How 2021 Will Reshape Public Sector Recruitment
December 22, 2020

2020 is (finally) almost behind us, but 2021 already looks set to bring its own challenges for public sector recruitment:

  • The COVID-19 pandemic is far from over
  • Britain will be leaving the EU – with or without a trade deal
  • The impact of the public sector pay freeze will be felt

But how will these developments affect the public sector’s recruitment needs? Let’s dive in.

The COVID-19 situation

The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted just how crucial robust and resilient public sector services are to keeping society going. But to do their vital work, they need to be sufficiently staffed – something the public sector already struggled with before the pandemic due to a decade of cuts.

The good news is that more people are actively applying for jobs in the public sector, with applications per role jumping up 31% compared to last year. This is partly thanks to the public sector being perceived as a much more secure place to work than the private sector. During a time of great uncertainty, job security is high up the list of candidates’ priorities.

But candidate expectations have shifted during this period too. Working from home, or at least more flexible working, have become a standard job requirement for many – something the public sector will have to adapt to accommodate. There’s also been a greater focus on employee wellbeing which will likely continue post-pandemic. Those public sector organisations with defined wellbeing initiatives will no doubt attract more candidates than those still lagging behind.

COVID-19 has impacted all aspects of the job market, and the public sector is no exception. Expect a greater number of applications in 2021 alongside new – and potentially harder to accommodate – candidate expectations.

Talk to JGP about preparing your organisation for the challenges that lie ahead.

Leaving the EU

As many as 55% of UK organisations rely on contractors from the EU. From healthcare to education, EU contractors prop up much of the sector too. But from January 2021, Britain will have left the European Union and EU contractors’ rights to work in the UK will change.

But even before our departure has been made official, the outcome of Britain’s 2016 referendum has already had an impact on the job market. A survey by LinkedIn revealed that the number of EU nationals applying for roles in the UK has dropped dramatically (<30% on average) since 2016. This is only likely to continue as the real impact of Brexit is felt in the new year.

The impact of Brexit on public sector organisations will vary by how much each one currently relies on EU workers. But all will need to look closer to home to source contractors going forward. Working with a specialist public sector recruiter well ahead of time will ensure they don’t experience staff shortages in 2021.

The public sector pay freeze

Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced the government would be implementing a public sector pay freeze in November. Of course, pay freezes are equivalent to pay cuts which will no doubt decrease the attractiveness of public sector work.

Although those working in the NHS earning less than £24k will be exempt, that still leaves large swathes of the public sector workforce affected, including teachers, local authority employees, and civil servants.

Determining how this pay freeze will upset recruitment in the sector isn’t clear.

Recent data has revealed that public sector recruiters have received 100% more applications in the past three months compared to the first three months of the year. While that may sound positive, they’ve also posted 700% more jobs in that same time frame. This indicates something already apparent – there’s clearly a shortage of candidates in the space.

In light of the pay freeze, the public sector will have to think creatively about how they can attract and – more importantly – retain new candidates in the coming year.

Is the public sector ready for 2021’s recruitment challenges?

2021 will surely pose new challenges for public sector recruitment. Candidate expectations are changing in light of COVID-19, Brexit will transform where the public sector sources their contractors, and the public pay freeze will nip away at an already diminishing candidate pool.


But it’s not all doom and gloom. Public sector organisations concerned about their recruitment needs should talk to JGP. We’re experts in sourcing top talent for the public sector and non-profit organisations. We understand what’s facing the sector and we’re here to help.

2021 Survival Checklist for Public Sector Employers Free Download

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