What Makes For Decent Work? A study with low-paid workers in Scotland | Employment | Poverty

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The experience of work and its security and rewards have changed significantly in recent decades. Increasingly, large numbers of people experience work which is insecure and which is paid at levels which do not allow families to live above the poverty line. In Scotland, around half of the working age adults experiencing poverty live in working households. This research adapts and applies the concept of
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  What makes for decent work? A STUDY WITH LOW PAID WORKERS IN SCOTLAND INITIAL FINDINGS A UWS-Oxfam Partnership report with the support of Warwick Institute for Employment Research Francis Stuart, Hartwig Pautz, Suzanne Crimin, Sally Wright  What makes for decent work? 2 Executive Summary The nature, experience, security and rewards from work have changed significantly in recent decades. Increasingly, large numbers of people experience work which is insecure and which is paid at levels which do not allow families to live above the poverty line. 1  In Scotland, around half of working age adults experiencing poverty live in working households. 2 Discussions around minimum or living wages dominate the debate about the quality of work for those employed in low-pay sectors. Whist clearly important, this only partially addresses the question of what is needed for ‘decent work’. This wider concept was pioneered by the International Labour Organisation 3  and the promotion of ‘decent work for all’ is one of the Sustainable Development Goals adopted by 193 countries at the United Nations in 2015. 4 This research adapts and applies – using participatory research methods – the concept of ‘decent work’ in Scotland for the first time. 5  Devised by Oxfam Scotland and the University of the West of Scotland (as part of the UWS-Oxfam Partnership), and in collaboration with the University of Warwick, the research consulted 1,500 people between October 2015 and February 2016 about what ‘decent work’ means to them. It focused on people with experience in low wage sectors or with low earnings – such as social care, hospitality, and cleaning – and specifically included demographic groups facing additional disadvantages in the workplace.The consistency of the findings indicates a significant degree of consensus as to what matters to low paid workers in relation to ‘decent work’. While 26 factors were identified as important for decent work, the top five – in order of importance to those consulted in the focus groups – were: sufficient pay to cover basic needs; job security; paid holidays and sick leave; a safe working environment; and a supportive line manager.None of the factors which participants prioritise are unreasonable or extravagant. Nonetheless, the research suggests these expectations are too often not being met. The study’s   detailed findings should be considered by policy makers, employers and all stakeholders with an interest in improving working practices in Scotland in order to help move beyond a simplistic focus on employment rates. A full report will be published later in 2016. Methodology The approach to the consultation leaned heavily on the Oxfam Humankind Index which used mixed participatory research methods to ask people their priorities, concerns and ambitions about what they need to live well. 6  In this research, 30 focus groups  engaged 277 people in discussions about work and what it would take to make it decent. Participants were mostly employees in low paid sectors such as social care, hospitality, and cleaning. Particular efforts were made to engage demographic groups facing additional disadvantages in the workplace beyond low pay. This included young people, disabled people, black and ethnic minority communities, and lone parents. Sessions were held in Ayr, Cambuslang, Clydebank, Coatbridge, Edinburgh, Elgin, Glasgow, Livingston and Paisley.Semi-structured one-to-one interviews were conducted with 18 individuals in Dumfries, Dundee, Edinburgh and Glasgow. Participants came from similar demographic backgrounds to the focus groups.At 11 participatory street stalls  433 people engaged with the project. Stalls were set up across Scotland in areas with relatively high levels of multiple deprivation according to the Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation (SIMD). 7  Five were held in Glasgow and one each in Dundee, Falkirk, Edinburgh, Motherwell, Inverness and Paisley.YouGov undertook an online opinion poll  of 802 Scottish workers aged 18-64 earning less than £20,000. Apart from the individual interviews, each of the methods resulted in a set of weighted rankings for decent work. Rather than amalgamate the results from the different methods, we have decided to keep them separate for simplicity and transparency. These rankings are detailed in Annex 1. The focus groups were the most in-depth and deliberative of the engagement exercises. The findings from the focus groups are also validated by subsequent methods. For these reasons we have used the focus groups as the basis for Table 1 – Priorities for Decent Work (page 3). A full report, containing additional analysis and an assessment, using nationally available data, of how Scotland is faring against these factors will be published later in the year.  What makes for decent work? 3 Findings While adopting slightly different approaches, each of the engagement methods used produced consistent results in terms of what people told us are the most important ‘factors’ for decent work.The top four factors for decent work were the same across the focus groups and street stalls. Both ranked a decent hourly rate first and job security second. In the focus groups, paid leave was ranked third with a safe environment fourth. This order was reversed in the street stalls with safe environment ranked third, and paid leave ranked fourth. In total, nine of the top 10 factors and 14 of the top 15 factors were the same for both the focus groups and street stalls. The results of the opinion poll were also relatively consistent, replicating five of the top six factors and 10 of the top 12 from the focus groups and street stalls. Overall, there was strong agreement amongst focus group participants that ‘basic needs’ involve a wage or salary