CharityJob Research Quarterly Overview Summer 2021


Welcome to the second CharityJob Research Quarterly Overview. This roundup covers a booming jobs market and optimism within the charity sector.

The jobs market in the UK is currently in a strong position. As a result, candidates are increasingly able to take their pick of the options available to them. Thus, recruiters and employers are having to make jobs more appealing, including by increasing salaries. One reason reportedly behind staff shortages is that those who might otherwise seek to move are staying in their current roles due to uncertainty. Charities should be aware of these pressures as, while few charities seek to complete by salary, the current market may increase upward pressure on wages in the sector.

Further ahead, the end of the furlough scheme could be a watershed, meaning many more people may become unemployed and seek new jobs.


The UK economy is currently growing quickly. Monthly gross domestic product (GDP) grew by 2.3% between March 2021 and April 2021 (the latest available figures). The National Institute of Economic and Social Research has forecast economic growth of 5.7% this year.

Increased confidence among recruiters

Employers are also positive about recruiting, with confidence in hiring at the highest level since June 2016. Data from the REC shows:

  • Rapid increases in permanent and temp placements.
  • Vacancy growth highest since January 1998.
  • Supply of workers has dropped at the quickest rate for four years.

Data from Hays echo the positivity elsewhere:

  • 56% of employers are currently recruiting.
  • 70% of employers expect to recruit staff over the next year.

The most recent Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) survey of over 1,000 UK employers shows similarly positive results. The difference between the proportion of employers expecting to increase and decrease staff levels is +27, meaning many more employers intend to add new staff than lose them. As a result, employers are likely to seek to improve their employment conditions, such as training opportunities and the right balance of flexibility and security. “By offering better-quality jobs, employers will be in a better position to attract and retain the staff they need”.

However, longer-term data are less encouraging. A YouGov survey showed that 1 in 5 companies are not expecting to keep all of their furloughed staff. This means unemployment may be set to rise in the future, as forecast by the National Institute of Economic and Social Research.

Jobs data

The UK’s labour market is continuing to recover strongly. UK unemployment continues to fall, with data from June showing the number of payrolled employees increased for the sixth consecutive month. The rate of redundancies also fell back to pre-pandemic levels. Job vacancies across the whole economy are also back to approximately pre-pandemic levels. However, around 1.8 million people remained furloughed up to mid-May.

Bank of England data show the impact of the pandemic on the number of people working. In early 2020, 29 million people were employed, falling to 28 million during 2020 but now recovering. The latest Institute for Employment Studies data show “the clearest indication yet that the labour market is turning the corner”.

Total number of payrolled employees



A recent BBC news article reports that vacancies are booming, and that employers are struggling to fill them. Analysis of our own data shows that online vacancies hit and surpassed their pre-pandemic levels in May 2021 and have kept rising. Data from other charity recruiters tells a similar story.

CharityJob vacancies by month


Charity sector vacancies by month


Pay data

Pay continues to grow. In part the increase is due to the loss of lower paying jobs, meaning those that remain are better paid. But that is not the whole reason. The National Institute Of Economic and Social Research shows that public sector pay, including charities, rose by more than 4.3% in April, May and June 2021 (% change 3 month average year on year). Taking account of fewer lower paid jobs, underlying earnings growth is predicted to be 2.5% in the second quarter. The forecast, however, is for that increase to reverse in the near future.

Average weekly earnings (incl. bonuses)

Charity sector

Many charities are reporting optimism when it comes to recruitment. The CIPD reports that net employment intention (employers expecting to increase staff levels minus those expecting levels to decrease) is +28 in the charity sector, indicating many more charities are looking to add staff than lose them.

Charity sector data from the Keep Britain Working report shows the fluctuations in jobs, applications and salaries since January 2020. The numbers are an index, with January 2020 shown as 100 and all other numbers relative to that benchmark.

Vacancies, applications, salary

From the same publication, over two thirds of voluntary sector organisations surveyed (67%) are planning to recruit new staff. Further, and relatedly, redundancy intentions (percentage of respondents planning redundancies in the next three months) have fallen from above 25% in the summer of 2020 to just over 10% in Spring 2021. Those who ‘don’t know’ have fallen too, suggesting greater certainty in the sector.

These data on the intention to recruit echo other research showing that nearly half (44%) of charities had the same level of paid workforce as last month, with slightly more (16%) increasing headcount than decreasing (11%). Nearly a third (30%) of charities reported their financial position worsening over the last month, but a quarter saw theirs improve (25%), while nearly half (44%) saw no difference. In fact, 3 in 5 (58%) expect their finances to improve in the next month. From the same study, the percentage of charities expecting to recruit is now up to 20%, from a low of 12% in January:

Short-term expectations for paid workforce changes (% of respondents)

Data from Covid 19 Voluntary Sector Impact Barometer.

