Changing Ways of Working

TUC and CIPD have different views on how work is changing but have similar approach to the solution.


TUC and CIPD comment on the growth of unsecure jobs and the growth of the gig economy.

Changes in way people work

In 2017 the Trades Union Congress (TUC) predicted that if current trends continued by 2022, 3.5million workers could be in unsecure work.

This month the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) have published research which says that work is no less secure than it was 20 years ago.

Overall, 85% of the labour force were categorised as employees in 2018, compared with 87% in 1998. The proportion of full-time employees in 2018 was 63% compared to 65% in 1998.

Ben Willmott, head of public policy at the CIPD, described the report as countering some of the common rhetoric that employment in the UK is becoming more insecure.

Self-employed increased from just under 13% to just under 15% between 1998 and 2018.

The share of young people aged between 15 and 24 in self-employment or temporary work has remained almost static, edging up from just over 17% in 1999 to just under 18% in 2018.

On a wide range of indicators, the evidence generally suggests that, overall, employment security has remained broadly stable over the last two decades.

There is very little evidence of any structural big increase in casual and insecure work.

Increases in employment insecurity where they have occurred seem, he says to be cyclical, linked to economic downturns, rather than a long-term trend.


The TUC prediction if correct would mean that the number of people working in unsecure work would have been the equivalent of the working population of the South Yorkshire city of Sheffield.

They also say that the figure would be the equivalent of thirteen employers the size of Sports Direct, a company that has been at the forefront of providing flexible working options.

Changes in work

The way in which people work certainly appears to be changing, but, overall, says the CIPD work in the UK is as secure as it was 20 years ago, with limited evidence of growing casualisation.

Employment insecurity does affect many people: people who are self-employed or who are engaged in zero-hours, flexible or insecure jobs, depending on your perspective.

Megatrends: Is work really becoming more insecure?

The megatrends report from the CIPD finds that at 20%, the share of non-permanent employment in the UK has not increased since 1998.

Zero hours

Previous TUC research has identified that people on zero-hours contracts earn a third less per hour than the average worker.

It is likely according to the TUC that the UK National Treasury misses out on as much as £4 billion in revenue every year from lost income tax and national insurance contributions that zero-hours workers don’t pay, and the extra benefits and tax credits that those same workers are paid.

The TUC has called for a ban on zero-hours contracts and employment contracts that gave every worker guaranteed-hours.

But having to guarantee work in a time of economic turmoil might deter employers from hiring staff.

However, most people in atypical employment says the CIPD, whether they are self-employed, working in the digital gig economy or on a zero hours contract, choose to work in this way and are broadly satisfied.

Involuntary temporary workers

The share of ‘involuntary’ temporary workers who would rather have a permanent job is highly cyclical and ebbs and flows with the economic climate.

It peaked at about 41% in 1994, before falling to just under 26% in 2007.

It increased again during the economic downturn to 40% in 2013 before falling again to just under 27% by 2018.

There is no long-term increase in the under-employment rate of workers who want more hours, which was just under 7% between 2002 and 2007. It then peaked at about 10% in 2011 and fell back to just over 7% in 2018.

Work has to get better

Both the TUC and the CIPD agree that the best way to create better jobs, is to have a stronger economy in which the demand for workers out strips the supply.

The CIPD has called on the Government to focus on improving job quality for those working ‘9 to 5’, as well as enhancing rights for those in atypical work.

Concluding that, while it’s important to improve the conditions and rights of people working atypically, the CIPD says that policy makers need to focus more attention on improving the quality of employment for people in ‘regular’ jobs who account for a significant majority of total employment.

More attention, suggests the CIPD, should be paid by policy makers and employers to improving job quality.

The Institute also suggests that instead of simply improving the rights and security of a typical workers, important though this is, the Government needs a strategy to improve

  • workplace productivity across the economy
  • protection from low pay and discrimination
  • how people are managed and developed
  • business support to small firms
  • leadership and people management practices
  • labour market enforcement.


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