Good Work For All: Five steps companies should take to provide good jobs

Business in the Community is calling on businesses to offer good jobs that offer security, rights and a fair income, along with the opportunity for personal development and progression, and a supportive and inclusive environment. In practice, achieving this for all your employees is complex but our Employment Campaign Manager Charlotte Gibb, explains five steps your business can take to progress.

In November last year, the UN’s Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty, Philip Alston, delivered a damning report on the state of poverty in the UK. Within his report, Alston highlights the story which sits behind record levels of employment:

“The government says work is the solution to poverty and points to record employment rates as evidence that the country is going in the right direction. But being in employment does not magically overcome poverty.”

Evidence for this is strong. Of the 14.3 million people living in poverty in the UK, the majority (60%) are within households where at least one person works (Joseph Rowntree Foundation, 2018). This means 1 in 8 UK workers is living in poverty and struggling to meet basic needs (Joseph Rowntree Foundation, 2018), which has a huge impact on businesses.

The pressures of financial hardship can lead to poor mental health, increased absence rates, lower productivity and high attrition. Last year’s Britain’s Healthiest Workplace survey found that someone with financial concerns loses on average six days per year more, in absenteeism and presenteeism, than someone who does not have financial concerns. Faced with these challenges, what can employers do?

To date, a lot of effort has focused on supporting employees to manage challenging situations through the likes of employee assistance programmes or hardship loans. These offers should be part of the solution, but to have the greatest impact businesses should be looking to provide good jobs.

Good Work for All
Over the last 18 months, with support from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, Business in the Community has been calling on businesses to offer good jobs even at the lowest end of the pay scale.
Our definition of a ‘good job’ is one that offers security, rights and a fair income. A good job also offers the opportunity for personal development and progression and a supportive and inclusive environment in which all employees can thrive.

In practice, achieving this for all your employees is complex.

This is why we have our online resources, which break down good work into its core components and share stories of good practice. Our Good Work for All model defines three key aspects of good work:

Taking the right approach: five steps to good jobs
As part of our Good Work for All project we worked in-depth with three of our members – Heathrow, Sodexo and Amey – to test approaches to achieving change across these areas. The key learning for us and for our companies is that good work requires a multifaceted and long-term approach.

For some businesses, achieving good work for all can seem too challenging and so what could be simple changes are pushed to the bottom of the pile. A good place to start is with our Good Work for All action plan and your HR data, to help you spot the areas where you can have the greatest impact. Once you know where to focus your efforts, these five steps will help your business make progress towards offering good work for all:

1. Get the basics right
Before implementing good work interventions employers must ensure they are getting the basics right, such as payment of the correct wage or salary, on time; ensuring employees have the right physical environment, tools and training to do the job; clarity on contracts, including sickness and holiday pay; and being treated with respect and dignity at work.

2. Listen to your employees
It can be difficult for decision makers to fully understand what interventions will make the biggest difference to low-paid employees. The answer lies with the employees themselves. Before making any changes to improve the working lives of your lowest paid employees, make sure to involve those affected at the earliest opportunity in an environment of openness and honesty.

3. Champion good work from the top
The Good Work for All framework underlines the importance of senior leadership as an enabler. We have seen the greatest successes when businesses looking to implement changes in their business have the backing of a senior stakeholder from the outset.

4. Involve the experts
The employers we worked with as part of the Good Work for All pilots benefited from having an independent organisation bringing an outside perspective, whether that was BITC or our expert partner on flexible work, Timewise.  We recommend businesses seeking to implement workforce change engage with an independent partner who can act as a critical friend, offer subject expertise and provide an independent listening ear for employees or other businesses in their supply chain.

5. Dedicate resource 
The pilot changes undertaken as part of the Good Work for All project would not have been possible without the support of operational staff within the businesses. Changes to improve the jobs you offer will only be implemented well with the investment of the right resources – particularly staff time. 

Looking forward
As a core part of our work on employment and skills, we are continuing to develop guidance for businesses on specific aspects of the Good Work for All model.

  • We have recently established a Future Skills and Good Work Taskforce which, together with our Education campaign, will provide more opportunities for our members to address the skills challenge facing the UK.
  • In the face of digital transformation, workers in low-paid jobs are at particular risk of losing their roles due to automation. Accessible training and development opportunities – that ensure every employee has the opportunity to progress or move into a different role - are key for unlocking the skills and mobility needed to thrive in a new digital age.
  • We are also working with some of our members to explore the value of employee benefits for helping to address living costs, running a series of events to explore how benefit packages can be made more accessible and relevant for the lowest-paid workers.
  • Review your own employment offer using our Good Work for All action plan and get inspired by the impact stories in our Good Work for All resources.

Contact your relationship manager or contact Charlotte Gibb, Employment Campaign Manager, if you would like to find out more about any of these opportunities.