Introduction

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 the South of England. 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

  • While the South of England is on par with the UK average on the availability of compressed hours as a flexible working option, the South East has notably less availability than the South West — 65% in the South East do not have access to this option compared with 57% in the South West.

  • The South of England is just above average for use and availability of working from home. But this time the South East rates better, with 36% using it and only 56% reporting that it’s not available. The South West has only 25% using and 65% are without access to it.

  • The region is around average for workers saying they cannot fulfil their external commitments due to work, but this perception is less acute in the South East where only 24% say this is the case. The South West is slightly above average at 27%.

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

  • Along with Wales, the South West is the lowest paid region with reported median earnings of £20,000. The South East at £24,000 is on par with the UK median.

  • The South East is highest behind London on access to healthcare benefits (21% vs 17% UK average). The South West is below the UK average at 16%.

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

  • The South of England is below the UK average (57% vs 61%) in terms of full-time employment. The South West is lowest of all at 56% with a higher than average proportion on part-time working (29% vs 25% UK average). The South East has 58% working full-time and 24% part-time.

  • The South East reports a higher than average level of freelance contracts (5% v 3% UK average), the same as the South West.
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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

  • Workers in the South of England are less likely than average (28% vs 29%) to say their job offers good prospects for career advancement.

  • However, workers are also less likely than average (43% vs 46%) to say their job always or often involves monotonous tasks.

  • South of England workers are most likely among UK nations and regions to say their weekly workload is too little (10% vs 9% 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 Wales, workers in the South of England are most likely among UK nations and regions to say their manager helps them in their job.

  • The South West differs considerably from the South East on whether line managers are good at helping people work together. In the South West only 47% agree (UK average is 53%), but in the South East, the proportion is 55%. 

  • The South of England rates higher than average (64% vs 62%) on the view that ‘no one in my team would deliberately undermine my efforts’. The South West is markedly higher at 67%, while the South East is below average on 61%.

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

  • Employees in the South East think managers are good at seeking the views of employees and their representatives (42%). This is higher than in the South West which is on par with the UK average of 40%.

  • Workers in the South of England are most likely among UK nations and regions to say their managers allow them to influence final decisions. But those in the South West are less positive about this – 30% believe their managers are good on this, just above the UK average of 29%. In the South East, 33% rate their managers positively in this respect. 

  • Workers in the South West rate their managers more highly than those in the South East (42% vs 40%) on how well they keep them informed (UK average 40%).

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

  • The region overall is on par with the UK average for workers perceiving positive impacts from work on mental health (39%). Within the region however, the South West is below average at 37%. 

  • Workers in the South East are also more likely than those in the South West (31% vs 27%) to view work’s impact on physical health as positive (UK average 30%).

  • The region as a whole is second behind Wales (32% vs 35%) on incidences of work-related muscular-skeletal disorders (UK average 28%). A notably higher portion of workers in the South West reported problems compared with the South East (35% vs 29%).

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; identify risks and opportunities for action.

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

Conclusion

This short, practice-focused briefing outlines the major findings from CIPD’s UK Working Lives, highlighting the comparisons between the South of England 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 South of England to benchmark your progress?

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