It could be easy to assume that all charities have been hit equally badly by the covid crisis, but this is not the case. Some charities have seen both their services and their income grow, especially those with government contracts. Almost a quarter (23%) of charities benefitted from a rise in income across 2019/2020, but nearly half (48%) had their income fall. However, the picture for the future is more negative. One in three charities (30%) expect their income to fall, and just over one in 10 (12%) expect it to rise. Those charities that rely on shops for their income have been worst hit.

A boom in volunteering

Many charities saw something of a boom in volunteering. A quarter (24%) benefitted from an increase in volunteering activities, mainly due to people wanting to help during the crisis and having more free time. But over a third (36%) experienced a reduction in volunteering due to social distancing, restrictions on services and the need to shield. Research from Wales highlights the wellbeing benefits from volunteering.

The Charities Bill

The recent Queens Speech included a Charities Bill. NCVO outlined what charities need to know. Civil Society reports the Bill will implement many of the recommendations of the Law Commission’s 2017 report on Charity Law and welcomes the impact of these pieces of legislation as making ‘the day-to-day running of a charity simpler’.

An increase in charitable giving?

Former Bank of England chief economist Andy Haldane has stated his belief that the additional savings some people have made during the pandemic could lead to a boom in charity giving of over £1billion. Though he added that charities will have to take active steps to access this new giving.

Charities’ ability to deliver services

In terms of charities ability to deliver services, NCVO research shows a decrease, from 80% to 64%, in the number of charities expecting the pandemic to negatively impact their ability to deliver their objectives. Indeed, for the first time since the pandemic began, more organisations (22%) expect their short-term financial position to improve than to deteriorate (19%). Further,

  • 30% of charities reported a worsening of their financial position, 25% saw an improvement, 44% were stable.
  • The same proportion of charities have seen their range of services decrease (37%) as increase (38%).
  • Nearly two in three charities (64%) expect their ability to deliver their objectives to be negatively impacted by covid over the next year.
  • Positively, just 6% of charities say it is ‘quite’ or ‘very’ likely that they will not be operating next year, down from 8% the previous month.

The pandemic is, however, taking its toll on charity leaders. Nearly half of charities senior leaders are considering leaving their jobs due to burnout as a result of the pandemic. Finally, one site asks whether the charity sector needs a bullying and discrimination ombudsman.

The future of work

Charities are facing dilemmas on how to work after the pandemic has receded. While many will return to the office, at least some of the time, one charity is looking to sell its premises and have staff work entirely remotely. Another is moving to a four-day working week. The workplace may be set to change greatly, but charities should consider how best to implement these new working situations and manage the return or transition.

More than a quarter of employees would be willing to accept a lower salary in exchange for more flexible working, something charities may be well placed to offer. Indeed, some form of flexible working may become a necessity for employers as nearly half of UK employees may quit their jobs if denied flexible working. The figure rose to two-thirds of those aged 18-24. Charities able to offer flexible working may therefore be at a considerable advantage in terms of their recruitment.

Macmillan Cancer Support are taking steps to investigate how remote working might work for them, and specifically, how it will allow them to maximise their potential as a diverse, inclusive and thus attractive employer. RNID Scotland has decided to sell all its office premises and to have staff work fully remotely from 1st September 2021 as “working like this is a far better way to enable people within the charity to be connected and work productively”. Indeed, some organisations are looking to a four day week as a way to boost employee productivity and wellbeing. Advice Direct Scotland moved to a four day week in 2018 as the move realised significant benefits to productivity, staff morale, absenteeism with no reduction in services provided.

Read more in our Future of Work post.

Equality, Diversity & Inclusion

The Friends Provident Foundation is part of a group of charitable foundations which have expressed support for work to rate them on how diverse, transparent, and accountable they are. This is in an effort to encourage a more open culture.

The government’s Behavioural Insights team looked at the issue of home working from the perspective of gender equality. One of the main findings is that the perception of those who work remotely as less committed decreased during 2020, but that organisation leaders need to work to ensure that perception remains or improves:

“Importantly, stigma towards remote workers, i.e. the perception that remote workers are less committed to their career, was 10% lower in October compared to pre-pandemic levels. Ensuring that senior leaders – who represent ‘success’ in an organisation – do not rush back to working primarily in the office will be key for sustaining the positive reduction in stigma.”

The Behavioural Insights team conclude that remote working may be more impactful on gender equality than part-time working as it increases men’s caring responsibilities. This is partly because men tend to work overtime, which is rewarded by employers, while women tend to do the caring, which is penalised. Employers must, then, be vigilant of this and should proactively prevent increases in overtime as women often have less capacity to work overtime.

Standard Chartered commissioned the Fawcett Society charity to look at the financial sector, highlighted the importance of the menopause as a workplace issue as it limits the ability of women to progress into senior roles.

The Business Disability Forum have launched a Getting Started toolkit that includes resources which employers may find helpful when it comes to recruitment of disabled people. City and Guilds are running a series of events on the importance of training to improve inclusion and diversity.


