A government minister has told Sky News that families can “protect themselves” from the cost of living crisis by working longer hours or getting a new job.
One in 20 UK households are soon set to be unable to pay for their food and energy bills, as global shortages and the war in Ukraine continue to push up fuel and transport costs.
But safeguarding minister Rachel Maclean says while the government is focused on “longer term” economic measures to ease the crisis, Britons can “take on more hours or move to a better-paid job” to help in the shorter-term.
Opposition MPs have accused the government of being “disconnected from the realities of people’s lives” and that its job “isn’t just to tell people to work harder, longer and go for a promotion”.
So can our jobs really help us through the cost of living crisis? Here Sky News speaks to career and employment experts about what professional choices people can make to help with spiralling costs.
Ask for a pay rise
With lifelong jobs largely a thing of the past, employees are often on the hunt for new opportunities with better pay, conditions and benefits.
Jenny Garrett, a career coach and leadership development consultant, says that although smaller businesses are struggling with costs too, larger, corporate organizations are more likely to up your salary than risk you looking for work elsewhere.
“There is a war on talent, with employers trying to hold onto good people and avoid the ‘great resignation’,” she tells Sky News.
“If you’re in an organization that’s doing well financially, you’ll be well-placed to ask for a pay rise.”
Jill Cotton, career trends expert at Glassdoor, adds that researching what other companies pay for similar roles and timing your request after a successful project or deal will help.
She says: “When businesses are also feeling the stress of rising costs, you must also be clear on the value you bring to the company.”
Working longer hours on fewer days could free up an extra day or two to take on a second job, Ms Garrett adds.
“If you’re able to or want to work more hours to earn more money, you can ask your employer to compress five days’ work into four and on the fifth day get another role,” she says.
“More and more people are doing it and more and more organizations are open to it.
“But if you’re already feeling close to burn out and have other responsibilities you may not be able to do that.”
Katie Schmuecker, principal policy adviser at social think tank the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, tells Sky News that for “far too many people, the only jobs within their reach are insecure, with no guarantee of enough hours or long term work”.
She also says that overtime work or freelance job offers often come at too late notice for parents or carers to arrange cover.
There may be other jobs within your company that are better paid than the one you are currently doing.
“Networking within your organization is a good idea to see what other roles you could transition into,” Ms Garrett, who retrained as a career coach while still working in marketing 16 years ago, says.
“If you work for a large or corporate firm, look for roles that have better career trajectories.
“Being an internal candidate will mean people know you already and can trust your record – so it’s a good thing to look into.”
Other sources of income
The gig economy has changed the way people work, with pay-as-you earn jobs such as Uber and delivery driving allowing them to top-up their incomes in their spare time.
From copy writing, proof-reading and tutoring to knitting and woodwork, Ms Garrett stresses that ‘second jobs’ do not have to be nine-to-five.
“If there’s something you enjoy or been told you have a talent for, that could become a supplementary business,” she says.
Online platforms such as Etsy and Not on the High Street are good ways to sell handmade products, while freelance marketplaces such as Fiverr and People Per Hour can make you money by offering digital and content creation services online.
If a ‘side hustle’ means you working more than 48 hours a week, you will have to let your primary employer know, Ms Cotton adds.
Is your job ‘future proof’?
Post-COVID, “job vacancies in the UK are currently at an all-time high”, according to Glassdoor expert Ms Cotton.
“Employers are increasingly looking to hire outside the normal talent pool. So if you’re looking to switch industries, now is the time to update your CV and start applying for jobs,” she says.
But if you are prepared to change careers for a better salary in the long term, making sure its sustainable is equally as important, Ms Garrett adds.
“There is a cap on some roles, so you’ll only ever earn so much. It’s important to know what the maximum pay is within your industry and if it’s still going to be in demand in 10 years’ time.”
She suggests technology, finance, retail, education and healthcare for those worried about job security and able to consider changing careers.
Training loans or bursaries
While changing careers is likely to mean sacrificing your income until you have re-qualified, some industries will pay for your course or allow you to learn on the job.
Alternatively, some industries will guarantee you a role at the end of your training to minimize the time you spend out of work.
Ms Garrett says IT and cyber security jobs are among the most likely to guarantee jobs and pay for training.
Public sector roles suffering shortages such as maths, science teachers, and social workers also offer training grants.
The government has Advanced Learner Loans for adults studying at Higher Education level and Loan Bursary Funds to help with travel, accommodation, and childcare costs for people with caring responsibilities.
“The interest rates on government learner loans are usually very low and you only start paying it back when you’re earning enough,” Ms Garrett says.
An apprenticeship allows you to “try before you buy” when thinking about a new career, Ms Garrett says.
Although they are becoming increasingly popular, they may be a bad choice in the current climate as they are not very highly paid, she warns.
Online or distance learning courses allow people to retrain around their current working hours.
But Ms Garrett cautions that with home working now a permanent feature of many jobs following the pandemic, some people may struggle to do both.
“I think it’s hard for people at the moment, because with the pandemic a lot of work has moved online, so to have to study online in the evening as well… there’s a limit to what people can take,” she says.