As we face a future of greater automation, an ageing workforce, continual change and dynamism across sectors, creating good work and quality jobs is a priority. This may be affected by a range of factors, including HR practices, the quality of people management as well as the workers themselves. The CIPD's annual UK Working Lives Survey sets out to examine these factors, using seven critical dimensions of job quality. The resulting work equips policy makers, business leaders and managers as well as individuals, with evidence and recommendations by which they can raise job quality and improve working lives.

This concise briefing is a supplement to the main report and is designed to provide people practitioners with an overview of the key findings, as contextualised for Scotland. By drawing out the most notable data for each aspect of job quality, together with charts and ‘practice pointers’, this briefing directs focus towards the most essential issues for action. We encourage organisations to use these insights alongside the more detailed analysis of the main report to drive engagement and improvement in these critical aspects of practice, which in turn will support the growth of quality jobs for all.

1. Work-life balance and flexible working

Scotland's overall performance in work-life balance and flexible working is below par compared with other UK nations and regions.

  • Despite being the most widespread and desired flexible working option around the UK, access to flexitime (the ability to choose starting and finishing times) in Scotland is second lowest after Wales (29% have used the option compared with 34% in the UK as a whole).

  • Flexible working is seen as more career limiting, with only 10% saying it had a positive impact compared with a 16% national average.

  • Workers have more difficulty taking time off to deal with family matters than elsewhere in the UK (26% in Scotland found it difficult compared with 22% across the UK).

Practice pointers

  • Review the business case and objectives for flexible working at your organisation. Is what you currently have in place fit for purpose?

  • Identify facilitators and barriers to flexible working and actionable solutions.

  • Review the flexible working options you offer and compare them with the options actually used.

  • Redesign jobs to allow for flexible working as part of your core strategy.

  • Ensure policies, communications, and guidelines around flexible working are clear, consistent, and provide channels for feedback and ideas.

2. Pay and benefits

Scotland compares well on pay and benefits with most of the UK, third behind London and the East of England.

  • Median pay levels in Scotland are around 4% above the national average at almost £25,000.

  • Workers in Scotland (24%) has a higher than UK average (21%) level of access to more desirable final salary pensions.

  • Scotland also reports the highest average level of employer pensions contribution (an average 6.5% compared with 5.7% for the UK as a whole).

Practice pointers

  • Update your pay and benefits strategy/approach relative to the marketplace, based on your current and expected demand for talent. Ensure they are fair and equitable across your workforce.

  • Review your pay and benefit structure against organisational objectives and realign where required.

  • Check your pay practices against the National Living Wage and take action as required.

  • Update your workforce planning to take account of variations in pay and benefit levels in different locations.

  • Particularly if raising pay is not an option, consider boosting your benefits package through partnerships with suppliers etc.

  • Pay attention to pensions. Make sure your employees are aware of the need to save for the future and the proportions they need to save.

3. Contracts

Employment arrangements in Scotland are similar to the rest of the UK, with people mostly employed on permanent full-time or part-time contracts. Incidence of what is sometimes called 'precarious' work is low.

  • 62% of workers are employed full-time (over 30 hours/week) and 24% part-time (vs UK average of 61% full-time and 25% part-time).

  • 14% are self-employed (UK average 15%), with 11% running their own business and the remainder operating freelance.

  • Only about 3% in Scotland are employed on zero-hours or short hours contracts and a further 3% on temporary, casual or agency employment. This is the same as the UK average.

Practice pointers

  • Ensure written employment contracts capture all key terms and conditions of employment, including employment status and associated rights, and are kept up to date.

  • Align employment contracts with your organisational objectives, values, and workforce planning.

  • Have clear policies and guidelines for managers on when to use different types of contracts.

  • If zero-hours contracts are used, ensure responsible use and be aware of the legal issues.

  • If additional capacity is needed, bring in the underemployed on more hours first. It will save on recruitment while providing enhanced employment and earnings opportunities.

4. Skills, autonomy and development

  • Employees in Scotland are more often involved in solving complex problems than elsewhere in the UK (48% compared with an average of 43%).

  • Scotland has the second highest proportion of employees reporting no autonomy over the tasks they do in their jobs (20% vs 17% UK average). Scotland is also worse than average on the lack of autonomy over starting and finishing times (37% vs 34% UK average) and the pace at which workers have to work (18% vs 13% UK average).

