Social enterprise Timewise has commissioned the Institute for Employment Studies (IES) to analyse what has happened to part-time workers during the pandemic.
It found that across last year, 44 per cent of part-time employees who were “away from work” – effectively furloughed – during the first lockdown remained so between July and September, but the figure for full-time employees was about a third.
The flexible working consultancy also said nearly one in four employees in the UK was part time, many of whom are in frontline and low-paid jobs. It added that 80 per cent of such employees do not want to work more hours.
“For many of these people, part-time work is a necessity to being able to work at all,” Timewise said.
"Whether fitting work with raising children, elder care or a sickness or disability, often, full-time work is not an option.”
The organisation also said while the furlough scheme had been effective in keeping millions of employees in work and protecting them from unemployment, it was “masking significant challenges”, especially for those who work fewer than 35 hours a week.
“Since early on in the pandemic, it has been clear that people working in part-time roles have borne the brunt of UK job losses, furlough and further reduction in working hours,” Timewise also said, warning just 8 per cent of UK vacancies mention part-time possibilities.
It said the impact of furlough has left many part-timers feeling they are “clinging on to disappearing jobs”, with rates of such employment having fallen to the lowest level seen since 2010 (24 per cent of all those in work).
The consultancy also said part-time work disproportionately includes women, ethnic minority groups and younger people, who “have suffered much more than their contemporaries in the pandemic” – and the share of women in part-time work has fallen to its lowest since records began, at 37 per cent, down from 41 per cent a year ago, for example.
Timewise is, off the back of this report, making a set of recommendations to the UK Government, namely the right to ask for flexible working from day one; incentivising flexible working though job-creation; providing better employment support for flex job-seekers; and launching a challenge fund for flexible work.
Emma Stewart, Timewise’s director of development, said: “With the furlough scheme set to end in September, part-time employees feel they are clinging on to jobs that will soon disappear – and cannot find new part-time jobs to apply for.
"They will effectively be locked out of work. We need a jobs recovery that is inclusive of people who need to work less, not just remotely.
"This is vital to prevent inequalities from widening further – and the clock rolling back on gender equality.”
Tony Wilson, director of the IES, said the crisis has seen part-time employment fall at its fastest rate in at least 30 years.
He expressed cynicism over a new era of flexible working, adding the report “also provides more evidence for why we need a new Employment Bill, to improve security for part-time workers and strengthen people’s rights to work flexibly”.