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  • Sarah Learney

The ‘Great Resignation;’ anticipated or overstated?



Like the Pandemic, the conflicting media reports surrounding employment, offer very little certainty. There appear to be three contradictory arguments:

  1. Widespread unemployment and restrictions on recruitment.

  2. A skills shortage which spans several industry sectors.

  3. The forthcoming ‘Great Resignation;’ a mass exodus of unhappy employees seeking greener pastures.


There is no denying that the Pandemic instigated redundancies, business closures and furlough, on an unprecedented scale.

  • The UK unemployment rate is currently at 4.8%, with many economists predicting that this could rise to 5.5% later in the year.

  • It is reported that approximately 11.5 million employees in total have been furloughed as part of the UK government's job retention scheme.

  • Whereas the number of people currently on furlough has continued to decrease throughout March, April and May, recent government statistics confirm that 3.4 million people are still reliant upon furlough payments.



In stark contrast to these figures, are continued reports relating to skill shortages across multiple industry sectors. The economy is recovering, hiring confidence is returning and there is growing evidence of resilience in the labour market. In the first week of May, we saw an additional 181,000 job adverts, giving a total of 1.53 million active job postings in the UK. There is definitive momentum, yet a dramatic reduction in available talent.


With the hospitality sector perhaps worst affected, we are also witnessing a shortfall in professions such as transport, welding, mechanical engineering, software, nursing and care. Whilst the vacancies are readily available, the talent is not forthcoming. But why is this?

  • Brexit has sent much of our workforce home to their countries of origin.

  • Those furloughed during the first wave have sought out alternative professions.

  • After the instability of the last 15 months, employees are reluctant to embark on a change.

As Recruiters, we are competing to source and attract passive jobs seekers in an economy which is moving faster than your average notice period.




Yet a study by Microsoft found that 41% of the global workforce would consider leaving their current employer within the next year. Professor Anthony Klotz has coined the phrase, the ‘great resignation;’ a mass exodus of unhappy employees seeking greener pastures. His argument centres around the evolving economic crisis, people’s reluctance to return to the office, their preference for a greater work / life balance, and dissatisfaction about how they may have been treated by their current employer during the Pandemic.




With three such contrasting perspectives, it is fair to conclude that the current labour market is volatile. Indeed, the situation raises more questions than it answers.

  • How can there be a skill shortage with so many people unemployed or still on furlough?

  • How can companies attract new talent when an unstable economy has made them reluctant to leave?

  • How will businesses limit the impact of the potential ‘great resignation’ when the damage may already have been done?

Interestingly, small businesses and the self-employed have proven more resilient throughout the Pandemic and ensuing economic crisis. We have adapted to the ever-changing trends with reasonable fluidity. As an independent Recruiter, I cannot predict the outcome of staff shortages vs. the ‘great resignation.’ However, Aspire Recruitment Services can offer an insightful appraisal of the current market, utilising innovative candidate attraction and engagement techniques which bypass the shortage of available talent ‘actively’ seeking new opportunities.




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