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Women are most likely to be underemployed, research finds



Women are among the groups of UK workers who are most likely to be affected by underemployment, according to research from the Underemployment Project, a sociological investigation of underemployment.

Younger workers, workers with lower qualification levels and people from ethnic minorities are also most likely to be affected.

This was found to be true across time-related underemployment (people working fewer hours than they would like to), skills-related underemployment (people who are more skilled than their current job requires) and wage-related underemployment (workers who are underpaid for what they do).

Read more: Workers unaware of zero-hours contracts rights


The research looks at underemployment from January 2023, and is funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC/UKRI). The first year’s findings were published last month but the Underemployment Project is set to continue until January 2026.

“These first findings from the Underemployment Project raise fascinating questions about the most appropriate indicators to use in order to capture underemployment as a whole,” the research team stated. “Our second report will allow us to understand if and how the three dimensions of underemployment accumulate, and whether our indicators overlap.”

The Workers (Predictable Terms and Conditions) Act, which is due to come into force later this year, may mitigate the time-related aspect of underemployment. The Act allows workers the right to request a predictable working pattern, provided that the workers concerned satisfy the eligibility criteria.

Read more: How HR should prepare for the introduction of predictable hours legislation

Acas is set to publish a code of practice as well as further guidance on making and handling requests. “In preparation for this, HR should look at all current policies and see what changes are needed to bring them into line with the new legislation,” said Kate Palmer, HR advice and consultancy director for Peninsula.

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