Disabled workers and those with caring responsibilities are disproportionately at risk of redundancy, charity Citizens Advice has reported.
In a survey of 6,015 workers across the country, Citizens Advice found that around one in six Britons are facing redundancy.
But the potential impending unemployment crisis is not affecting everyone equally.
Citizens Advice said that people with caring responsibilities, for children or vulnerable adults, are facing redundancy at far higher levels than the general population – with two in five (39%) expected to lose their jobs.
Of those who identify as having a disability or long-term health condition, more than one in four (27%) are facing redundancy. This rose to 37% of those who said their disability has a large impact on their day-to-day life.
Of these individuals, nearly half (48%) were classed as extremely clinically vulnerable to coronavirus.
Citizens Advice pulled no punches in its condemnation of this trend, concluding that workplace discrimination of this kind is illegal.
Dame Gillian Guy, chief executive of Citizens Advice, said: “Employers face difficult choices but there are worrying signs disabled workers, people who shielded, parents and carers are being pushed to the front of the queue when it comes to redundancy.
“As tough as these times are, they cannot be used as an excuse to break the rules.
“If someone is facing an unfair redundancy, the odds of getting redress under the current system are stacked against them. Workers need a watchdog that will be a one-stop shop to protect their employment rights.”
Jamie McGlynn, contact centre manager at Citizens Advice Manchester, said: “We’re seeing a lot of redundancy issues, but it gives you a sinking feeling when someone who’s been shielding, is a carer or has young kids tells you they’ve been picked as the first to go.
“People are absolutely wracked with worry. One lady with underlying health conditions told her employer she felt unsafe about returning to work as another worker had Covid symptoms but wasn’t isolating. The next week she had her redundancy notice through.
“We’re retraining some of our advisers on employment rights because we know what we’re seeing now could be just the tip of the iceberg.”