CIPD in the news: cutting through the hype on four-day weeks and unlimited leave

From four-day weeks to youth unemployment and skills shortages, the CIPD brings an evidence-based approach to debates about the world of work.

Throughout the month of November, the CIPD has shared its expertise and insights on a range of topics with a wide range of audiences.

The common theme is bringing an evidence-based approach to debates about the world of work, to help ensure that work benefits people and society as much as it benefits businesses and economies.

Four-day weeks and unlimited leave – cutting through the hype

New ways of working continued to capture the media’s attention throughout November. To help ground the hype in insights about what works in reality, the CIPD shared its expertise and opinions with a variety of high-profile media outlets.

For example, when Atom Bank announced that it’s moving to a four-day week, the CIPD’s experts told the BBC Online, Daily Express and Times Radio (scroll to 25:45) that, unless such a move is accompanied by improved productivity, it could increase exposure to work intensity and stress. Similarly, when FinnCap announced unlimited annual leave for all staff, Rachel Suff told the Daily Telegraph that it may not work in practice:

‘For unlimited leave to work, you need to have a workplace culture where it's acceptable to take the leave on offer. It should also not be used to allow unhealthy working practices to go unchallenged. Employers can better support their employees' wellbeing by making sure they're not working overly long hours, taking the leave they’re entitled to, and not dealing with unmanageable workloads.’ 

Calling for more flexible working to enhance job quality in Northern Ireland

November saw the launch of the CIPD’s ‘Working Lives Northern Ireland’ report, which surveyed 1,000 workers in Northern Ireland (NI) about seven different dimensions of job quality. The Irish News reported that too many people are struggling with workloads and poor work-life balance – highlighting the need for employers to keep wellbeing and flexible working top of the agenda. BBC Online reported that the majority in NI want to keep working from home, but access to home-working varies significantly by occupation, management level, salary or social grade. To attract and retain employees, the CIPD is advising employers to consider other flexible options beyond home-working – like flexi-time, job sharing or compressed hours.

The findings of this research will inform the CIPD’s manifesto for the next Northern Ireland Assembly election, due in May 2022, and it has already shared the report with every MLA (Member of the Legislative Assembly), one of whom plans to use the insights to inform an upcoming work-life balance bill.

Marek Zemanik, Senior Public Policy Adviser for the CIPD, commented:

‘The pandemic has impacted all of us, but the underlying differences in job quality, for example between occupations, continue to persist. This does not have to be inevitable – all jobs have the potential to be better. Employers and policy-makers have to step up.' 

Championing fair pay and financial wellbeing

Talk Money Week was the perfect opportunity to remind employers why they should put in place a financial wellbeing policy, which they discuss openly and regularly with their workforce. To help people professionals make the case for investing in this, the CIPD launched a new report summarising the best available scientific research on the impact of financial distress on workplace performance, and the most effective ways to support financial wellbeing.

An important element of supporting financial wellbeing is paying people fairly and being transparent about pay setting processes and decisions. The CIPD’s Chief Executive, Peter Cheese, spoke to BBC Online about this and Charles Cotton, Senior Policy for Reward, offered up his insights to the Financial Times.

The CIPD has also been calling for greater enforcement of employment rights for those in insecure working arrangements that don’t suit their needs and may put their financial wellbeing at risk. This was covered by The Times, LBC News, BBC Radio 4 and HR Magazine.  

Addressing skills shortages in the UK labour market

The CIPD’s latest Labour Market Outlook found that 1 in 4 employers in the UK expect ‘hard-to-fill' vacancies to increase in the next six months. The good news is that employers are responding to recruitment difficulties by raising pay and improving job quality, and this appears to be contributing to a surge in job-to-job moves as reflected in November’s ONS (Office for National Statistics) labour market figures.

A range of national media outlets shared the CIPD’s expert insights on this issue, including the Daily Telegraph (print), Scotsman, and Financial Times, as well as various regional publications, regional radio news bulletins and HR media.

Gerwyn Davies, senior labour market adviser for the CIPD, the professional body for HR and people development commented:

 ‘The surge in job-to-job moves is driven by employees taking advantage of the tight ‘job-seeker friendly’ labour market and perhaps also re-thinking their career priorities after the pandemic. In response employers should focus on improving how they develop and retain their existing workforce to prevent or reduce skill and labour shortages. This means employers need to look at the factors that improve retention beyond simply a competitive salary which include the quality of line management, the availability of different types of flexible working arrangements and opportunities to develop new skills and progress.’

Making the case for action on youth unemployment and skills

The CIPD continued to shine a light on the inadequacy of the UK’s skills and careers system this month as part of its One Million Chances campaign. A new study found that more than half of young graduates in the UK would have considered an apprenticeship instead of university had they been given the opportunity – rising to two thirds of those in Scotland. It also found that most careers advice and support was focused on future educational or academic options with fewer than 1 in 3 young people (29%)  receiving support to prepare CVs or for job interviews, to understand jobs and salaries, or to choose a career. 

The CIPD also contributed evidence to the recently published House of Lords report ‘Skills for every young person’, emphasising the critical importance of providing opportunities for young people to build their essential employability skills to prepare them for a fast changing future.

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