September 28, 2023


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Brits looking for more ‘ethical’ jobs amid COVID-19 pandemic

COVID-19 has dramatically shifted UK workers’ priorities, with more and more seeking “ethical” jobs, research suggests.

a man in a blue shirt: The NHS remains Brits' preferred employer. Photo: Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire/PA Images

The NHS remains Brits’ preferred employer. Photo: Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire/PA Images

Businesses with a strong social purpose have become more desirable employers over the last year, according to Universum’s annual Most Attractive Employers report, which studies the employers workers prefer, their career expectations and how these have changed since the COVID-19 outbreak.

The NHS kept hold of its title as the top British preferred employer — perhaps unsurprising during the coronavirus pandemic.

The British Council — the UK’s “international organisation for cultural relations and educational opportunities” — broke into the top 20 preferred companies for the first time in 2020, jumping 16 places to sit at 14th.

The Environment Agency also increased by 16 places to be named 30th, while Oxfam saw one of the biggest advances — rising by 22 places.

Meanwhile, Facebook (FB) has fallen out of the top 20 for the first time in five years, dropping 24 places to 37th. In years prior to 2019, it had consistently been in the top 10.

The study also found a significant drop in earning confidence among women since the onset of COVID-19, and the opposite for men — with the gap between salary expectations widening during the pandemic.


In 2020, men expect to earn a quarter more than women – up from 12% more in 2018.

Interestingly, men’s salary expectations have increased since the outbreak of coronavirus – up from £40,500 ($52.400) in 2019, to £41,600 in 2020. Meanwhile, women’s expectations have dropped from £31,400 to £31,000, the research found.

The pandemic has also resulted in differences between what the genders consider desirable in an employer, the study suggests.

While men revealed they are drawn to challenging work and increased recognition, women said they prioritise social responsibility, and prefer leaders who will support their development, training and continued education opportunities.

Steve Ward, Universum’s UK director, said: “Male and female professionals have had a remarkably different response during the pandemic. While men hope to remain challenged, recognised and be rewarded more, women are erring towards attributes that provide greater support and security.

“Our research also highlights that employees hold high expectations for businesses to have evolved during the COVID-19 recovery phrase in embracing technology, innovation and flexible work.”


The survey also found a potential future increase in emigration from the UK, following the coronavirus. A third of UK workers said they would consider leaving the country and moving abroad once the pandemic is over.

When asked if COVID-19 would make them adapt their career plans, more than a third (35%) of UK workers said yes.

Other reasons cited include changing employers, or switching the industry they want to work in.

This falls in line with the increasing number of different employers Brits consider before finally making their final choice.

In 2019, the average UK workers considered about 21 employers. However, in less than a year this number has increased to 26 considerations.

“This should underline how important it is now more than ever for businesses to be distinct and stand out from their competitors when they’re trying to attract, hire and retain critical talent,” said Dennis Billgren, Universum employer branding advisor.

“With an unstable job market and the projection of record layoffs to come this autumn, now is not the time for employers to sit back but rather see this as an opportunity for them to fill their talent gaps.” 

Watch:How to create the perfect CV

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