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  Work And Welfare

This policy theme includes our work on wages, good work employment, welfare, worklessness, pay, outsourcing and skills. We recently undertook a major inquiry into making undertaken by Ed Sweeney (former chair of ACAS) into Making Work Better. This report was widely welcomed including support from the Labour party, unions and the EEF.

Our future work programme is going to focus on procurement, living wage, employment protection and will focus on some of the main themes from the Making Work Better report. To get involved or support a project please get in touch. 

Project partners and speakers include:  Chuka Ummuna MP, Lord Monks, Ed Sweeney, Rachel Reeves MP, Professor Duncan Gallie, Frances O’Grady, Unison, Prospect, TUC, Community, Work Foundation and Reed Foundation. 

Making work better: an agenda for government
In this major Smith Institute report, Ed Sweeney, the former chair of the Advisory Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS), shows that Britain has too many poor performing workplaces where employees are often badly treated, underpaid, over-worked and ignored. The report argues that this long tail of broken workplaces is holding back the recovery and costing the nation billions in lost income and welfare benefits to those in work. The report, welcomed by Labour, the TUC, and EEF the employers’ organisation, calls on government to do more to narrow the divide between the rest and the best and to positively intervene to tackle problems at work. The evidence to the report demonstrates the urgent need to improve employment conditions and raise management standards as a means to boosting productivity and making work better for the UK’s 30m workers. The report is the product of a nine month inquiry on the world of work, involving research, interviews, discussion events around the country and opinion polling. It provides a comprehensive and up to date examination of the good and bad in Britain’s workplaces. It calls for a fresh approach to improving employment practices centred on the idea of ‘workplace citizenship’, with employees having a greater say, new employment rights and support for fair pay: including a right to request extra leave after five years of employment; rights to information on executive pay and low pay; extension of free childcare for working parents and ‘use it or lose it’ parental leave; reform of the ICE regulations to strengthen employee voice; and mandatory living wage contracts in all public procurement. October 2014

Click here to read the report

Read what Chuka Ummuna MPUsdaw, and Unison said about the report and Smith Institute articles for the New Statesman, CBI, Touchstone, IPA and Labour List.

Outsourcing the cuts: pay and employment effects of contracting out
Contracting out public services in the UK is now well established. Nevertheless it is still a deeply divisive issue and the debate about outsourcing tends to generate more heat than light. What is particularly surprising given the scale and scope of contracting out is how little researched it is, not least in terms of how it affects employees. This report, commissioned by UNISON, seeks to help bridge that information gap by profiling and evaluating in some detail the impact of contracting out on employee pay, terms and conditions in five case-study contracts. The findings raise some important issues for politicians, policy makers, and contracting authorities and agencies, some of which should cause deep concern. In particular, the lack of information about terms and conditions, the impact of the cuts on outsourced low-paid workers, and the growth of the two-tier workforce (and the widening gap between them). It also raises wider questions about the impact of outsourcing on the quality of public services and the broader social effects (not least the public cost of failing to pay public-sector workers a decent wage). 

Click here to read the report
Click here to read coverage in the Guardian and an article by Paul Hackett on the report for the Guardian

Setting a fair pay standard: The government as a living wage employer
According to David Cameron, the living wage is an idea “whose time has come”. Yet despite his backing central government departments have yet to become living wage employers. If the living wage was really a priority for central government then it is not unreasonable to ask why is it not itself a living wage employer? If government aims to promote the case for extending coverage should it not be leading by example? As the recent Buckle review on low pay has noted: “Central government should also learn from the experiments by local authorities to use the power of procurement to encourage more employers in the private sector to pay a Living Wage.” This research paper aims to show how much (or indeed, how little in the scheme of government spending) it would cost to pay all low paid workers in Whitehall (including those employed indirectly through public procurement) the living wage. By setting out the cost of scaling up living wage coverage the paper hopes to add to the increasing body of evidence about the living wage. It also adds to the debate about using living wages as a social policy instrument to tackle low pay. Introducing living wages clauses, for example, when contracting-out services could be a critical plank in a future government’s policies to reverse the trend of in-work poverty. The evidence is clear – the headline cost of paying all 31,413 Whitehall staff in the UK the living wage would be £18.3 million pa (including a contribution from the contractor). Even at a time of fiscal austerity this seems a small price for HM Treasury and a significant gain for the cleaners and other low paid staff who work for government departments.

Click here to read the report

Other reports include:

Building the future: women in construction
Women have made great advances in the world of work. The employment rate for women continues to rise and today there are more women in work than ever before (now accounting for just under half of the workforce). But, in construction – still one of the largest employers in the UK – progress has been abysmally slow. As the authors of this report point out, women account for only 11 per cent of the construction workforce and just 1 per cent of workers on site. Furthermore, the gender pay gap in construction is still wider than in other industries. In order to fill the skills gap the authors argue it will have to recruit and retain more women, and not just in support roles. This report picks up the challenge facing the sector and shows that change can happen. There are no easy answers, but all the authors are convinced that women must be central to the modernisation of the construction industries. 2014

