New homeworking statistics highlight significant social disparities

Image: Daniel Thomas on Unsplash

Statistics released yesterday by the Office for National Statistics (ONS), reveal how social factors, such as gender, ethnicity and geography, affected the degree and conditions of homeworking in 2020.

Most strikingly, although levels of homeworking amongst men and women were similar, working from home increased the gender pay gap.

In 2020, men working from home received £808 per week, whereas their female counterparts earned £577, this created a gender pay gap of £231, compared to a gap of only £166 amongst those who never worked from home.

The sickness absence rate for women who worked from home was also double that of male homeworkers, although the rate remained low at 1.22%.

In addition, people from the black community were nearly half as likely to work from home as people from other ethnic groups, with only 23.8% saying they home-worked over the last year.

This figure is much lower than the other ethnicities, with ‘Asian’, ‘Other’, ‘White’ and ‘Mixed’ coming in at 33.4%, 34.9%, 36.5% and 37.4% respectively.

These findings compare to previous ONS statistics which showed that males from Black African and females from Black Caribbean backgrounds in England and Wales had the highest rates of death involving COVID-19 between March and July 2020.

Linking these two sets of statistics may highlight the reduced risk of catching COVID-19 brought on by homeworking.

The North East had the lowest levels of homeworking in England. Image: @emrichards0n__ on Instagram

The ONS also found significant regional variation in the levels of homeworking, with highs of 42.9% in London contrasting with Northern Ireland and the North East, where only 26.3% and 26.5% said they had worked from home.

The ONS report said: “London and surrounding areas had the highest rates of working from home in 2020, with many areas in Scotland and the North having the lowest.

“Areas of note with low homeworking rates were Thurrock, Birmingham, Lincolnshire, Blackpool, South Ayrshire, and parts of Northern Ireland.”

Whilst it is likely that London had the highest rate of homeworkers due to its high proportion of jobs in finance and professional services, much of the regional variation could not be explained by the types of industries operating in each region, the ONS found.

Overall, the proportion of UK workers who worked from home increased across all genders, ethnicities and regions, with 36% saying they had done so in 2020 compared to only 26.6% in 2019.

Reflecting on these working conditions, Emma Mclaren, a 22 year old merchandising assistant who has worked from home for the last six months, said: “I only started during the pandemic so working from home has been a strange way to begin a new job. It’s been easier to focus on tasks without distractions but I often work late nights due to a lack of distinction between work and home life, and it’s been difficult establishing working relationships.

“As a young person it has been quite easy for me to adapt to the technical side of homeworking, but I am definitely looking forward to getting into the office and getting to know my team face to face soon as we can!”




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Aimee Seddon

MA Journalism at Salford University, and news reporter at Lancashire Post. Twitter: @aimeeseddon_