ONS labour market data: “Employers putting in place food bank-style fridges” – reaction from HRs and recruiters

by | Sep 13, 2022

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Following the ONS labour market data published this morning expert recruiters and HRs have commented:

Louise Skittrall, founder of Swindon-based Robinson Grace HR Consultancy: “Employers are struggling to recruit due to low applicant numbers so it’s no surprise that retention is a top priority. With mortgage rates, fuel and energy costs increasing, employers are having to think creatively about how to retain staff. Many organisations simply cannot afford to increase pay or make bonus payments to staff, so are thinking outside the box to help them. Non-monetary and low cost options are being put in place by savvy employers. These include subsidised or free staff meals and food bank-style fridges or food baskets to enable food swaps among staff. Some employers are offering free personal hygiene products in the workplace and are negotiating staff discounts in supermarkets, food outlets and local stores. Other employers are arranging for cash and carry cards in the business name to be utilised by staff, offering financial wellbeing training and support, employee hardship funds, setting up a car share scheme to ease fuel costs and increasing training and development to enhance promotion prospects. We’re also seeing supermarket vouchers and gifts being used as a thank you and the implementation of working at home allowances for home and hybrid workers. With further energy increases due next month and more people coming out of fixed deals for energy and mortgages each week, many employers are acting now to help where they can.”

Chris Maslin, director at Tunbridge Wells-based employee ownership specialists, Go Eo: For now at least, unemployment is low so people have lots of choices where to work. With the cost of living so high, they also want higher wages. However, economic forecasts are grim so employers are reluctant to offer high salaries. The result is that most employees are choosing to stick with the status quo. Employees “are concluding “better the devil you know” ahead of what some expect to be a difficult and protracted recession. Worker stability may be the best way for both sides to weather the storm.”

Kate Underwood of Southampton-based Kate Underwood HR & Training: “It’s a patchwork employment market at present. Some sectors, such as hospitality and retail, are crying out for employees and are having to be creative about how they advertise jobs. In these sectors, employees still hold all the cards. We are seeing candidates coming for interview, accepting an offer and then, if they get a better offer, withdrawing sometimes the day before they start. You will lose staff if you’re not providing at least the same package as your competitors. Employers need to be very mindful of their existing staff otherwise it is going to hit their bottom line if they start losing them. With the cost of living rising, employers are really struggling to keep up with salaries and other expenses. Talking to teams and finding out what they want is so important, as most employees realise that it is going to be a struggle for everyone, including their employer. Increases in pension contributions and online discount platforms to make people’s money go further are examples of the way employers are helping their employees at the moment.”

Sandra Wilson, director of Ipswich-based recruitment and HR firm, Cottrell Moore: “The recruitment market hasn’t changed dramatically over the summer but we have noticed more active and available candidates across multiple sectors appearing in recent weeks. However, this is not unusual after the summer holidays when people have time to reflect. Companies, however, are very reluctant to offer pay increases to new starters as they are increasingly concerned about the economic landscape. One growing trend we are seeing is employers giving more hours to existing employees rather than recruiting an additional person, which often suits both parties. I think the scales may finally start to balance out over the next quarter and into next year between employers and employees. As the expected recession bites, employees may no longer hold all the cards.”

Lauren Thomas, economist at Glassdoor: “Summer’s red hot labour market is experiencing an autumn chill. But while the labour market is loosening, our data shows demand for new roles should heat up, with job applications increasing 10% during September to date. With negative real wage growth expected thanks to near-record levels of inflation and no end in sight to the economic headwinds, it’s no surprise that layoffs and the cost of living are staying top of mind for employees. In the six months since February 2022, mentions of energy/heating and layoffs/redundancies have increased 33 percent and 81 percent respectively. Concerns about the cost-of-living crisis have also grown sharply, with negative mentions of the cost of living or inflation growing over four times since December of 2021.”

Kieran Boyle, MD of Gloucester-based CKB Recruitment: Within our sectors, insurance and financial services, we have seen no sign of employers worrying about a recession and vacancies remain at an all-time high. This in turn has ensured that the employee is still in the driving seat, as our clients continue to struggle to fill a large number of vacancies. Employees are also proactively asking for, and in a lot of cases, getting pay rises, as companies continue to fear losing staff that they will not be able to replace. We envisage unemployment rising if there is a bad recession but it may not be too pronounced in insurance and financial services.”

Karen Watkins, founder of Somerset-based Rowan Consulting: “The jobs market is savage, with businesses fighting for key candidates. The biggest education piece here is that businesses simply have to get better at planning and responding to hiring. Gone are the old days and ways of time-consuming and lengthy recruitment practices, it’s now all about planning ahead and being able to respond to the market to ensure you can quickly engage and retain the right candidates for your business. The balance of power is still very much within the hand of the candidates. Regarding the very frosty subject of pay rises, rather than increasing salaries and inflating the market further, which can be damaging for business, we are actively encouraging our cash-strapped clients to look at other ways to incentivise and engage their teams. These include holding sessions focused on finances, saving and debt counselling services, using working from home to help save on petrol and making it a policy to pay all employees the national living wage, alongside more targeted solutions like profit sharing schemes linked to your business objectives that allow employees to benefit from the company’s success.”

Amelia Brooke, Career Transition Coach at Galashiels-based ABCV Solutions: I’m super busy with people seeking to make career changes. More than in previous years, many are not changing careers by choice, but as a consequence of redundancy. Even for those working for companies who are not downsizing, there’s still a lot of talent reshuffling occurring between similar organisations. Either way, the past two years have given people a chance to re-think their options.”

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