Work Foundation calls for government help on improving working conditions

Employers have called on the government to create a centralised body that will work with them to tackle many of the UK’s persistent job quality problems.

The Work Foundation surveyed 600 private and public sector employers and found that firms believe decent jobs are linked to commercial and organisational success, but they need clearer guidance in how to create quality roles.

Of the problems which plagued employers, half cited sickness absence as a problem and as many said recruitment of key staff was an issue.

Stephen Bevan, managing director of The Work Foundation said: “Employers grasp the link between staff wellbeing and how it can affect productivity. What is missing is how to deliver this.

“As organisations prepare for recovery after the recession, the need for the government to take a lead in supporting employers to tackle the root causes of lost productivity and ill health will become more and more acute. But the responsibility for health and wellbeing of the workforce is spread across different government departments.”

Bevan said one government body was needed to help employers tackle job quality problems. He also called for companies to report job quality outcomes in their annual reports and for an increase in the scale and scope of the Challenge Fund proposed by Dame Carol Black for innovative workplace projects.

The HSE commissioned the study to reveal how employers – especially small firms – perceive job quality issues in their organisations and to understand how much they want to improve working conditions.

Other findings of the survey included one-third of employers citing staff retention and under-performance as difficulties, while staff presenteeism and de-motivated, uninterested and ineffective staff were a worry for a quarter of employers.

However, companies listed fair pay, fulfilling and interesting jobs, investment in staff training, a culture of trust, flexible working, employee engagement, autonomy and keeping up with technology as major factors in promoting organisational effectiveness.

Peter Brown, HSE’s head of health and work division said: “This report by the Work Foundation confirms that there is a considerable level of interest in building good jobs and workplaces, but that many employers need help to answer the question ‘How do I start?’ The research shows that there is clearly a role for both the government, and businesses that have already taken action to promote good practice.”

In 2008-09 an estimated 1.2 million people who had worked in the past 12 months suffered from ill health which they thought to be work-related, according to the Labour Force survey.

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