  • However, Scotland is second only to London for opportunities to develop skills or advance careers. (52% v 49% UK average).

Practice pointers

  • Audit your workforce skills and capabilities; where possible, capture information on learning activities, their application, and impact on job to drive learning analytics. If you are a small firm this may be a spreadsheet with people’s skills and qualifications. In any setting, note any special abilities, interests, volunteering commitments etc. as these may unlock additional opportunities and capabilities.

  • Talk to people directly and via their managers about their knowledge, skills, aspirations and development opportunities in their jobs. Commitment to growing talent internally can be an attractive employee value proposition.

  • Consider making more/better use of apprenticeships.

  • Ensure your learning and development strategy enables achievement of organisational objectives and makes the best use of emergent learning technologies and approaches.

  • Make it clear and easy for employees to access and sign-up for learning and development supported/delivered by the organisation; identify and take advantage of relevant, applicable, free learning provided by third parties.

  • Innovation is critical. Skills, autonomy and development can drive innovation. Don’t be boxed in by titles and roles as you seek to innovate on products or processes. Tap into the insight and expertise of the whole workforce.

5. Relationships at work

  • Along with those in the East of England, workers in Scotland are least likely than elsewhere in the UK to feel supported if they made a mistake – 21% say their manager would hold mistakes against them compared with 18% UK average.

  • However, Scotland is joint top with the East of England in reporting good relationships with their team (78% vs 76% UK average).

  • Employees in Scotland are less likely than average to rate relationships with customers, clients and suppliers as positive (72% compared with 74% UK average).

  • Scotland has marginally the highest reported levels of bullying and harassment at work among UK nations and regions (31% vs 30% UK average).

Practice pointers

  • Clearly articulate your organisation’s purpose and objectives, and ensure its values are current, relevant and memorable.

  • Encourage a learning culture and lead it from the top. Give room for people to experiment and try new methods. Celebrate successes, but also provide safety for sharing failures and growing from lessons learnt.

  • Develop, support and enable managers to be people-oriented in their role as team leaders.

  • Make sure your organisational development and change strategies recognise the value of relationships and networks, where real value can be cultivated.

6. Voice

  • Managers in Scotland are less likely than elsewhere in the UK to allow employees or their representatives to influence final decisions.

  • Managers are slightly less likely to seek the views of employees generally (39% vs 40% UK average).

  • Trade unions are less well-rated than managers on seeking workers’ views Unions are also seen as doing a poorer job of representing those views to senior management in Scotland.

Practice pointers

  • Value employee voice. Emerging research shows that enabling people to speak up creates a better and more productive workplace.

  • Be mindful of managers’ role in enabling or inhibiting voice. One way is to remind leaders at big meetings to speak less and listen more. Run an open session on what’s good or bad around the workplace.

  • Consider supporting an organised form of employee voice and consult on whether this should be a union or an internal forum.

  • Look at your internal communications strategy and make sure it involves receiving as well as transmitting.

7. Health and well-being

  • Workers are most likely to view work’s impact on their mental health as negative (29% vs 26% UK average).

  • Employees feel the least energetic in their jobs in the whole of the UK (27% vs 31% UK average).

  • Despite this, workers feel most enthusiastic about their jobs (57% report always or often feeling enthusiastic vs the UK average of 54%).

Practice pointers

  • Create a health and well-being strategy for your organisation and a communication plan to raise awareness; this is a key driver of candidate attraction and employee retention.

  • Launch regular campaigns focused on targeted areas of employee health and well-being, supported by employee health and well-being champions.

  • Provide guidance and support to leaders and managers on how to most effectively manage and support, the health and well-being of their teams.

  • Create opportunities for employee involvement in and feedback on health and well-being initiatives.

  • Gather and analyse data on the health and well-being of employees; identifying risks and opportunities for action.

  • Ensure adequate support, enablement, and care for employees working with physical and or mental health issues.


This short, practice-focused briefing outlines the major findings from CIPD's UK Working Lives Survey, highlighting the comparisons between the Midlands and other UK nations and regions. Employers and people professionals can use the practice pointers to explore the dimensions of job quality within their teams and consider the recommended actions. Why not establish a 'Job Quality' group in your organisation and use the main report and these insights for the Midlands to benchmark your progress?