put up with the current reality in the workplace.

All in all, people are looking

Again, the message is clear: three quarters of your employees at your company have one foot out of the door at any given time. Your talent is ready to jump ship as soon as they find something better. That’s particularly if they’re younger or if they identify as a minority.

But looking at it from another perspective, this also means a huge talent market that you can tap into when hiring. That raises a new question – how do you attract them to your company?

We’ll cover this in detail in the next few articles, but if you want to read more right now, jump right into our comprehensive Great Discontent worker survey report right here.

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