Covid-19 is transforming career priorities to more ethical jobs


Steve Ward, Director – Universum UK

Covid-19 has dramatically shifted UK worker priorities with professionals turning towards more socially-conscious employers including the Environment Agency and Oxfam, according to a survey of more than 23,000 people.*

The annual Most Attractive Employers report*, which studies the employers workers prefer, their career expectations and how these have changed since the COVID-19 outbreak, shows businesses with a strong social purpose have become more desirable employers over the last year. The British Council broke into the top 20 preferred companies for the first time in 2020, jumping 16 places to sit at 14th, while the Environment Agency also increased by 16 places to be named 30th.  Oxfam saw one of the biggest advances – rising by 22 places. The NHS kept hold of its title as the top British preferred employer.  The NHS has kept its title as the top British preferred employer.

Alongside these positive changes, Facebook 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.

Women’s salary expectations drop, while men’s rise
The report reveals a startling 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 25% more than women – up from 12% more in 2018. Interestingly, men’s salary expectations have increased since the outbreak of Covid-19 – growing from £40,500 in 2019 to £41,600 in 2020 while women’s expectations have dropped from £31,400 to £31,000.

The insecurity around COVID-19 presents itself in the vast differences between the genders on what makes an employer attractive to work for. While responses show that men are drawn to challenging work and increased recognition, women instead prefer companies with better social responsibility, leaders who will support their development and training and continued education opportunities.

Universum’s UK Director, Steve Ward 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.”

COVID-19 drives moves aboard and changes in career plans
The survey also reveals a potential future increase in emigration from the UK’s workforce following the outbreak of COVID-19, with 33% of respondents signalling that they would consider leaving the country and moving abroad in the wake of the pandemic.

When asked if COVID-19 would make them adapt their career plans, more than a third (35%) said yes. Other reasons cited include changing employers or changing the industry they were hoping to have a career in.

This falls in line with the increasing number of different employers UK talent take into consideration before finally making their final choice. In 2019, the average UK professional considered an average of 21 employers; however, in less than a year this number has increased to an average of 26 considerations.

Universum Employer Branding Advisor, Dennis Billgren said: “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. 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.”

 Another notable trend to come out of this year’s UK professional survey is the rise in popularity and attractiveness in public sector employers and the public sector as a whole. These were not the only UK employers to see a boost in popularity, as the top twenty on the business, engineering and IT rankings include many British employers and employers perceived to be British.

Business Top Ten

  1. Google
  2. NHS
  3. Netflix
  4. Apple
  5. BBC
  6. Amazon
  7. Civil Service
  8. Nike
  9. HM Revenue and Customs
  10. John Lewis



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