Just deserts? Poverty and income inequality: can workplace democracy make a difference?
Workplace democracy is not a panacea for the problems of low pay and poverty, but – as the evidence gathered in this report demonstrates – it can make a significant contribution to solving the problem. Indeed, as the report shows, the institutions and policies to support workplace democracy and tackle low pay that are commonplace in western Europe (and were once present in the UK) are now notable for their absence. The report does not argue for a return to the corporatist policies of the past or pretend that remedying the power imbalance in the workplace will be easy or free of conflict. Rather, it calls for more “inclusive” labour market policies, with stronger measures to promote workplace democracy (such as corporate governance reform), fair wages in the public-sector supply chain and skill-building programmes for the unemployed. Furthermore, the policies for tackling low pay and in-work poverty are presented as an integrated package and considered as part of the agenda for a more efficient and responsible form of capitalism.2013

Job Guarantee: a Right and Responsibility to Work
Rt Hon Stephen Timms MP, Labour’s Shadow Minister for Work, sets out his vision for a new job guarantee scheme. Stephen criticises the Coalition Government’s record on employment and welfare, describing it as a failure. He is particularly critical of the Government’s seeming inability to tackle the issue of youth unemployment. He then puts forward an alternative approach and a set of recommendations for a reformed welfare system that centre on a job guarantee for young people. 2012

From the Poor Law to Welfare to Work: What have we learned from a century of anti-poverty policies?
The authors successfully capture the story of how anti-poverty policies have evolved over a century and highlight the strengths and weaknesses of government interventions. They also provide a useful international comparison and discuss the drivers for change and the lessons learned. However, this report is much more than a historical commentary and critical assessment of what has been achieved. The evaluation of anti-poverty policies presented in this report is also intended to inform the current debate on how we eradicate poverty and reduce inequalities, which – as the authors show – have increased during recent periods of growth. The cornerstone of the report’s analysis and its challenge to today’s policy makers is the contention that redistribution (through welfare) is essential, but can only be part of the solution to combating poverty. The evidence from more than a century of reform is that lasting reductions in poverty and inequality also demand pre-distribution policies, notably in the labour market. The report is important and timely as governments seek to rebalance the relationship between the state and markets to achieve a fairer and more prosperous society. 2012

We Can’t Carry on Like This! Policy Solutions for the Under-pensioned: Perspectives from Key Players in the Sector
This timely publication edited by Rachel Reeves MP formed part of the Smith Institute’s ongoing programme of work on policies for a fairer society. With falling real wages for many, rising levels of personal debt, an ageing population and a bleak economic outlook, the number of people who are “under-pensioned” is set to increase. The contributors to this collection highlight the scale and scope of the problem and offer a range of practical policy solutions. It is the responsibility of today’s politicians and policy makers to ensure that our pensions system is fit for purpose and can meet the demands of tomorrow’s pensioners. We hope that this report pushes the debate forward so that the necessary long-term decisions can be made with cross-party support. 2011

Time to Cut the Gordian Knot – The case for consensus and reform of the UK’s employment relations system
The Smith Institute wants to raise awareness and provoke debate on job quality and the world of work. This timely report on the parlous state of the UK’s employment relations system is at the heart of that conversation. It follows on from our reports on corporate social responsibility, fair pay, and employee engagement, and presents a challenge to government, employers, workers and trade unions. David Coats not only presents a clear and comprehensive critique of the employment relations regime in the UK, but offers a series of practical policy proposals. 2010

Advancing Opportunity: The future of good work 
This monograph, the last in a series under the theme of “Advancing Opportunity”, explores the future of “good work”. There has been a lack of attention given to the quality of work, despite the fact that for most people work is where they spend most of their time, and for many others it is where they derive a fair proportion of their status, their dignity, their self-esteem, their identity and their sense of personal progress. The phrase “good work” is intended to offer a broad rubric to consider how the quality of working life can be improved and performance and productivity enhanced. This collection of essays sets out how good work chimes with the most pressing issues affecting our economy and our society – including the rise of the knowledge economy, globalisation and outsourcing, the difficulties of getting people off welfare and into work, and skills – and outlines how a new politics of “good work” can be constructed. Includes chapters from Rt Hon James Purnell MP, David Coats, Professor Duncan Gallie CBE FBA, John Philpott, James Reed, Brendan Barber, and Professor JR Shackleton. 2009

Trades Unions and Globalisation
A collection of essays considering the role of Trades Unions in the global economy, looking at the role that unions can play in preparing Britain’s workers for the effects of globalisation, and how international links between unions can offer an important force for progressive change across the world. Increased competition from abroad has heralded changing industrial patterns in Britain, with consequences for workers in each sector of the UK economy. The rise of off-shoring is just one example. In a global economy, the uncertainties that accompany the free movement of labour, and the fast pace at which a competitive advantage can be created and lost, have led many countries to move in the direction of increased protectionism. However, as the Chancellor has suggested, measures that seek to reverse or halt the free movement of goods and services, capital and labour are likely to impact disproportionately on our prosperity and growth. As this collection shows, a better approach may be to seek to involve workers and employers in meeting the challenges of a rapidly changing and changeable labour market, preparing workers for the jobs of the future and seeking to develop mechanisms for people to learn new skills at every stage of their lives. Includes chapters by Ian McCartney MP, Brendan Barber, Dave Prentis, Derek Simpson, John Monks, and Ed Balls MP. 2007 

Click here for all our publications on work and welfare


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