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
In recent years, the employment rate has increased overall, employment rates have improved for some, but not all, ethnic groups, and the gender employment gap has narrowed. The disability employment gap remains significant. Working hours fell during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, and groups with certain protected characteristics were over–represented in shutdown sectors. Action on workplace diversity has been limited, though progress has been made in increasing women’s representation in leadership positions.
- The employment rate for those aged between 16 and 64 in the UK increased slightly between the first quarter (Q1) of 2016 (74.1%) and Q1 of 2021 (74.7%). Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 the employment rate dropped, but started to recover in 2021.
- The gender gap in employment rates has narrowed as a result of several possible factors. The male employment rate dropped from 79.2% in 2016 (Q1) to 77.8% in 2021 (Q1). In the same period, the female employment rate increased from 69.2% to 71.6%. Analysis suggests that the COVID-19 pandemic negatively affected the employment rates of both men and women. Men’s employment fell more than women’s.
- Employment rates improved for some ethnic groups between April to June 2018 and April to June 2021, but remain low for Pakistani, Bangladeshi and Chinese people.
- The disability employment gap has fluctuated and is slowly narrowing, but it remains significant. In the UK, 81% of non-disabled people aged 16–64 were in employment in late 2020, compared with 52% of disabled people. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the disability employment gap widened and disabled people were more likely than non-disabled people to be made redundant.
- The UK Government has not set out how it will support young disabled people – who experience particular disadvantage in the labour market – to access the Kickstart Scheme.
- The COVID-19 pandemic caused major decreases in the working hours of both full-time and part-time Though these have since risen, they remain below pre-pandemic hours.
- During the COVID-19 pandemic, mothers were more likely than fathers to leave 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 COVID-19 pandemic significantly reduced job losses.
- Evidence suggests just over half of local authorities in England have sufficient childcare available for parents working full time. There are concerns about the potential disproportionate impact of childcare shortages on employment opportunities for women.
- In February 2021, the five-year summary report of the Hampton-Alexander Review on increasing the representation of women in senior leadership positions and on boards indicated that more than a third of such positions in FTSE 350 companies are now held by women, with the number of women on boards increasing by 50% since 2016.
- In February 2020, a follow-up report to the Parker Review on board diversity indicated that progress in increasing ethnic minority representation was slower than anticipated.
- The UK Government did not commit to action to improve workplace diversity in its response to the McGregor-Smith Review on race in the workplace. A one-year update report found no progress across the majority of indicators.
- Evidence shows that new apprenticeships decreased after the introduction of the Apprenticeship Levy.
- Evidence shows that employers have lacked awareness and confidence in implementing effective positive action measures in apprenticeships, to increase representation of ethnic minorities and disable people for example, and apprenticeships remain segregated by sex.
Read more about the UK and Welsh Governments’ actions on access to employment.