40,000 UK job roles left vacant for six months or more

UK firms report that on average, one in 20 positions remain unfilled for more than six months, while one in ten are vacant for at least a month, according to latest research from Robert Half.


  • UK firms report that on average, one in 20 positions remain unfilled for more than six months, while one in ten are vacant for at least a month.
  • Lack of available skills (51%), difficulties matching talent needs (30%) and an inability to move fast to secure applicants (28%) are cited as the main challenges.
  • Businesses report that reduced productivity (42%), increased stress levels (42%) and slowed growth (38%) are the main consequences of unfilled positions.

London, 14 May 2018 – On average, over 40,0001 job vacancies are left unfilled for over six months according to research2 by Robert Half UK. The figure doubles to 80,000 for roles left vacant for more than a month.

Time Unfilled roles (mean average) Unfilled roles (no.)
>1 month 10% 81,500
>3 months 7% 57,050
>6 months 5% 40,750

With employment at record levels and an ongoing skills crisis, companies are facing a war for talent which is leaving many positions unfilled. A lack of skilled candidates (51%) tops the list of challenges, whilst difficulties in finding the right talent follows close behind (30%). Even when the right person has been found, many firms aren’t hiring fast enough and end up missing out on their preferred candidate (28%).

UK organisations clearly recognise the detrimental effect that unfilled roles can have on their business. Reduced productivity (42%), increased stress (42%) and limited business growth (38%) are cited as the main consequences – all of which can cripple a firm’s performance.

“High employment often leads to a lack of candidate availability,” said Matt Weston, UK Managing Director at Robert Half. “This, combined with an ongoing skills shortage, creates a job vacuum which breeds a war for talent. To effectively recruit in this type of employment landscape, employers should be flexible and realistic with their attraction and selection strategy.”

“Establishing a clear difference between the requisite technical skills and skills that can be developed over time, can help businesses unlock a broader talent pool. In the rapidly changing world of work, identifying a candidate with the right soft skills, potential and willingness to develop should form the foundation of a long-term recruitment and retention strategy.”

Research methodology 
1 Based on 815,000 job vacancies for January to March from ONS labour market data

2 The study was developed by Robert Half and conducted in December 2017 - January 2018 by an independent research firm among 500 business leaders across the UK, with the data segmented by business type, size, and location. This survey is part of an international study on hiring trends and career ambitions in the modern workplace.

About Robert Half

Robert Half is the world’s first and largest specialised recruitment consultancy and member of the S&P 500 and #1 in our industry on FORTUNE® magazine’s “World's Most Admired Companies” list (2017). Founded in 1948, the company has over 300 offices worldwide providing temporary, interim and permanent recruitment solutions for accounting and finance, financial services, technology, and administrative professionals. Robert Half offers workplace and job seeker resources at roberthalf.co.uk and twitter.com/roberthalfuk.