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As we head further into the early part of 2022 it is apposite to reflect on the continued extraordinary journey of the UK recruitment sector since the summer of last year. Despite supply chain shortages (inc petrol stations), the return of inflation and new Covid (Omicron) virus related restrictions-not to mention a Government and Tory Party seemingly on the edge of ousting its leader- the recruitment sector has roared loudly. In this blog we look at some of the major themes that stand out against this tumultuous backdrop.


Any survey of the past few months of labour market statistics convey the same message; skills shortages, record vacancy levels and soaring wage growth.

In August the KPMG and REC, UK Report on Jobs survey (for data collected between 12-26 July) showed that the growth for permanent staff was hitting new records and the increase in temporary vacancies was its highest since November 1997! However, the Survey also confirmed that the number of candidates fell at the second sharpest rate in the history of survey. This dearth in supply of course added pressure in terms of driving wages higher.

The Jobs Recovery Tracker published by REC in the first week of August added further detail showing that in that week there were some 1.65million active job adverts in the UK; with 204,000 new job adverts posted in the same week.

Neil Carberry, CEO at the REC, commenting on ONS labour market data (also published in August), showing record vacancies, warned of the risks this implied;

“The robust jobs recovery suggested by business surveys is confirmed by today’s figures, and that is great news. But record vacancy numbers once again emphasise the risk posed by labour shortages in many key sectors

This boom in the labour market was almost completely sector agnostic; according to data published in August 2021 by Broadbean Technology, engineering vacancies in the UK doubled (103%) between July 2020 and July 2021; in financial services there was an almost identical rise (104%) and accountancy vacancies were up 104%.

And research from professional services firm, Accenture, (in its Tech Talent Tracker in September 2021) confirmed that demand for technology professionals in the UK has increased by 10% in the first 6 months of 2021; the first time it had grown since the pandemic.

The REC Report in Jobs (published in September 2021) confirmed that Salaries awarded to new permanent joiners and wages awarded to temporary staff both increased at the fastest rates in 24 years of data collection

If we fast forward to January 2022, with a return to work and dispensing of covid related restrictions now announced by the Government, the labour market dynamics continues to offer positive prospects for recruiters.

On 13th January 2022 the KPMG/ REC Report on Jobs confirmed (despite the Omicron related uncertainties) recruitment activity continued to rise sharply in December. The Report also confirmed that the supply of candidates continued to fall sharply. In the words of Claire Warnes, Head of Education, Skills and Productivity at KPMG UK:

“The UK jobs market rocketed to near historic levels as New Year approached. Employers in all sectors have not lost their appetite to hire…”

It should be noted this report did confirm that business confidence in the UK economy fell by 9% the first time the barometer had fallen into the negative since February/April 2021.

Unsurprisingly the candidate shortages have seen salaries rise in the competition to secure talent. This was reported on BBC news based on research from leading recruitment businesses such as Robert Walters and Manpower Group uk. Alan Bannatyne, CFO at Robert Walters, affirmed:

“15% is the minimum pay rise we’re seeing, but some are increasing their salaries by up to 50%. Unless something significant happens 2022 should be even better for staff.”

On 18th January the Office for National Statistics (ONS) published its latest market statistics which told the same story of a buoyant labor market. Commenting on the statistics Neil Carberry stated;” The strength of the UK jobs market remains remarkable y any historic comparison”

But he added that “The big issue is now capacity constraint…. firms need to be looking at new approaches to developing their workforce.”

It is the broader transformations in the UK labour market –which impact on the UK recruitment sector- to which we now turn.


For there is no doubt that the world of work has changed forever and the past few months have seen re affirmation of important themes that all recruiters and of course employers must be aware of to prosper in 2022 and beyond. We will refer to just a few key ones


Many have referred to the “Great Resignation” as a marker for workers being prepared to move jobs and that this preference is going to impact the market in all sectors.

In the UK for example according to research (published in 2021) from Right Management, nearly a quarter of UK employees plan to leave their jobs in 2022. Westfield health, a workplace wellbeing provider, issued a report in October 2021 stating that 16million workers in the UK were planning to change their jobs over the next 6 months at an estimated cost of £48billion to industry.

Looking globally Randstad reported (in November 2021) that over half, 56%, of workers globally were on the hunt for a new job. The research polled over 27,000 participants across 34 markets. Jacques van den Broek, CEO of Randstad said, “The pandemic has changed the game. This data shows worker across the globe are more self-aware, know what they want and are acting on it. And the mood music has shifted for them. The employment market has changed from a buyer’s market to a seller’s market, and workers are taking advantage.”

Additional worker preferences point to a restlessness with the status quo or pre pandemic world of work. And particularly around the issue of flexibility.

Sonovate, the business finance leader, shared data stating that 53% of 18-34 year olds won’t join companies that do not champion flexible working and that younger workers wanted to have portfolio careers.

