Over half of laid off UK workers don’t want to return to full-time work

The majority of workers made redundant in 2023 are now exploring alternative employment options like freelancing.

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In today’s volatile jobs market, UK workers view flexible or freelance working as safer than the traditional 9-5, according to a new study carried out by Fiverr.

The global freelancer marketplace surveyed 500 UK office/white collar workers who have been laid off since December 2022. Based on the results, 47% of respondents have lost faith in salaried work

The findings show that 57% of individuals who were made redundant this year are now planning to explore alternatives to full-time work in their future careers. Meanwhile, 35% plan to keep a side hustle running in their next role.

Months of inflationary cost pressures have squeezed business profits, forcing more employers to make the hard decision to cut down on staffing numbers – particularly in the tech sector. The Fiverr research shows how these decisions are now affecting worker career plans.

Workers see self-employment as more secure than full-time work

Previously, the expectation was that a worker who had been made redundant would immediately begin searching for a permanent contract with a new employer, in order to retain employment protections like pensions and sick pay.

But the Fiverr research indicates that laid off UK workers now want to leave employment, as they no longer view a full-time position as a safe bet.

In the current, troubling economy, workplace uncertainty is on the rise. Tools like AI are putting many job roles under threat. According to Fiverr, 70% of those surveyed said they are now prioritising stability in their future careers, with over a third planning to become a sole trader.

This attitude shift is part of a growing trend amongst the UK workforce towards having greater control of their careers – a ‘be your own boss’ mentality kickstarted by COVID.

Rather than being hit with unwelcome news, such as layoffs, sole traders have control over every business decision. Work schedule is one example. The majority have ditched the office in favour of working from home.

The trend has also proved popular with Gen Z, the emerging workforce. Startups recently published research which shows that more young people are running side hustles alongside their primary income.

Taking advantage of the shift towards flexible and remote working, they are aiming to turn their hobbies and passions into a second job as a way to manage the rising cost of living.

Laid off UK employees speculate their companies over-hired

When Fiverr asked respondents why they thought they had been made redundant, 30% said they believed their company had over-hired. This increases to 39% at companies with 10-49 employees, and 36% for companies with more than 500 employees.

Unsurprisingly, 41% said their company was struggling financially at the time their notice was given. But 30% said they believed it was related to personal performance – with this figure increasing to 41% for those in graduate and entry level roles.

Today’s job market is sparse on talent, with many firms unable to hire for specialist roles such as tech, widening the already substantial digital skills gap.

At the same time, economic crises such as the hiked gas and electricity costs have decimated business cash flow. This has created a difficult balancing act for companies that want to invest in their workforce for growth, while prioritising survival.

The line between success and failure has tightened considerably with the start of the new financial year, as economic uncertainty causes firms to pause recruitment. Office of National Statistics data shows that, between January and March 2023, the number of vacancies fell by 47,000.

Last week, Startups reported that the number of companies proposing redundancies had hit the highest level since the pandemic in March 2023.

Majority of laid off employees feel optimistic about the future

Despite the obvious difficulties and hardship caused by being laid off, many deemed it a blessing in disguise.

72% of laid off UK workers reported that they were ‘relieved’ to now have the opportunity to look for a new role. 66% even stated that they had previously struggled to find meaning in their work.

In fact, 71% of respondents told Fiverr they will look for a fresh start by switching sectors entirely. This includes 67% of those who are in the technology industry, an industry which has been heavily impacted by redundancies.

Layoffs have been making headlines in the industry since mid-2022, with large-sale enterprises like Meta, Indeed, and Amazon announcing thousands of redundancies last month alone.

Bukki Adedapo, UK Country Manager at Fiverr, says: “Being made redundant is never a nice feeling, and is further compounded by the fact that, globally, we’re currently in a very challenging economic climate.

“However, laid off workers are seeking out new opportunities to find careers where they can find more meaning in their work and, through freelancing and self-employment, have the flexibility to make their roles work better around their own schedules and passions.”

Looking to start a side hustle? Read our guide to the top cheap small business ideas for inspiration on getting started.

Written by:
Helena Young
Helena is Lead Writer at Startups. As resident people and premises expert, she's an authority on topics such as business energy, office and coworking spaces, and project management software. With a background in PR and marketing, Helena also manages the Startups 100 Index and is passionate about giving early-stage startups a platform to boost their brands. From interviewing Wetherspoon's boss Tim Martin to spotting data-led working from home trends, her insight has been featured by major trade publications including the ICAEW, and news outlets like the BBC, ITV News, Daily Express, and HuffPost UK.

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