Covid yet to impact job quality, CIPD research finds

9 Jun 2021 By Calum Trenaman

But experts warn of ‘calm before the storm’ and urge employers not to ‘take their foot off the pedal’ when working to improve standards

Job quality has not declined despite the upheaval of the Covid-19 pandemic, a new report by the CIPD has found, with experts warning this could be the “calm before the storm”.

The latest annual Good Work Index report, which surveyed 6,257 workers on a number of wellbeing issues including pay, benefits and work-life balance, found that there had been little material change in job quality over the last year.

However, the survey still found several areas that continued to be cause for concern.

A quarter of workers still said work was bad for their physical or mental wellbeing (23 per cent and 25 per cent respectively) – a small reduction from 2020, where the proportions were 26 per cent and 27 per cent respectively.

Additionally, three in 10 (30 per cent) workers said they had an ‘unmanageable’ workload, down from 32 per cent the previous year, while a quarter (24 per cent) said they found it difficult to relax in their personal lives, which was unchanged from last year.

And just half (52 per cent) of those polled said their work offered good opportunities for development: up four percentage points from 48 per cent last year.

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Mel Green, research adviser at the CIPD, warned that the lack of change in people’s perceptions of their job quality may be because “we are still in the calm before the storm” as the UK recovers from the effects of the pandemic.

“Employers should not [...] see this as an opportunity to take their foot off the pedal. In fact, our report highlights that there is much work to do to close existing gaps and improve job quality across the board,” said Green, adding that a strong recovery from the pandemic was not just about creating more jobs, but creating better jobs.

“It may not be realistic to make all jobs great in all ways, but there are several dimensions to job quality and, by being more creative with job design and HR practices, employers can and should make work better for everyone,” she said.

The report found there were differences in job quality between occupations and levels of seniority.

For example, only a third (33 per cent) of respondents in routine occupations said managers were good at seeking the views of employees or employee representatives. This compared with more than half of those in higher managerial and professional occupations (55 per cent).

Similarly, only a quarter (27 per cent) of those in routine occupations reported having access to skills development opportunities – significantly less than those in higher managerial and professional roles (63 per cent) and workers who had been furloughed (40 per cent).

The report found furloughed workers were most concerned about job security, with official data showing lower-class occupations have been most at risk of redundancy during the pandemic.

The CIPD said better skills development for this group would provide them with necessary longer-term job security.

The body also gave a number of other recommendations. It called on employers to keep wellbeing high on the agenda, even when the pandemic subsides, and to monitor workloads, particularly as a large number of employees expected to continue working remotely.

The CIPD also called on businesses to review flexible working options to address work-life balance challenges, and encouraged them to look beyond remote working.

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