Half of British workers have considered quitting their job, looked or applied for another job

New UK polling from Ipsos shows younger workers are taking more steps to change their job.

The author(s)

  • Trinh Tu Head of Public Affairs
  • Gideon Skinner Public Affairs
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New research by Ipsos in the UK finds that 47% of British workers say that in the last 3 months they have either thought about quitting their job (26%), looked for another job (29%), applied for another job (13%) or spoken to their employer about resigning (6%).  In contrast, around a quarter (27% in total) have either asked for a pay rise (12%), a promotion (9%) or spoken to their employer about changing their role (13%). 

Younger workers are taking more steps to change their job.  46% of those aged 16-34 say they have considered quitting or looked/applied for a job outside their company, compared with 37% of 35-54 year old workers and 23% of those aged 55-75. Similarly 42% of 16-34 year old workers have asked to improve their own position within their company (for example, through a pay rise or promotion), compared with 24% of those aged 35-54 and 11% of those aged 55-75, Men were also more likely than women to have asked for a pay rise/promotion/change of role (by 32% to 22%), although there was no gender difference in looking for or considering quitting for a new job.

Whether people received a pay rise last year makes a small difference to whether they have tried to leave, but not a large one.  51% of workers who didn’t receive a pay rise last year have thought or looked to leave, but so have 44% of those who say they did receive a pay rise.

What are the reasons for job satisfaction and dissatisfaction?

Pay is also only one of the factors that plays a role in driving job satisfaction.  Overall, seven in 10 (68%) British workers say they are satisfied with their current job, compared with only 16% who are not. 

Those who are happy with their job give a range of factors -  the type of work they do (43%), work-life balance (38%), colleagues (36%), how interesting their work is (35%) and how secure their job is (35%) are all important in keeping British workers satisfied. Around a third (34%) say their pay is a key reason for their current fulfilment.

Those who have been working from home recently and are happy with their job are particularly likely to mention their work-life balance (43%), flexibility in their hours (40%), and the control they have over their job (32%).  Those who have not been working from home are more likely than home-workers to say their satisfaction is due to their colleagues (40%) and job security (38%), and also how far they have to travel (34%), suggesting this is still an important issue for those who do have to commute.
On the other hand, among the minority  who are dissatisfied with their current job, over half (55%) say their pay is the main reason.  This is well ahead of other issues, although still around a quarter lay the blame with their line manager (28%) or senior management (24%), their workload (27%), how interesting their work is (27%) and type of work they do (24%), and the overall culture at work (26%).

Are pay rises falling behind inflation?

When considering pay over the past year, half of British workers (48%) say they had a pay rise (or other increase in income from work) in 2021 while the same proportion did not (49%).  Men are more likely to say they received a pay rise than women (by 55% to 39%), as are younger workers (51% of 18-34s vs of 39% of 55-75s), graduates more than non-graduates (53% vs 44%), and full-time workers more than part-time or self-employed (55% vs 30%).

But even those who did have a pay rise, 2 in 5 say it was less than the rate of inflation (40%).  A third (33%) received a raise of about the same as inflation while only 1 in 5 (20%) say more.

Looking forward to this year, almost 6 in 10 (57%) workers also think it is unlikely that they will receive a pay rise that is higher than inflation (estimated to reach 6% in April before falling back in the second half of 2022). Only 3 in 10 (31%) think they are likely to receive a pay rise that is higher than inflation.  Young people are again the most optimistic – half (52%) of 16-24 year olds expect they will receive a pay rise higher than inflation, against 17% of 55-75 year olds.

Work exhaustion?

Most British workers say they feel “exhausted” after finishing work at least half of the time, including four in ten who say they are this tired more often than not.  Overall,  67% say they feel exhausted after work at least half of the time (17%, always, 24% more often than not, 26% about half of the time). Three in 10 feel exhausted less often than not or never.

Younger workers are particularly likely to feel tired after finishing work – 47% of 16-34 year olds say they feel exhausted always or more often than not, compared with 36% of those aged 45-75.  It rises even further among those who are unhappy at work, to 61%, although there is little difference between those who have been working from home (38%) and those who have not (43%).

Trinh Tu, MD of Public Affairs in the UK, Ipsos, said:

A new year might make workers take a fresh look at their job, and our data suggests many are at least thinking about this – although they are more likely to consider leaving their job than asking for a pay rise or promotion at their current place of work.  People who are dissatisfied with their job are of course particularly likely to consider leaving, with pay a key driver of this.  But it should be remembered that they are in a minority – most people are at least fairly happy at work, and for reasons that extend beyond pay, such as for the type of work they do, their work-life balance, their colleagues and job security.
However, that doesn’t mean there is much hope among workers that their pay will outstrip the cost of living crisis.  Only a minority are optimistic that they will get an inflation-busting pay-rise this year, and even fewer report receiving one last year.  This – combined with continued gender differences in pay rises and asking for promotions, and widespread feelings of exhaustion over work – suggests British employers shouldn’t take job satisfaction among their workers for granted.

Technical note

Ipsos interviewed a representative sample of 1,340 British adults in work aged 18-75. Interviews were conducted online between 21-22 January 2022. Data are weighted to match the profile of the population. All polls are subject to a wide range of potential sources of error.

The author(s)

  • Trinh Tu Head of Public Affairs
  • Gideon Skinner Public Affairs

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