Policy makers and employers need to take action if they are to improve job quality across the workforce – not only aiming for more jobs, but better jobs.

The situation

Poor job quality is causing significant problems in the UK, such as a lack of work-life balance, stress, discrimination and an absence of meaningful voice at work.

There is no requirement to report at corporate level on workforce well-being and job quality, and currently no framework or definitions for employers to use to evaluate 'good work'.

CIPD viewpoint

More concrete action is required both from policy makers and employers to improve job quality across the workforce.

Quality of work has only recently been identified as a major UK Government public policy objective alongside boosting employment levels – not only aiming for more jobs, but better jobs. Although this objective has been recognised in the UK Government’s Industrial Strategy, as yet there is little detail on how this will be achieved.

A next step must be to develop and deliver an effective measurement framework for job quality. Employers should then be encouraged to report publicly on how they are addressing the components of good work, such as pay and benefits, contracts, job design, and the nature of work.

The 2017 Government-sponsored review of Modern Working Practices also recommended that public policy and employer practices should ensure that ‘all work should be fair and decent with realistic scope for development and fulfilment.'

The CIPD has carried out research to articulate a clear definition of ‘good work’ and to identify the most suitable way to measure job quality. Based on this, we define good work as work which:

  • is fairly rewarded
  • gives people the means to securely make a living.
  • gives opportunities to develop skills and a career, and ideally provides a sense of fulfilment
  • provides a supportive environment with constructive relationships
  • allows for work-life balance
  • enables staff to be physically and mentally healthy
  • gives employees the voice and choice they need to shape their working lives
  • should be accessible to all

Actions for Government

  • Establish voluntary human capital reporting/workforce standards, and work with key stakeholders to encourage more organisations to provide better information on how they invest in, lead and manage their workforces for the long term. Similar requirements are required for the reporting of public sector organisations.

  • Ensure that government support for sector deals is contingent on coherent proposals by employers to boost job quality through better leadership and people management and development.

  • Provide small firms with HR support, delivered at a local level through key stakeholders like the Local Enterprise Partnership, Growth Hubs and chambers of commerce.

  • Work with key stakeholders, like Citizens Advise Bureau, TUC, Acas and the CIPD, to run a public ‘know your rights’ campaign accessible to all employees.

  • Improve labour market enforcement to protect employment rights.

Recommendations for employers

  • Design people strategies that have, as core elements, improved job quality and well-being.

  • Collect good quality, relevant and representative data on job quality, and develop analytical capabilities. Use this information as a basis for making decisions on people management practices. Consider replicating questions from the CIPD’s UK Working Lives survey, and benchmark against the survey.

  • Use data-driven insights to target support at disadvantaged or underrepresented groups, and ensure good work for all.

  • Seek to pay the Real Living Wage as a minimum for all employees.

  • Provide informal and formal flexible working practices, and encourage employees to use them.

  • Provide learning and career development opportunities, and encourage all employees to use them.

  • Put in place practices that promote inclusion and social cohesion, and effective interventions to resolve conflict when it arises.

  • Invest in developing the people management capability of all line managers. They are key to improving job quality and motivating employees.

  • Provide effective channels for employee voice – both direct and through representatives.

CIPD resources and references

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