Firm foundations

Understanding why employers use flexible contracts


At the end of 2023, more than one-in-eight (13 per cent) employees in UK were working on some form of flexible contract that can be viewed as ‘precarious’, accounting for 3.8 million workers nationwide. From variable-hours and zero-hours contracts to temporary work such as casual, seasonal or short-term employment, flexible contracts often entail considerable uncertainty … Continued

The Big Brexit

An assessment of the scale of change to come from Brexit


Leaving the EU represents the largest change in the UK’s relationship with the rest of the world in nearly half a century. It is a profound change in economic governance, that will reorient production away from trade with the EU and towards the domestic market, impacting people, places and firms across the UK. Understanding the … Continued


The UK corporate sector's recovery from Covid-19


UK firms have, like every other part of the economy, faced a huge economic hit from the Covid-19 pandemic. So, a key question is: what is the current state of British firms as we emerge from the pandemic? This matters because the nature and strength of the recovery depends on the health of the UK … Continued

Economic growth

On firm ground?

The impact of Covid-19 on firms and what policy makers should do in response


The coronavirus crisis has had huge repercussions across the economy, and the corporate sector is no exception. This paper analyses how the crisis has affected firms’ finances, puts that in context compared to previous recessions, and assesses the ability of firms to contribute to the post-crisis recovery. This is important because firms’ investment and hiring … Continued

Doing what it takes

Protecting firms and families from the economic impact of coronavirus


The coronavirus health crisis is now a full-blown economic crisis, and one that may last for much more than a few months. Firms will go bust and unemployment will rise. The majority of this economic damage will be driven not by the direct impact of coronavirus itself, but by the necessary measures – such as social distancing – that we put in place to respond to it.

Sorry, we’re closed: Understanding the impact of retail’s decline on people and places


Headlines about shop closures might give the impression that retail’s decline is a recent phenomenon, but retail’s share of employment has been falling for 15 years. This report digs behind this long-run trend, driven by changes in what we spend and how we spend it, and focuses in on what really matters when it comes to economic change: people and places.

Choices, choices… Why do firms use agency workers?


With the number of agency workers on the up, this piece of research explores why firms use this contingent type of labour rather than directly employed staff. We show that the majority of firms that make use of agency workers still hire them primarily as ‘stop-gaps’,. However, one-third of such firms take a more strategic approach, taking an active business decision to hire agency workers either extensively or exclusively for certain roles.

A rising tide lifts all boats? Advanced industries and their impact upon living standards


Policy makers in Westminster, devolved administrations, cities and local authorities struggle with many of the same challenges. Encouraging economic growth is vital but so too is ensuring the prosperity created is evenly shared. After a long absence, industrial strategy is back on the agenda as a way of providing this inclusive growth. The cornerstone of … Continued

Weighing up the wage floor: Employer responses to the National Living Wage


The findings of this report confirm that a significant share of firms will not be affected by the National Living Wage (NLW), or will face only a small increase in their wage bill. At the same time, it is clear that for some employers, particularly those in low-paying sectors, the NLW will raise their labour costs considerably. Both the survey and the case study interviews … Continued

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