UK businesses struggling to fill more than 70,000 urgent vacancies, research finds

Study reveals sectors hardest hit by the ‘pingdemic’ are also the ones facing the most difficulty in filling roles

There were more than 70,000 urgent vacancies in the UK over the last three months, with sectors hardest hit by the ‘pingdemic’ also the ones struggling most to fill positions, a study has found.

There have been more than 1.1 million job vacancies across the UK for 11 consecutive weeks, according to job search engine Adzuna, with 72,000 of these marked as ‘urgent’ or requiring an ‘immediate start’.

Among the sectors most affected are retail, which saw a 14 per cent increase in job advertisements compared to four weeks ago, from just over 27,000 to nearly 31,000.

Hospitality and catering, trade and construction and logistics and warehousing also saw continued growth in vacancies.

Andrew Hunter, co-founder of Adzuna, said while hiring was one of the biggest challenges facing businesses, with hundreds of thousands of workers still on furlough, the issue was being “compounded” by the number of workers being asked to self-isolate because they had been ‘pinged’ by the NHS app.

“Many jobseekers are forced to self-isolate over attending interviews or starting work,” he said. “This is on top of absences from existing staff who have been pinged.”

Get more HR and employment law news like this delivered straight to your inbox every day – sign up to People Management’s PM Daily newsletter

A record 689,000 people were told to isolate by the NHS Covid app in the week to 21 July.

Stephen Evans, chief executive of the Learning and Work Institute, said that while vacancies were now back up to pre-pandemic levels, long-term unemployment was still high. “We need to do more to help people find available job opportunities and ensure they have the skills employers need.

“We also need to make sure everyone gets the support they need to self-isolate when required to do so because of the pandemic, including looking at the level and coverage of sick pay and isolation payments.”

This was echoed by Gary Smith, general secretary of union GMB, who said that for the public sector, the ‘pingdemic’ was just the “tip of the iceberg”.

"There’s a huge underlying problem in the staffing crisis affecting frontline services, which is the damage done by over a decade of cuts,” he said.