The impact of Covid-19 on part-time employees

How they’ve been affected and why they must be included in the jobs recovery

Cockett J, Ebanks-Silvera D, Ben-Galim D, Stewart E |   | Timewise Foundation | Jun 2021

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Covid-19 has amplified workplace inequalities, with women, carers and those in frontline sectors among the hardest hit. This new report from Timewise Foundation, the first in its Fair Flexible Futures series, is based on Labour Force Survey research from IES. It explores the specific impact of the pandemic on part-time employees, and sets out what needs to be done to ensure they are not left behind.

Key findings

The impact of furlough has left many part-timers clinging onto work. Half of the part-time workforce who were working normally at the beginning of 2020 were either working reduced hours, or temporarily away from work, by the first lockdown period (April-June 2020). For full-timers, two-thirds remained working normally during the first lockdown.

There is evidence from throughout 2020 of a pattern of full-time employees returning to their normal hours at a higher proportion than part-time employees. When part-timers are temporarily out of work in one quarter, they are more likely than full-timers to be temporarily out of work in the next. Forty-four percent of part-time employees who were away from work during the first lockdown continued to be away from work between July- September 2020, when restrictions began to temporarily ease. The comparable figure for fulltime employees was about a third (33.6%). Fulltimers are returning to their normal hours at higher rates compared to part-timers.

When asked, 80% of part-time workers (approximately 5.8 million part-timers) do not want to work more hours. There will be many reasons for this, including wanting to better balance work and care, the lack of available quality part-time jobs, the high cost of childcare, or being satisfied with their current role. In other work, we have found that this group often want to remain part-time. With only 8% of jobs advertised as part-time, this is not good news – especially for the millions who want to work part-time and flexibly.