Access to employment – UK Government assessment
There have been legal or policy changes to improve human rights protections and evidence of some sustained progress in the enjoyment of human rights related to this issue. However on some of these rights, or for some groups, there has not been comparative progress
The employment rate increased overall in recent years. The gender and disability gaps have narrowed, and employment rates have improved for some but not all ethnic groups. Employment rates and the number of hours worked fell in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic, halting recent progress, and the shutdown particularly affected groups with certain protected characteristics. Unemployment is projected to rise after the UK Government’s support measures end. The UK Government has not met its target for new apprenticeships, and action to implement findings of independent reviews on workplace diversity has been limited.
- The estimated employment rate for those aged between 16 and 64 in the UK increased overall between 2016 and 2019, and continued to rise into early 2020.
- The gender gap in employment rates has narrowed, but the structure of women’s employment remains different, with 39% of women in employment working part-time compared with 11% of men as at January-March 2020. Employment rates have improved for some ethnic groups, but remain low for Pakistani, Bangladeshi and Chinese people. The disability gap has fluctuated but is slowly narrowing.
- There was a 7 percentage points fall in employment rates in the UK between January-March and June-August 2020 for those aged between 16 and 64, halting the progress made in recent years, along with a significant drop in the average weekly hours worked by both full-time and part-time employees. Mothers were more likely than fathers to have left paid work, and women, workers from certain ethnic minority groups and young people were more likely to work in shutdown sectors. The UK Government’s measures in response to the coronavirus pandemic reduced job losses during this period, but unemployment is projected to rise when these measures end.
- Evidence suggests just over half of local authorities in England have sufficient childcare for parents working full-time, and there are concerns about the sustainability of the current childcare system and the potential disproportionate impact on employment for women with childcare responsibilities.
- In June 2019, the UK Government confirmed it would likely not meet its 2015 target to introduce three million new apprenticeships in England by March 2020 and evidence shows that new apprenticeships decreased significantly after the introduction of the Apprenticeship Levy.
- There are concerns about the representation of ethnic minorities and disabled people in apprenticeships in England. Evidence shows that employers have lacked awareness and confidence in implementing effective positive action measures, and apprenticeships remain strongly segregated by sex.
- The UK Government did not commit to take action to improve workplace diversity in its response to the McGregor Smith review on race in the workplace, and a one-year update report found no progress across the majority of indicators.
- The UK Government has also not yet evaluated progress on implementing its Gender Equality at Every Stage roadmap.
- In February 2020, a follow up report to the Parker Review on board diversity indicated that progress in increasing representation for ethnic minority people was slower than anticipated.
Read more about the UK and Welsh Governments’ actions on access to employment.