Responding to today’s ONS figures, Jonathan Boys, labour market economist for the CIPD, the professional body for HR and people development, comments:

 “The number of vacancies may be starting to fall but it’s the relative balance of supply and demand for labour that determines how difficult recruitment is. Unemployment too has fallen to a record low and inactivity increased, both of which restrict the available number of candidates. There is also a worrying continuation of the trend towards increased inactivity due to long-term sickness. This requires urgent attention from employers and Government to address problems early on, to ensure people get the support they need and don’t fall out of the labour market entirely.” 

“Regular pay continues to grow at high nominal rates such as 5.4% for the whole economy in the year to June-August. However, once inflation is considered this turns negative to -2.9%, a real terms fall in pay. In addition to recruitment challenges, helping employees with the cost of living will be one of the biggest crises facing businesses this winter. Some employees are being squeezed harder than others. Regular pay in the private sector grew 6.2% compared to just 2.2% in the public sector. This is one of the largest differences ever recorded between the two and will only make recruitment and retention more difficult for public sector employers.”

“The UK clearly has a problem with long-term sickness and employers and policymakers need to take this more seriously. Significantly improving access to occupational health services for workers and advice and support for employers on occupational health issues affecting staff could have a big impact over time. The provision of timely access to occupational health services to workers in their 20s and 30s who suffer from back pain or other musculoskeletal problems would mean that steps can be taken to reduce the likelihood of these conditions becoming chronic, affecting people’s health and their ability to work.

“Unfortunately, too few employers – particularly smaller businesses – provide workers with access to occupational health services or support, while access to NHS physiotherapy and talking therapy services can be subject to very long waiting times. Consequently, there is a need to replace the former Fit for Work Service which was abolished by Government less than three years after it was set up, well before sufficient employers were aware that it existed, and people could be helped.”

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