The Smith Institute is undertaking an independent inquiry to identify what government, employers, employees (and those that represent them) can do to improve working life in Britain. The focus is on what makes for a better workplace and better employment. What government policies and actions by employers, management and unions would make a difference; and how can we aspire to a high-skills, high-productivity, high-wage economy where more people are satisfied with their work and have greater opportunities and more control over what they do?
Amongst the topics for consideration are:
Productivity and performance: Both employers and employees should be the beneficiaries of rising productivity. Which workplace practices are associated with high productivity? How widespread are these practices in the UK? To what extent is productivity related to voice and industrial citizenship? Are highly productive workplaces necessarily good workplaces? What steps are needed to ensure that wages rise in line with productivity?
Making a living: What can be done to tackle in-work poverty and improve pay for those on low to middle incomes? How can the National Minimum Wage and other employment rights (equal pay) be enforced more effectively? What other measures might be taken, such as extending the Living Wage to more low paid workers? Is there a case for a new and systematic approach to standard setting in public procurement (“Fair Wages”)? What can be done to secure more ‘passporting’ or rights and benefits at work?
Opportunity and progression: What can be done to enhance the quality and value of employment and improve personal development at work? How can we get more young people into (suitable) work and what should be done about volunteering and unpaid internships? How can we improve opportunities for promotion and career advancement? What can we learn from training systems in other countries; what can be done to ensure that employers fully utilise the skills of all their staff? How can we best combat discrimination at work?
Getting people back to work: As we move out of recession how can we get more people back to work and combat under-employment? At the bottom of the labour market there seems to be a revolving door from unemployment, to bad work, to unemployment. Do other countries achieve better results through their unemployment insurance systems and active labour market programmes? How can we improve the apprenticeships system and graduate employment?
Security at work and work-life balance: How can policy tackle long-hours cultures and the lack of good quality part time jobs? How big a problem is casualisation of work and what can be done to combat zero-hours contracts? Is poor corporate governance and boardroom culture at the root of the problem, and if so what should change? What can be done to ensure that men and women share paid and unpaid work more equitably? How can we ensure that workers are offered a range of working patterns consistent with their caring and other domestic responsibilities?
Working in the public services: What should be done to improve the quality of work across the public services so that job quality and organisational performance are enhanced at a time of public expenditure constraints? How can frontline professionals be empowered to innovate and be given an effective voice; how can the public sector be a leader on standards of employment?
Employment relations: What are the barriers to employee engagement? How can policy support innovative trade union approaches to the modern workplace? What can we learn from good practice in the UK and Europe? Is there a case for developing a robust works council system in the UK?
Machinery of government: is there a case for reforming and streamlining the different institutions, agencies and regulatory bodies involved with the world of work? Is there a need for a tougher (co-ordinated) approach to enforcement and compliance?
Making Work Better Inquiry
C/O The Smith Institute
Somerset House, South Wing
Strand, London, WC2R 1LA
Tel: 020 7845 5845