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ONS Employment Statistics were released 15.2.22 up to the end of Dec 2021.

  • “More people in work now than before the pandemic began”, so said the Prime Minister- on several occasions – obviously referring to people on the payroll (perm employees – F/T and P/T.) And he was right.
  • The dramatic reduction in Self Employment (see note below) is mainly due to the shifts out of labour market participation – a mix of unemployed, economically inactive, illness including long-term illness and young people – and with some movement within those categories (which makes inter-year comparisons difficult). These carry on pre-Covid trends and include a higher proportion of older people. But, in large measure, many will have moved onto permanent employment payrolls due to IR35 – a capricious piece of legislation that will be seen as having done more harm than good – and also interfering with the growing tide of change now taking place in the workplace.  See below.
  • The drop of 448k in the Total in Employment is explained by Observers in different ways – but based on ONS data. Foreign workers have gone home.  Some Self-Employed will have become unemployed, inactive or ill.  The Total Employment figure needs to be read in conjunction with data from other ONS sources and commentatorsThese point to a very weak labour market recovery that was weakening before the Omicron variant hit, even while economic demand overall was bouncing back.  This weak recovery is being mostly driven – in the context of this Press Release – by the large fall in the figure for Self Employed.  But – notwithstanding this, most quote a figure of 400k workers as having “disappeared”.

NOTE about Self Employment 

A difficult definition.  Much based on personal judgements – includes some that are not really Self Employed and  excludes some that are, in effect, Self Employed.  Covid will have caused much movement in and out.  Some of this will reverse. Most of the erstwhile Self Employed now on permanent payroll will continue to see themselves as Self Employed – and in an unsatisfactory state of transition.

NOTE about the growing tide of change over the past two years.

Working Free sees it like this:-

Virtually instantaneous communications – in many forms; a resetting of the Employer/Employee relationship; a rethinking of the work/life balance philosophy; replacing line-of-sight management with trust – and education; the upending of the meaning of friendships; learning how to reconcile new concepts of individualism with collaboration and team-work – and short-term needs with longer-term relationships

Another insightful contribution to this ”tide of change” process comes from Matthew Lynn’s apt description “Long Lockdown”  (DTel on 9.2.22). Broadly his message is that we have all got used to two years of major change and disruption and – now – it won’t be like switching that light off and the old light back on! It may well include permanent change and of unknown timing.


Many commentators are calling for more Government support.

But many Management Teams are looking more to their own internal solutions. Businesses should review relationships, attitudes, processes and contractual relationships with people – seeing people as not only those on their own payroll – but much more broadly.  They should combine the principles described by Charles Handy’s Shamrock Organisation in the Age of Unreason in 1991 with the spirit of endeavour and perseverance described in Samuel Smiles’ Self Help in 1859.

More info from:-

Charles M Russam

Managing Director – Working Free Ltd

08081 565604 – 07785 297059.  charles.russam@WorkingFree.co.uk

Working Free Limited is a company registered in England and Wales. Regd number: 08963376.  Regd Office: 45 Pall Mall, London.  SW1Y 5JG.

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Better comes Next!  WorkingFree is a specialist career advisory business supporting organisations and their senior Director-level executives coming off the permanent payroll into an independent working lifestyle.  www.WorkingFree.co.uk 

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