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Employment

Almost half of British workers still fear for their job after a year

A study highlighted workers’ concerns over the potential for employers to use the Covid-19 crisis as an excuse for job losses. 

Almost half of all British workers fear for their job after a year of working from home due to Covid-19, a new report has found. 

A study by academics from the University of Strathclyde and the University of Manchester on the experiences of working during Covid-19 has highlighted concerns over the potential for employers to exploit the Covid-19 crisis to make redundancies.

A year on from the beginning of the pandemic which saw millions of workers leave the office, preliminary findings from the Covid-19 and Working from Home survey show that 48 per cent of workers are worried about their job security and Covid-19 job losses

A further 45 per cent raised concerns about employers seeking to change to their contracts, while more than a third of those taking part said they were worried about potential reductions in pay and a quarter about a reduction in working hours.

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Almost all respondents emphasised that future change to patterns of work should be optional and wanted their union to negotiate to ensure arrangements are shaped in members’ interests.

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The study, which spoke to over 3,000 people, also showed just 31 per cent of workers wanted to permanently work from home full-time, with the majority of those interviewed showing a desire for a “hybrid” approach.  

Professor  Phil Taylor, who led the research with fellow professors Dora Scholarios and Debra Howcroft, said: “There is a majority preference from workers wanting to spend two days or less in the workplace. However, a ‘blanket’ approach is inappropriate.

“There is also compelling evidence that WFH is not desirable for a significant minority. The reasons are many and complex, but include inadequate domestic workstation arrangements, space constraints, compromised work-life balance, gendered experiences of domestic and household burdens and loneliness and isolation.

“Employers will need to accommodate, and unions to represent, multiple, often contrasting, worker interests and preferences. The development of agile or hybrid arrangements should follow best practice by being fully negotiated with unions.”

The work was carried out on behalf of the Scottish Trades’s Union Congress (STUC), who warned against blanket changes to work arrangements or sweeping office closures. 

The research showed working from home over the past year has taken its toll on the health of many, with the report warning of an increase in work intensification and stress levels alongside fears of Covid-19 job losses.  

STUC general secretary Roz Foyer said: “This work reflects what we have been hearing from unions across Scotland.  The experiences of working from home and attitudes toward future home working are very varied. 

“Significant numbers of workers have experienced work intensification and stress over the past year, yet for many others the overall experience has been positive. 

“A key conclusion is that many workers are positive about some degree of future home working, but this must be optional, flexible and only undertaken through negotiation.  Millions of workers were not initially employed to work from home and have a right to resist imposed changes. There has never been a more important time for these workers to join a union.”

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