Elsewhere TotalJobs issued a report in December 2021 stating that some 54% of workers in the UK would quit their jobs because of their commute; while according to a survey from Hitachi Capital (published in September 2021) over a quarter (27%) of UK workers would accept a pay cut to switch to permanent home working.

Any employer and recruiter supporting them will need to bake these factors into their drive to attract and retain talent.


Inevitably the ongoing toll the pandemic has taken and continues to take upon the workforce has been a ubiquitous theme across the Uk and indeed global recruitment sector over the past few months.

As reported by Talint Partners (in September 2021) the Healthier Nation Index report (published by Nuffield Health) found that 54% of employees were close to burnout.

Talint International also reported on 24th January 2022 that, according to analysis carried out by HIVE360, a specialist in outsourced PAYE payroll, two thirds of UK workers actively sought out help with their mental and physical health in 2021.

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In light of the workforce shortages set out above the central importance of re-skilling and developing wider skills across the labour market has been a prominent issue.

In a survey published in November 2021 for example, CV- Library reported that more than half of the workforce (57.6%) is planning to reskill or retrain next year with a belief that it will make them more employable.  Other factors driving the reskilling are a desire for a more meaningful career, better long-term job security and being unable to find a suitable job with their current skills.

Leo Biggins the CEO and Founder of CV Library commented that: “Employers can take action to prevent increased staff turnover. Offering top salaries is the obvious choice but investing in training and upskilling, offering remote working opportunities, and building strong internal teams, look to be the smartest moves businesses can take in 2022.”

This point clearly had resonance with research shared by ManpowerGroup in November 2021 which highlighted the fact that almost half of UK businesses are looking to move beyond just wage increases to attract staff but offer training and mentoring too.

Chris Gray, Director, ManpowerGroup UK said, “Many UK employers are turning to non-financial incentives, such as additional annual leave, hybrid working options and enhanced training opportunities.

This is all part of a much larger national debate to be had around training and skills and was a point made by Neil Carberry (he called for a “training revolution”) when he gave evidence to the Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) Committee in October 2021


The world of work both permanent and temporary is deeply affected by legislation and Government Policy and the likes of APSCo and the REC made strenuous efforts to advocate on behalf of the UK recruitment sector over the past few months and some noteworthy issues deserve highlighting.


The ability to digitally check a worker right to work was introduced in March 202o when Covid hit and allowed these checks to be carried out over video calls. The ability to do this (rather than requiring sight of original physical documents) was extended many times but in January 2022 the Home Office confirmed that from 6th April it is moving to a permanent Digital Identity Right to Work checks.

Neil Carberry, Chief Executive of the REC, said, “We are delighted that the digital system for checking someone’s right to work in the UK will be a permanent fixture from April 2022. Recruiters have told us throughout the pandemic that this system is quicker and easier, reducing the time it takes them to get candidates into work while increasing levels of compliance and helping to keep staff safe during the pandemic. These benefits will remain important as the jobs market recovers, in the face of shortages of candidates for key roles


In December 2021 the The Finance Bill Sub-Committee launched a call for evidence  on the implementation of the off-payroll rules in the private sector, and how these rules are working in practice.

The call for evidence invites views from stakeholders on the role that umbrella companies play in the labour market, and how they interact with the tax and employment rights systems.

One of the drivers of the review is the concern in some quarters that there could be significant -tax noncompliance within the sector.


On Christmas eve 2021 the Home Office stated that there would be changes to the above visa route and Shortage Occupation list to help fight the severe workforce shortages across the healthcare sector in the UK.

This followed a recommendation from the Migration Advisory Committee on 15th December 2021 that more care worker jobs be eligible for the visa.

It has been an initiative long advocated from within the care sector and those in recruitment that serve the sector and the Home Office had previously been unwilling to make these changes.


There of course remain many uncertainties that the recruitment market faces from “known unknowns” such as the presence of the Covid virus, current machinations in Government policy in respect of the treatment of unvaccinated staff (especially in the healthcare sector) and of course the wider macro political issues of energy prices, supply chains and the little matter of conflict in Ukraine!

Within labour markets specifically one of the major issues is the way the pandemic has reduced the capacity within it and the effect this may have in the short and medium term. As the Financial Times set out (in its article entitled “How the pandemic is reshaping labour markets November 2021) some 4 million workers have left the US labour market since the pandemic began.

In the UK the Institute for Employment Studies estimates that there are now almost one million fewer people in the workforce than there would have been if pre pandemic trends had continued.

“Labour supply just cannot keep up with labour demand, and the problem appears to be getting worse,” said Tony Wilson, director of the IES

Given current immigration policy, the wider trade effects of Brexit and broader economic uncertainties set out above it is likely that there is no easy route to expanding labour supply in the UK.

This is good news if you are a candidate and let us leave the last word to Sir Alec Reed: “As we move into 2022, the momentum which has built up in the jobs market is showing no signs of slowing down either; It is now the best time in fifty years to look for a new job”