Parents, carers and disabled people at least twice as likely to face redundancy, warns Citizens Advice

  • ‘This could be the tip of the iceberg’ - advisers training up for wave of redundancies

  • Gillian Guy: ‘As tough as these times are, they cannot be used as an excuse to break the rules’

Citizens Advice has found that parents, carers, disabled people whose disability has a large impact on their day-to-day life, and those who previously shielded, are at least twice as likely to face redundancy as the rest of the working population. This comes as demand for the charity’s advice on redundancy selection has increased almost seven-fold. 

Although the new research shows the risk of redundancy is widespread, with one in six (17%) of the working age population facing redundancy, it indicated that those in more vulnerable circumstances are likely to bear the brunt. The charity’s survey of 6,000 people shows: 

  • One in four disabled people (27%) were facing redundancy. This rose to 37% of those who said their disability has a large impact on their day-to-day life. 

  • Half of those who were in the shielded group (48%), as they were extremely clinically vulnerable to coronavirus, were at risk of redundancy

  • Two in five parents or carers (39%) faced losing their job

‘I've been so worried that I could lose my house - how long until I find another job?’

Retail worker Natalie had always been given shifts around her childcare. She was told she would be made redundant after returning from furlough because she wasn’t able to work more flexible hours. She told her employer this was unfair and was then asked to take a test along with other employees, after which she was made redundant.

The mum-of-one has applied for Universal Credit but fears it won’t cover her essentials bills. 

She said: “I've been so worried that I could lose my house as I don't know how long it will be until I find another job. I've always worked and never been unemployed. This is quite a scary scenario.

“I've had to call my family and my ex-partner to see if they can help pay my mortgage as the thought of losing my home scares me. It would destroy me”. 

‘We're retraining advisers on employment rights - this could be the tip of the iceberg’

Jamie McGlynn, Contact Centre Manager at Citizens Advice Manchester, said: "We're seeing a lot of redundancy issues, but it gives you a sinking feeling when someone who's been shielding, is a carer or has young kids tells you they've been picked as the first to go. 

“People are absolutely wracked with worry. One lady with underlying health conditions told her employer she felt unsafe about returning to work as another worker had Covid symptoms but wasn’t isolating. The next week she had her redundancy notice through.

"We're retraining some of our advisers on employment rights because we know what we're seeing now could be just the tip of the iceberg."

All workers are protected by law against discrimination. But at the moment workers have no guarantee these laws will be enforced.

There are six national organisations which enforce workers’ rights, but employees who have been unfairly sacked or treated often can’t call for their situation to be investigated. While they could take their issue to an employment tribunal, there was a backlog of 400,000 cases going into this crisis.

Citizens Advice is calling for a single watchdog to enforce employees’ rights. The government committed to establishing this in the 2019 Queen’s Speech. In the meantime, Citizens Advice is urging that emergency funding be given to the existing enforcement bodies.

Dame Gillian Guy, Chief Executive of Citizens Advice, said:

“Employers face difficult choices but there are worrying signs disabled workers, people who shielded, parents and carers are being pushed to the front of the queue when it comes to redundancy. 

“As tough as these times are, they cannot be used as an excuse to break the rules. 

“If someone is facing an unfair redundancy, the odds of getting redress under the current system are stacked against them. Workers need a watchdog that will be a one-stop shop to protect their employment rights.”

Additional data from Citizens Advice

  • Demand for one-to-one advice on redundancy selection issues has increased almost seven-fold from February. In July Citizens Advice’s frontline advisers provided support to 2,508 people with redundancy selection issues, compared to 368 in February.

  • Citizens Advice has given one-to-one redundancy selection advice to 6,353 people since lockdown began

  • The charity’s frontline advisers are dealing with a redundancy issue every two minutes

  • Visits to its redundancy discrimination page doubled from 7,000 in May to 14,000 in July.

  • In July, it recorded nearly 415,000 visits to its redundancy pages overall, compared to just over 75,000 this time the previous year, 23,000 more than in June and 180,000 more than in May.

  • Its “ Check how much redundancy pay you can get " and "Check if your redundancy is fair " were the second and third most-viewed advice pages for July.

Notes to editors

  1. The full report, An Unequal Crisis - Why workers need better enforcement of their rights, is available on request.

  2. Opinium surveyed 6,015 adults online, between 29 June and 8 July. Data was weighted to be nationally representative of the UK

  3. Respondents were asked ‘Have you either been made redundant in the past 3 months, or are you in the process of being made redundant now?’. Those who answered ‘Yes, I have been made redundant’, ‘Yes - I have had informal discussions with my employer about redundancy’ or 'Yes - my employer has started a formal redundancy process’ are regarded as facing redundancy. Question was asked of all adults excluding retired people and students.

  4. According to the polling, 1 in 6 (17%) of the working age population (excluding pensioners and students) are facing redundancy: either having been made redundant already (1%), in a formal process with their employer (5%) or having informal discussions with them (11%)

  5. Two in five people with caring responsibilities (39%), either for children or vulnerable adults, are facing redundancy.

  6. The employment enforcement agencies are: The HMRC National Living Wage Compliance Team,  HMRC Statutory Sick Pay disputes Team, Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority, Employment Agency Standards Inspectorate, Health and Safety Executive, Equality and Human Rights Commission. 

  7. Citizens Advice is made up of the national charity Citizens Advice; the network of independent local Citizens Advice charities across England and Wales; the Citizens Advice consumer service; and the Witness Service.

  8. Our network of charities offers impartial advice online and over the phone, for free. 

  9. We helped 2.8 million people face to face, over the phone, by email and webchat in 2019-20. And we had 34.5 million visits to our website. For full service statistics see our monthly publication Advice trends.

  10. You can get consumer advice from the Citizens Advice consumer service on 0808 223 1133 or 0808 223 1144 for Welsh language speakers.