Parents, carers and disabled twice as likely to face redundancy, report finds

The jobs of staff returning to work after shielding are also at risk, with some employers reluctant to implement more stringent health and safety measures

Parents, carers and those with disabilities are twice as likely as the rest of the population to be at risk of redundancy, a survey has found.

A poll of 6,000 people, conducted by Citizens Advice, found more than a quarter (27 per cent) of people with a disability were facing redundancy – increasing to 37 per cent among those who said their disability had a large impact on their day-to-day life – while 39 per cent of parents and carers were at risk of losing their job.

This compared to just 17 per cent of the working age population, suggesting that while the risk of redundancy was widespread, the most vulnerable were likely to bear the brunt of the downturn.

The report, An unequal crisis, also found that half (48 per cent) of workers classed as clinically extremely vulnerable to coronavirus, who as such had until the start of this month been advised to shield, were now at risk of redundancy.

While acknowledging that most employers wanted “to do the right thing”, the report said the data showed many were not, raising concerns about fair redundancy processes, automatic unfair reasons for redundancy and discrimination.

“Given the nature of the crisis, discrimination is of particular concern,” the report said. It cited evidence that in some cases individuals were being selected for redundancy because of their need for more stringent health and safety measures, and that disabled employees selected for redundancy were being offered alternative roles that were unsafe because of the coronavirus outbreak.

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Jamie McGlynn, contact centre manager at Citizens Advice Manchester, said the charity was hearing from a lot of individuals reaching out with redundancy issues. “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,” he said.

"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."

Nationally, requests made to Citizens Advice for advice on redundancy selection have increased almost seven-fold since February, with the charity giving one-to-one advice on the issue to 6,353 people since lockdown began. The charity also said traffic to website pages on redundancy reached nearly 415,000 visitors in July, compared to just over 75,000 the previous year. 

The research came as the latest official figures showed that the majority of shielding workers would be happy to return to the workplace if proper safety procedures were in place.

Data released by the Office for National Statistics yesterday (5 August) showed that two-thirds (68 per cent) of people in England classed as clinically extremely vulnerable and who worked before the outbreak would be comfortable returning to the workplace as long as robust safety measures were in place.

By contrast, just 6 per cent of this group had no intention of returning to work in the next four months.