Two in five people are working extra hours as cost-of-living crisis bites

A new poll suggests that the continuing cost-of-living crisis is now affecting a greater proportion of employeesA new poll suggests that the continuing cost-of-living crisis is now affecting a greater proportion of employees, with more people working extra hours, more struggling to buy food or pay their bills, and fewer being able to afford to take sick days, compared to mid-2022. HR software provider Ciphr surveyed 1,000 employees across the UK about their experiences of rising living costs in 2023, and any actions they’ve taken, or have considered taking, because of financial pressures.

The results suggest that there has been a  significant impact that months of record inflation and soaring prices for (nearly) everything, especially essentials like food, energy, and housing, has had on personal finances and people’s wellbeing – causing most employees to experience stress (76 percent of those surveyed), lose sleep (52 percent), and reduce their household spending (79 percent).

One in six (17 percent) has made further ‘savings’ by cutting back (or cancelling) their personal insurance cover, such as income protection, life insurance, and medical or dental insurance, and one in seven (14 percent) has reduced their pension contributions – decisions which may prove to have costly consequences in the future.

Faced with declining real incomes and mounting expenses, almost half (46 percent) of respondents have taken on additional hours at work, one in five (19 percent) now has a second job for extra income, and one in three (34 percent) has been actively job hunting for a higher salaried role.

Thousands have turned to their employers for more cost-of-living support, with around a third (36 percent) of surveyed men and a quarter (26 percent) of surveyed women having recently requested a pay rise.

A further one in five of all respondents (22 percent of men and 17 percent of women) has asked for a promotion; one in eight (16 percent of men and 11 percent of women) has asked for extra employee benefits to help their wages go further; and one in ten (14 percent of men and 7 percent of women) has asked for a ‘one-off’ cost-of-living payment or bonus. (There is no way of knowing how many of these pay-related requests were successful, but given the notable gender ‘ask gap’ in these figures it’s reasonable to infer that more men than women may have benefitted from asking.)

Reducing monthly outgoings and increasing earnings only goes so far, though. For many employees, it’s still not been quite enough to make ends meet this year. Worryingly, over two-fifths (43 percent) of those surveyed have struggled to buy food or pay their bills. While fear of losing wages saw one in two (55 percent of surveyed women and 47 percent of surveyed men) work through illness because they couldn’t afford to take the time off at home to recover (it’s even higher for low-wage workers).

Nearly two-thirds (61 percent) of individuals earning under £30,000, compared to two-fifths (43 percent) of those earning over £45,000, report attending work when they were feeling unwell. For employees entitled to company or contractual sick pay, it’s often triggered from the first day of sick leave. Those that work at organisations that only pay in line with statutory sick pay (SSP) rules, however, must be off work sick for three days unpaid before they qualify to receive it.

In-person workers employed in retail and hospitality, are, at least statistically, the most likely to attend work when they are unwell (81 percent and 78 percent of workplace-based employees in these industries, respectively, admit to carrying on working while ill because they couldn’t afford not to). This compares to 64 percent of all in-person workers surveyed, and 38 percent of all remote and hybrid workers surveyed.

This is the second time that Ciphr has run its Cost of living survey. Comparative analysis of both sets of findings (from May 2022 and June 2023) has revealed a marked increase in employees that have been negatively impacted, in some way, by the worsening cost-of-living crisis.

Of the 1,006 UK employees surveyed in 2022, less than a third (31 percent) were working extra hours or shifts at work. A year later that’s soared to almost half (46 percent) – an increase of 15 percentage points. The proportion of people working through illness has also risen 6 percentage points – from 46 percent to 52 percent. As has the number of households struggling with the cost of food and spiralling bills – up from 37 percent to 43 percent.

How employees are being affected by the rising cost of living in 2023, compared to 2022:

  • 76 percent of those surveyed have felt stressed or overwhelmed about rising living costs (up from 75 percent of those surveyed in 2022)
  • 52 percent have lost sleep over money worries (down from 55 percent)
  • 26 percent have taken time off work because of stress (not asked in 2022)
  • 79 percent have cut household spending (up from 67 percent)
  • 43 percent have struggled to pay bills or buy food (up from 37 percent)
  • 52 percent have attended work when unwell to avoid losing wages (up from 46 percent)
  • 31 percent have asked for a pay rise (up from 21 percent)
  • 46 percent have taken on more hours or extra shifts at work (up from 31 percent)
  • 34 percent have started actively job hunting (27 percent were ‘considering changing employers’ in 2022)