In the wake of the global recession, unprecedented cooperation between employers and employees helped British workplaces adjust relatively well. This led to fewer of the mass redundancies that had characterised previous recessions, but there are still severe consequences to the economic downturn: wages are stagnant, unemployment is high. One result has been a worrying shift in business rhetoric, which lobbies for lower labour costs and deregulation.
Up to the Job argues that policy-makers can play a key role in shaping the culture of work in the UK, first by not rolling back years of progress on employment regulation and second by highlighting why the productive workplace should be seen as an important component of the Government’s civil society agenda, the Big Society. It uncovers a mixed picture, but enough to indicate that Britain has a significant ‘work problem’, which diminishes both economic performance and general wellbeing.
The pamphlet argues that employers must recognise that fostering insecurity is not a sustainable management tool. Labour markets cannot become simply ‘hire and fire’ without having a damaging effect on workplace performance. If employers can no longer offer the level of economic security that is expected of them, this needs accommodating in some other way, through greater employee engagement. Only then will the UK have a labour market that is up to the job.