Job quality is at the heart of the CIPD’s purpose to champion better work and working lives. We believe that good work is fundamental to individual wellbeing, supports a fair society and creates motivated workers, productive organisations and a strong economy.

Working Lives Northern Ireland is the CIPD’s first dedicated report on job quality in Northern Ireland. Analysing seven dimensions of good work, the report provides insight on a range of issues from workforce health and wellbeing, through job autonomy and complexity, to skills and career development, with a view to informing public policy interventions and improved people practice.

Policy-makers, employers and people professionals across Northern Ireland need to act if they are to improve job quality for the whole of the workforce – not only aiming for more jobs, but better jobs. Working Lives Northern Ireland is a tool to support them in this work.

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Key findings

COVID-19

  • Employee preferences point to a hybrid future for those who can work from home. However, almost a third (32%) of all employees work in jobs that can’t be done from home.
  • Key workers report worse job quality across many indicators, although they score better on questions around meaningful work.
  • Homeworkers have seen some benefits, but also drawbacks, with those working fully from home reporting poorer relationships with colleagues and a more negative impact of work on health.

Pay and benefits

  • There is correlation between life and job satisfaction and pay levels.
  • 37% of all Northern Irish employees feel they are not getting paid appropriately, rising to 50% for the lowest earners.
  • Public sector employees report much more generous employer pension contributions compared with private sector employees.

Contracts

  • We see a link between job security and pay, with those on higher salaries reporting higher levels of job security.
  • 12% of all employees say they would like to work more hours than they currently do.
  • Those in the lowest occupational groups are reporting the highest levels of underemployment.

Work–life balance

  • Nearly a third (31%) of all employees say they find it hard to relax in their personal time because of their job
  • There are significant gaps in the availability of formal flexible working arrangements across Northern Ireland.
  • Employees who work flexibly report higher job satisfaction, are more likely to be motivated by their organisation’s purpose and have better skills development opportunities.

Job design and nature of work

  • 40% of all employees report their workload as too high in a normal week.
  • 12% of those working fully from home say they don’t have a suitable space to do their job effectively.
  • Skills and career development opportunities are significantly lower for those in lower-paid jobs, as well as older workers.

Relationships at work

  • We find better relationships with colleagues for those working from home only some of the time and those not working from home at all compared with those working fully from home.
  • Nearly a fifth (18%) of employees feel their boss would hold it against them if they made a mistake
  • 26% of all employees experienced at least one type of conflict at work, with 15% saying they experienced two or more types.

Voice and representation

  • Over a fifth (21%) of employees say they have no voice channel at work at all.
  • The availability of voice channels differs significantly by organisation size.
  •  Employees who work flexibly rate their managers significantly better than those not working flexibly, underlining the importance of good management to enabling flexible work.

Health and wellbeing

  • Nearly a third (31%) of employees feel their work impacts negatively on their mental health, with 28% reporting negative impacts on their physical health.
  • A worrying 45% of all employees report going to work despite not being well enough to do so. This is even higher for those with adult caring responsibilities (61%), with disabilities (64%) and for key workers (52%).
  • Nearly a third (31%) of employees always or often feel exhausted at work, with 28% saying they feel under excessive pressure.

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