by Scott Carey

UK IT hiring trends to watch 2020

Oct 11, 2020
CareersIT Leadership

We round up some of the key trends shaping the UK's IT hiring market, including key skills, salary expectations and the ongoing impact the COVID-19 pandemic is having on the job market.

Recruitment  >  Hiring compass pointing toward talent
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Having finally gained some clarity over the UK’s relationship with the EU following the 2019 general election, many CIOs and hiring managers were no doubt looking forward to a year of slightly more certainty in uncertain times. Then the COVID-19 pandemic hit, and all bets were off.   

At the time of writing, 9.6 million people had been temporarily laid off by 1.2 million companies as part of the government’s voluntary furlough scheme, according to figures released by HMRC

Here’s what we expect from the UK’s IT jobs market for the rest of 2020, including salary trends, the skills to have on your teams and how to weather the biggest storm many of us have seen in our lifetimes.  

COVID-19 bites the IT hiring landscape  

After years of sustained job demand and salary growth across the technology sector in the UK, the severe impact of the global COVID-19 pandemic started to show in the spring of 2020. 

Job openings in the UK’s IT sector plummeted by 56.5% month-on-month in April according to figures from the job board CV-Library. Year-on-year the volume of IT job listings was down by 59.4%. 

But the worst may be behind us. The number of active job postings in the UK topped a million in July, with a particular surge in job ads for IT professionals, according to the Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC). 

Job seekers face tough competition, however, as the government announced that it would close the furlough scheme at the end of October, leading to a 31% spike in IT job applications in September at an application-to-job ratio of 18, up a massive 84% year-on-year, according to job market data from job board CV-Library.  Total IT vacancies were down by 29% year-on-year in September and average pay also dropped by 2.3% month-on-month. 

The gender gap persists   

Research published in April 2020 by the Centre for Economics and Business Resources (CEBR) shows continued under-representation of women in UK IT.  

Overall, according to the research, just one in six UK IT professionals are female. Women represent 17% of IT Directors, 29% of IT technicians, and 7% of IT engineers. Twenty-five percent of the cyber security sector is made up of women according to the analysis. 

The figures are far worse for Black women in IT, who currently make up just 0.7% of the workforce, according to Office for National Statistics (ONS) employment data

There is also a clear gender pay gap of 8% in UK IT, according to 2019 research by the Office for National Statistics. 

IR35 delay  

Employers and IT contractors should be aware that the UK’s IR35 tax rules have been delayed by the Treasury by one year amidst the coronavirus outbreak. 

Since 2017, IR35 rules stated that public sector organisations would have to determine the tax status of contract workers, and whether they fell inside or outside the IR35 remit. In July 2019, HMRC stated in the draft finance bill that those rules were to be extended to medium- and large-sized private sector businesses, starting in April 2020, with that deadline now April 2021. 

This gives CIOs some much needed breathing room, but in the coming months, it will be crucial to draw up clear organisational maps to take stock of their workforce, off-payroll or not, as the new deadline looms. Assessing reporting lines will be crucial, as will weighing up the future pros and cons of reliance on contract workers, particularly for operational support. 

IT workers at risk of burnout 

Research from the jobs site CV-Library in January found four in ten UK IT professionals admit to feelings of burnout, with nearly two thirds stating that work is the main contributor. 

The study, which surveyed 2,000 UK IT professionals also found that 42% of workers in the IT industry have trouble sleeping, suffer from ongoing worry and feel exhausted due to long hours (34%), high workloads (31%) and pressure from managers and colleagues (20% each). 

Salaries stay flat  

Robert Half’s 2021 UK salary guide found that, overall, salaries have remained stable and the majority of CIOs plan on keeping salaries the same over the next twelve months, with better flexible and remote working opportunities being offered in return. 

Recruitment agency Morgan McKinley’s Spring 2020 London Employment Monitor painted a similarly stark picture. As jobs dropped by 38% month-on-month in March across London, salaries for new employees switching companies increased by 12%, the lowest increase in over two years, excluding July 2019. 

Despite the pandemic, expectations of a pay rise amongst IT staff remain high, according to research from CV-Library in August 2020, which found that 55% of IT professionals still expect to receive a pay rise from their employer in the next 12 months. 

Hot skills and roles  

The pandemic has also accelerated the demand for certain skills and disciplines across the jobs market, specifically cloud and security roles. 

Software development, cloud migration and project management experience are top of the list for hiring managers going into 2021, according to research by Robert Half, as well as the security skills to meet a rapidly growing range of attack vectors being faced by modern enterprises. 

In terms of specifically in-demand roles, devops engineers, programme leads, software developers and solutions or network architects topped the list.