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Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and work


A quarter of people who have been employees during the pandemic had been on furlough at some point between March 2020 and June 2021. Those aged between 35 and 64 years or with a degree-level qualification were less likely to have been furloughed.

Between 6 and 17 October 2021, 54% of working adults in Great Britain went to a place of work without doing any work from home. Homeworkers reported greater work-life balance, while businesses saw improvements in staff well-being as a reason to increase working from home (April to May 2021).

Read more about the economic impact of coronavirus in the economic roundup.

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Employment and furlough

The total volume of online job adverts on 15 October 2021 grew by 2% from the previous week, to 143% of its February 2020 average level

Volume of online job adverts by category, index: 100 = February 2020 average, 4 January 2019 to 15 October 2021, non-seasonally adjusted

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The total volume of online job adverts increased to 143% of the pre-pandemic February 2020 average level (15 October 2021). Of the 28 categories, 19 saw an increase in the number of online job adverts, 3 were unchanged and 6 decreased since the previous week. The largest weekly increase was in “sales” which rose by 34% because of a large number of adverts from a single employer. The largest week-on-week decreases were in the “construction and trades” and “domestic help” categories.

Last updated: 21/10/2021  

Read more about this in Economic activity and social change in the UK, real-time indicators

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A quarter of people who have been employees during the pandemic were furloughed at some point since March 2020

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  • Employees with GCSEs as their highest qualification were more likely to have been furloughed than those with degrees or equivalent qualifications. 

  • Half of those furloughed were furloughed for more than three months and around a quarter spent six months or more furloughed. Longer periods of furlough were associated with a lower likelihood of being employees by August 2021. 

  • For furloughed people still working, 22% had changed the employer they had been furloughed from, and 12% had changed the sector they worked in.

Last updated: 01/10/2021

Read more in An overview of workers who were furloughed in the UK: October 2021

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Those in the “highest skill level” occupations, such as corporate managers, directors or those in professional occupations, were less likely to have been furloughed - regardless of the industry they were in.

“Highest skill level” includes corporate managers, directors, and professional occupations. “Third skill level” includes skilled trades occupations, associate professional occupations, and other managers and proprietors. “Second skill level” includes sales and customer service occupations caring, leisure, and other service occupations, and administrative and secretarial occupations. “Lowest skill level” includes elementary occupations.

Last updated: 01/10/2021

Read more in An overview of workers who were furloughed in the UK: October 2021

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Furlough rates tended to be higher in tourist hotspots than elsewhere

Monthly average furlough rate in selected tourist hotspots compared with the range for all areas and the UK average, June 2020 to July 2021

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Hospitality workers were among the most likely to be furloughed during the pandemic. On average, between 23 March 2020 and 31 July 2021, more than half of employees in hospitality were furloughed.

As a result, tourist hotspots were among the areas with the highest average furlough rates between June 2020 and July 2021. South Lakeland and Eden in the Lake District recorded the highest monthly furlough rates of anywhere in the country, at 40% and 39% respectively in June 2020.

Last updated: 28/09/2021

Read more about this in Coronavirus and house price growth

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Homeworking

More than half of working adults are travelling to work

Percentage of working adults, Great Britain, January to October 2021

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Between 6 and 17 October 2021, 54% of working adults in Great Britain went to a place of work without doing any work from home. This is the highest percentage for a year and the same as between 7 and 11 October 2020.

Just over 1 in 7 working adults (15%) worked only from home between 6 and 17 October 2021, the lowest percentage since the current survey began in May 2020, during the first national lockdown.

Last updated: 22/10/2021

Read more about this in Coronavirus and the social impacts on Great Britain

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It appears that working from home has benefits for older workers and their employers, with older workers saying their productivity, well-being and work-life balance improves. There is also some evidence that working from home allows older workers to retire later.

Those who were less able to switch to working from home are more likely to have poor health, to live in deprived areas, to have lower or no qualifications and lower well-being. Therefore, while increased working from home among older workers may benefit some, having fewer opportunities to do so may reinforce existing inequalities.

Last updated: 25/08/2021

Read more about this in Living longer: impact of working from home on older workers

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Improved staff well-being was the main reason for businesses intending to increase homeworking

Reasons why businesses plan to use increased homeworking as a permanent business model going forward, UK, 19 April to 2 May 2021

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When asked why they intend to use increased homeworking in the future, 80% of businesses cited improved wellbeing as the reason. Reduced overheads and increased productivity were also commonly reported reasons. 

Last updated: 14/06/2021 

Read more about this in Business and individual attitudes towards the future of homeworking: UK April to May 2021

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Income

Weekly household spending fell by more than £100 on average during the coronavirus pandemic

  • UK households reduced their spending during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic (in the year to March 2021) by an average of £109.10 a week. 

  • During the pandemic (in the year to March 2021), households typically saw lower levels of spending relative to income; however, higher-income households saw a larger spending drop relative to their income than those on lower incomes, providing them with greater opportunity to save or ease financial pressures. 

  • Younger people were more likely to report financial pressures than older age groups in the pandemic, with people aged under 35 years most likely to find keeping up with bills a burden (May 2020 to February 2021). 

  • Between May 2020 and February 2021, those of Black ethnicity were the most likely to report falling behind with many bills (3%), and to find keeping up with bills a heavy burden (20%) – a higher proportion than in the whole population.

Last updated: 13/09/2021

Read more about this in Coronavirus and the impact on household finances and living standards

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Working adults on the lowest incomes were most likely to see a fall in household income

Economically active adults’ change in household income in financial year ending (FYE) 2021 compared with FYE 2020, by income quintile, Great Britain

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While many households saw their spending fall during the pandemic (in the year to March 2021), substantial changes in the economy meant that many also saw their income fall. Workers on lower incomes were more likely to report decreases in income in the year to March 2021 compared with the previous financial year; 42% of those on the lowest incomes reported a decrease, compared with 31% of those on the highest incomes.

This could be because of the types of jobs in different income groups. Workers on lower incomes were more likely to be furloughed and less likely to be able to work from home than those on higher incomes. People on higher incomes were also more likely to be paid in full if they were unable to work, compared with those on lower incomes.

Last updated: 13/09/2021

Read more about this in Coronavirus and the impact on household finances and living standards

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The self-employed were less able to make ends meet than before the pandemic, unlike the population as a whole

Proportion of people reporting that they found it “fairly easy”, “easy”, or “very easy” to make ends meet, Great Britain

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During the pandemic, most people’s ability to make ends meet increased, but this varied across different groups. For some, such as the self-employed, younger age groups and those of Black and Mixed ethnicity, the ability to make ends meet declined. Self-employed workers were also consistently more likely to report reduced hours and reduced income than employees.

Last updated: 13/09/2021

Read more about this in Coronavirus and the impact on household finances and living standards

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Work absence

Of school staff experiencing ongoing symptoms more than four weeks after their COVID-19 infection, six in ten (60.9%) reported that they have had no days absent from work as a result, 15.9% were absent for five days or less, and 10.6% were absent for between six and ten days.

A small proportion of staff members with ongoing symptoms (3.3%) were absent from work for 61 days or more.

Last updated: 28/09/2021

Read more about this in House prices in tourist hotspots

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Further information


On this page we present work data from various surveys and publications from the Office for National Statistics including the Business Insights and Conditions Survey, the Opinions and Lifestyle Survey, and Economic activity and social change in the UK, real-time indicators.

To find out more about work data from different sources visit our more information page.

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Contact

Latest insights team
infection.survey.analysis@ons.gov.uk