Public Health Wales Precarious Employment Survey 2020: Adapting research methodologies in light of COVID-19

Recent years have seen major changes in employment trends, with reductions in permanent employment contracts and a rise in short-term, part-term and more flexible employment arrangements.


There has been an increase in the gig-economy, with an emphasis on zero-hour contracts and freelance work.  This is often termed as ‘precarious work or employment’.

Public Health Wales’ 10-year strategy includes an emphasis on understanding and addressing the wider determinants of health, with employment and work being amongst these key wider determinants.

In March 2020 M·E·L Research was commissioned by Public Health Wales to undertake a nationwide survey of 20,000 households, to inform their understanding of the impact of precarious employment on health and wellbeing. Key themes include:

  • The prevalence and impact of precarious employment on health outcomes e.g. employment-related mental wellbeing
  • The impact of precarious employment on households e.g. financial impact, impact on relationships
  • Public perceptions of fair work.

As the impact of COVID-19 became apparent at the start of the research, the originally planned face-to-face approach was no longer appropriate. We worked closely with Public Health Wales to adapt our proposed methodology, moving to a postal to web methodology with an inclusivity option meaning respondents can request a paper or telephone survey if they prefer.

The questionnaire was redesigned to include questions on the impact of COVID-19, providing Public Health Wales with additional insight. We have also included the option for respondents of follow-up research in 6-9 months’ time, to explore how COVID-19, employment, work and health has changed over this period.

This is a particularly illustrative example of how we are adapting our research methodologies to ensure we can continue to meet our clients’ needs and gather relevant insight on highly topical issues.