New research has found that professional vacancies for HR professionals declined by almost two-fifths year-on-year in 2020. 

Data collected by the Association of Professional Staffing Companies, the trade association for the recruitment sector, found that HR job vacancies did fall significantly in 2020.

Compared to the year prior, the number of openings for HR roles fell by 38.1 per cent. Despite this, demand for interim staff remained high as employers relied on contingent workers, such as specialist freelancers, to take on these roles.

The reduction in HR vacancies was prominently seen during the UK’s first lockdown in April last year where hiring levels fell by 80.1 per cent compared to April 2019.

However, HR jobs did see an efficient recovery as the year went on. By Quarter 4 of 2020, HR job vacancies were 12 per cent higher compared to the same period in 2019, levelling out the steep decline at the start of the pandemic.

In addition, whilst many employers did put a hold on hiring permanent staff, many turned to contingent workers with the hiring for interim positions increasing from 13.2 per cent in 2019 to 17.8 per cent in 2020.

Previous research from Reed also found that the majority of HR jobs advertised a salary that was higher in comparison to previous years. According to their research, HR salary growth actually rose by 1.9 per cent throughout last year, rising from £46,355 in 2019 to £47,220 in 2020.

Specific roles within the sector such as training managers, HR directors and health & safety managers saw the largest salary increase in 2020.

Despite this, salary growth in this sector was less than the UK national average with HR professionals ranking the third lowest sector for salary increases.

Ann Swain, CEO of APSCo comments:

It’s no surprise that demand for HR professionals reduced last year as the pandemic took hold. However, our data suggests that by the end of the year the recovery was underway with recruitment levels rising once again.

It is also interesting to note that demand for interims actually increased last year, indicative of the increasing reliance on the professional contingent workforce as employers turn to agile and flexible hiring solutions in an uncertain market.

And as we progress throughout 2021 and lockdown measures are eased we expect to see the recruitment market for HR professionals continue on a positive trajectory.





Monica Sharma is an English Literature graduate from the University of Warwick. As Editor for HRreview, her particular interests in HR include issues concerning diversity, employment law and wellbeing in the workplace. Alongside this, she has written for student publications in both England and Canada. Monica has also presented her academic work concerning the relationship between legal systems, sexual harassment and racism at a university conference at the University of Western Ontario, Canada.