The long shadow of the pandemic appears to be clearing. Those charities looking to recruit are faced with employees reluctant to move, demanding higher pay and more flexible working than before. But charities should be better placed than other employers to offer flexible working and should stress the importance of the good work they do as more employees seek a purpose in their work. However, while the situation is positive at the moment, the longer term picture is more mixed and many charities may not be facing such a bright future.

Relevant research and publications

Lockdown line management: new engagement strategies need to be deployed and HR support is key

Dr Zofia Bajorek

Dr Bajorek highlights the importance of workforce health and wellbeing and how employees are line managed. Employees who had more contact with their line managers reported improved levels of organisational commitment and job satisfaction, but line managers reported lower work-life balance and job satisfaction than those who did not manage anyone.

Positive change: the outcomes of an unprecedented year – a Bates Wells report

Bates Wells

This report looks at the state of the charity sector, the solutions civil society organisations are finding to mitigate the effects of the last year on their clients, service users and donors, and the emerging opportunities for the sector.

Job Search during a Pandemic Recession: Survey Evidence from the Netherlands

Maria Balgova, Simon Trenkle, Christian Zimpelmann, Nico Pestel

This paper studies job search behaviour in the midst of the pandemic recession. It finds that job search during the pandemic recession differs strongly from previous downturns. The unemployed search significantly less than normal during a recession of this size, while those employed search mildly more. Those employed who are affected by changes in employment status due to COVID-19 are more likely to search for a job.

Jobs and Recovery Monitor – Gender


This analysis shows that women have seen a much higher level of redundancy than in previous crises and are working in sectors that are particularly exposed to the economic impact of the pandemic.

Leading the Shift to Hybrid

The OE Journal

This work explores some of the unintended consequences of the shift to remote working.

Ethnic minorities and the UK labour market: are things getting better?

Alan Manning, Rebecca Rose

Economic analysis of pay differentials and employment rates by ethnicity in the UK.

How to Hire Someone You’ve Never Met in Person

David Burkus

An exploration of hiring manager’s decisions under remote working.

Did You Get My Slack/Email/Text?

Erica Dhawan

Article on the importance of establishing norms around digital communication under remote working conditions.

Building workforce skills at scale to thrive during—and after—the COVID-19 crisis


Publication on the skills aspects of the shift to remote working and how training has been the best way to address skills shortages, rather than hiring, contracting, or redeploying.

To emerge stronger from the COVID-19 crisis, companies should start reskilling their workforces now


Work on how employers should create a talent strategy that develops employees’ digital and cognitive capabilities, their social and emotional skills, and their adaptability and resilience.

The Right Age to be a Director.


A study on board membership across public companies in the US and UK showing who gains access to boards with particular reference to their age.

Homeworking hours, rewards and opportunities in the UK: 2011 to 2020

Office for National Statistics

ONS data on working from home in the UK between 2011 and 2020, covering the impact of the pandemic, indicators of productivity and work success such as pay, hours worked, bonuses, promotions and more.

Reflections: One Year On

Birmingham Voluntary Services Council

A series from senior leaders in the voluntary sector in Birmingham reflecting on the past year and its impact on their organisations, staff, volunteers and the communities they serve.

Impact of changes in flexible working during lockdown on gender equality in the workplace

Leonie Nicks, Filip Gesiarz, Tiina Likki, Zac Baynham-Herd, Johannes Lohmann –The Behavioural Insights Team

longitudinal survey which explores changes in flexible working (remote working and hours), unpaid care work, career and wellbeing outcomes, and their relationship with gender equality in the workplace.

Respond, recover, reset: the voluntary sector and COVID-19

The Centre of People, Work and Organisational Practice at Nottingham Trent University
The Voluntary Action Research Group at Sheffield Hallam University
National Council for Voluntary Organisations

This report, part of a monthly series on the charity sector, focuses on how volunteering has changed during the pandemic.

Blackbaud Europe in partnership with The Resource Alliance

The Future of Work

A report on how the charity sector has responded to remote working as a result of the pandemic, including changes that charity professionals are implementing after COVID-19. Respondents shared their opinions on how well their organisation responded, the benefits and challenges of remote working, and their future career choices.

Work from Home & Productivity: Evidence from Personnel & Analytics Data on IT Professionals

Michael Gibbs, Friederike Mengel, Christoph Siemroth

An economic study of workplace analytics data to study the effects of the switch to WFH on employee productivity and work times.

Enabling age at work – How ageism and ableism overlap in the workplace

Brian Beach

A summary of research on perceptions of ageism and ableism among older workers and the impacts of there on future plans for work, including how training is often seen as only relevant to younger workers.

Help your employees find purpose—or watch them leave


Research on the increasing importance of ‘purpose’ to employees and its impact on productivity. Half of the respondents are reconsidering the work they do in light of the pandemic.

The Economics of Diversity: Innovation, Productivity, and the Labour Market

Ceren Ozgen

An analysis of the empirical findings on the economic impacts of diversity on innovation, productivity, and the labour market

Tags: charity job, charity sector, charity sector recruitment, quarterly overview, research

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About the author

Martin Rogers