that covers the basics in life, but is also sufficient to participate in society and to ‘save for a rainy day’. Job security meant, for example, having a permanent, secure contract. A supportive manager includes things like respect and appreciation for a job done well. The researchers found that, whilst these are the basic components of a decent job, in many people’s experience they are not being met.Full results from the different methods, disaggregated by gender, are available in Annex 1. They show that women are more likely to value a supportive line manager, supportive colleagues and flexibility in choosing their working hours, perhaps reflecting their need to balance working with other responsibilities such as care. Men are more likely to value being paid fairly compared to other similar jobs, workplace representation, and work that does not involve excessive hours. Further demographic analysis beyond gender will be available in the full report.While the full report will look at each of the 26 factors, pages four and five of this initial report look in detail at the top five factors identified in the focus group rankings. Quotations from the focus groups and individual interviews are used verbatim to highlight the impact these factors have on people’s lives. Table 1 – Priorities for decent work from focus groups RankDescription 1 Decent hourly rate: An hourly rate or salary that is enough to cover basic needs such as food, housing and things most people take for granted without getting into debt2 Job security: Job security3 Paid leave: Paid holidays and paid sick leave4 Safe environment: A safe working environment free from physical and mental risk or harm5 Supportive manager: A supportive line manager 6 Fair pay to similar jobs: Being paid fairly compared to other similar jobs7 No discrimination: A job which in which there is no discrimination because of who I am8 Purpose and meaning: Work that provides a sense of purpose and meaning9 Regular hours: Regular and predictable working hours10 Support after absence: Appropriate support to return to work following absence due to injury or ill health11 Opportunities for progression: Opportunities for promotion and career progression12 No unpaid overtime: An employer that does not expect me to arrive before or leave after my allocated hours or undertake unpaid overtime13 Supportive colleagues: Supportive colleagues14 Enough time for tasks: Enough time to do all the tasks required15 Workplace representation: Available and effective representation to raise my voice within the workplace16 Additional benefits: Access to financial benefits beyond pay such as help with childcare or signposting to additional support such as tax credits17 Develop and use skills: Ability to develop and use skills in current role18 Predictable pay: Predictable take-home pay19 Training opportunities: Access to suitable and convenient training opportunities20 Accessible location: A job that is easy to get to from where I live21 Flexible hours: Flexibility in choosing my working hours22 No excessive hours: Work that does not involve excessive working hours23 Fair pay vs senior staff: Being paid fairly compared to senior staff23 Socially worthwhile: Work that I believe is socially worthwhile25 Varied work: Varied work26 Control: Control and flexibility over how I deliver my work  What makes for decent work? 4 Decent hourly rate 1.An hourly rate or salary that isenough to cover basic needssuch as food, housing and thingsmost people take for granted,without getting into debt Enough pay to cover basic needs was ranked top across the focus groups, street stalls and the opinion poll. During the focus group discussions, participants spoke of the importance of having a wage or salary that covered the basics in life, but was also sufficient to ‘participate’ in society, whether that be going for a meal with a friend or taking a holiday, and also being able to save for a rainy day. “It’s just not enough, how can I pay all my bills and rents and… buy a bus pass... it’s just not evening out... It means you can’t participate in basic things. I’ve got… my cousin’s fortieth birthday’s coming up at the end of the month, and that’s a real issue for me ‘cause I’m thinking ‘How am I gonnae manage this financially?’” Social care worker, female “I’d love tae just say it was no’ a’ aboot the money... like the job satisfaction. I really dae want that. But I need the money.” Lone parent, female Job security  2.Job security Job security was ranked second for the focus groups, second for the street stalls and joint fourth for the opinion poll. During the focus group discussions, participants spoke about the importance of a permanent, secure contract. A number of participants were not aware whether they actually had a written contract. “I lost my job today, because... well I didn’t lose it, I just haven’t got hours if that makes sense… and I’ve had no notice on that because I’m agency... and that’s just been told today, ‘Don’t come back until the end of January’.” Agency worker, hospitality sector “I would… work for two weeks at the distillery, because it was through the agency, then I would get the phone call on the Friday saying that I was paid off – so I’d have to sign off, sign back on the dole, then after the week they would phone me back up again and I was going through this for about three and a half months.” Former distillery worker, out-of-work, male Paid leave 3.Paid holidays and paid sick leave These basic entitlements were ranked third for the focus groups, fourth for the street stalls and joint fourth for the opinion poll. During the focus group discussions, participants emphasised the importance of paid holidays and paid sick leave in relation to work-life balance, but also raised more general issues related to terms and conditions. “Conditions are important, like, your annual leave... my previous job, they never paid holiday pay. Like, we were on a zero hour contract and they didn’t pay holiday pay.” Lone parent, female “You put your names intae the hat tae see who’s eligible for Christmas off. Your name doesn’t get pulled, you work it. And it’s the same people’s name that get pulled all the time, the favourites... I’ve worked Christmas Day for the last three year... Never even got Boxing Day off.” Call centre worker, female
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