Introduction

A quality job. What’s not to like? But what does good work look like, and how can we improve job quality for all? 

Since 2018, the CIPD has been measuring job quality in the UK through a comprehensive survey of around 6,000 workers across different sectors. Each year, we’ve asked them a range of questions about the work and jobs they do. The answers help us paint a picture of job quality across seven critical dimensions and guide our recommendations to employees, employers and policy makers.

In 2019, we’ve introduced international comparators for each dimension of job quality, and an expanded focus on work-life balance and flexible working arrangements. 

The report illustrates the collaborative steps that policy makers, employers and workers themselves need in order to help ensure work is a force for good for everyone. These include: 

  • creating clearer paths to career progression
  • increasing access to flexible working
  • improving line management and HR capability
  • reviewing job design and organisational culture to reduce excessive workload and stress
  • championing mental health and overall well-being.

Download the survey report below:



7 dimensions of job quality

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Pay and benefits

Pay, employer pension contributions and other employee benefits
  • Overall, almost half of UK workers (46%) think they are paid appropriately for what they do. 
  • Only a third of those earning less than the Real Living Wage are satisfied with their pay.
  • The UK sits 15th in a list of 25 comparator countries in ‘earnings quality’, alongside the United States and New Zealand. 
 

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Employment contracts

Contract type, job security and development opportunities

  • Most workers are on permanent contracts (74%) or self-employed (19%). 
  • Less common are temporary (2.5%) and zero-hours contracts (2.4%) and those working in the gig economy (3.5%). 
  • UK workers have more contractual stability than many: the UK comes 8th out of 25 comparator countries. 

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Job design and the nature of work

Skills, workload, empowerment and meaning

  • Half of workers say their skills are not well matched to their job, being either overskilled (37%) or underskilled (12%).
  • Workload is a serious problem, with one in three workers (32%) feeling like they have too much work.
  • Most workers have at least some autonomy over what tasks they do (60%) and how they work (76%) but this varies considerably across occupations.
 

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Work–life balance

Overwork, commuting and access to flexible working

  • One in four UK workers overworks by ten hours a week or more. 
  • More than half of UK workers (54%) work flexibly in some way, but there is still a lot of unmet demand: two in three workers (68%) would like to work flexibly in a way that is not currently available. 
  • Most flexible arrangements make a big difference to people’s quality of life and usually have no impact on one’s career.



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Relationships at work

Social cohesion, psychological safety and management support

  • The majority of workers have good relationships with their managers and colleagues.
  • However, blame cultures (19% of workers) and environments that are not inclusive (22%) are not uncommon.
  • Three in ten workers report at least one form of bullying or harassment in the last year.
 

Voice and representation

Opportunities to have a voice at work

  • Workers who have union or non-union representatives tend to view them as doing a good job.
  • However, one in four workers feel their representative’s performance is poor. 
  • Managers are better at keeping workers informed and seeking their views and worse at allowing them to influence decisions.  
 

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Health and well-being

Physical and mental health

  • Workers tend to view their jobs as having a positive impact on their mental well-being; views for their physical well-being are more split. 
  • Up to one in four workers report intense and stressful working conditions, such as feeling exhausted, miserable or stressed.
  • The UK fares worse than average in this, coming 16th in a list of 25 comparator countries. 
 

Why this matters

Work takes up a huge part of our lives. It can and should be a force for good for all, benefitting individuals, organisations, economies and society as a whole. While measures such as GDP and employment rates are important, we need to look at the quality of jobs to understand the health of our labour market. 
 
The UK Working Lives survey has already contributed to government thinking and recommendations around ‘good work’, in response to the Taylor Review of Modern Working Practices. We hope practitioners, policy-makers and academics will continue to use our insights to improve and protect job quality in every organisation. 

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