Analysis of 40 million shifts worked by over 169,000 Brits shows almost a fifth (19%) of workers now have more than one job with different employers.

The finding is one of many in a new data report, The Big Shift: Navigating the Future of Work in the UK. With analysis by independent economist, Dr. Shashi Karunanethy, the report is based on data from Deputy’s scheduling software platform along with a survey of workers in 2023.

Spanning shift work industries including healthcare, hospitality, retail, and broader service delivery, the data shows the impact of the cost-of-living on vital workforces typically associated with unpredictable work schedules.

“We’re seeing an unprecedented number of shift workers holding multiple jobs, a phenomenon we refer to as poly-employment, and which is a response to the cost-of-living crisis,” said Karunanethy. “16% of workers have two jobs, 2% have three and 1% have four or more. With similar figures observed among workers in other countries such as the United States and Australia, this is a significant trend. For many people it’s a tricky but necessary balancing act.”

Significant proportion of over-60s are working more than one job

The research identified the age groups and sectors where poly-employment is most prevalent in the UK, revealing the over-60s are most likely to be working multiple jobs. 22% of Baby Boomers (aged 60-78) have more than one job, followed by 20% of Generation X (aged 44-59), and 18% of Millennials (aged 28-43) and Generation Z (aged 14-27).

Underlying this, Deputy’s data reveals a major impact from cost pressures on older shift workers. A substantial 80% of Baby Boomers report that their earnings have failed to match the pace of inflation and the rising cost of living. Younger people in Generation Z have also been hit hard by economic pressures, with 72% feeling that their pay is not keeping up with their costs.

Karunanethy commented: “As a direct consequence of the financial challenges for shift workers, we can see more older workers are taking on multiple jobs to financially sustain themselves.”

Workforce management expert and Deputy SVP, John Wilson said: “We’ve identified that a key priority for older workers is flexibility. Half of the older workforce value the fact that their shift work roles allow them to accommodate other commitments, such as taking care of grandchildren.

Others may have one occupation that they’re passionate about and another to help them pay their bills. This insight suggests that employers who prioritise flexible work arrangements are likely to be more successful in attracting and retaining older workers this year, adapting to the evolving requirements of an ageing workforce.”

Hospitality and healthcare workers most likely to be in poly-employment

By sector, the multi-job trend is strongest in hospitality, where 21% of workers have more than one job with different employers. Within the health and care sector, 18% of workers are sustaining multiple job roles. The data shows that the most common pattern in the UK is for workers to hold multiple jobs in healthcare or hospitality respectively, or in a combination of these sectors.

The findings are supported by latest figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), which show that over 1.2 million Brits hold two or more jobs.

Wilson said: “The challenges of poly-employment are often experienced by those in the shift work sectors such as healthcare, hospitality, retail, and broader services in this country.  These workers need predictable hours, sustainable work and financial security – which might not be available from a single role. Layered over this is the need for flexibility, particularly where workers may have other responsibilities such as caring for relatives or where they are pursuing a lifestyle or career change and need to make ends meet.”

The figures contained in the research show a significant shift in attitudes to work, driven by economic necessity and the preferences of different generations. Other findings in the report include:

  • There is growing awareness among shift workers of advancements in AI and automation and how their professions will evolve. In the retail sector, a substantial 77% of shift workers anticipate that AI will bring about significant changes to their roles. This sentiment is also prevalent in the healthcare sector, with 69% of workers acknowledging the likely impact of AI. More than half of workers (55%) in hospitality share this perspective. These figures illustrate the profound impact this technology is having across a diverse range of industries; reshaping job roles, increasing operational efficiencies, and altering the dynamics of traditional employment.
  • Mental wellbeing in the workplace is an increasing priority for shift workers, especially among the young. The report data reveals that 42% of Generation Z workers are seeking employers who offer wellbeing programmes. Additionally, 34% are interested in employers that provide support for accessing counselling services. This reflects a broader shift in workplace values and the growing recognition of the importance of mental health.
  • Women predominate in most shift work sectors. This is most pronounced In the healthcare sector with women contributing 74% of the shift work hours. In both the hospitality and retail sectors, women account for 51% of total shift work hours. However, in adjacent services such as delivery services and in-home care, the representation of women in shift work hours is slightly lower, at 45%.

Wilson added: “The trends emerging from this report underscore the urgency for organisations to develop hiring and retention strategies that are attuned to the varying needs of workers. A significant emphasis on work flexibility and supportive HR policies are emerging as key factors in attracting and retaining staff at all levels. Understanding and preparing for the future of work in the UK is increasingly crucial for building a resilient, inclusive, and innovative labour market.”