Professor Graeme Roy hosts a podcast with Professor Alan Felstead, Professor Patricia Findlay and Ed Houghton to discuss fair work in the context of Covid-19. The recording is divided into two parts, each of which discusses interconnected yet distinct elements of the topic. 

Part 1

In part one of this podcast, the notion of trade-offs between focusing on the quantity of jobs in the UK versus the quality of these jobs is explored.

The speakers provide a fascinating overview of how this dynamic has developed over recent years and its impact during the current crisis and beyond. They explain why it is essential that job quality remains a priority going forward and why fair work is good not only for employees but also for employers, the economy and society as a whole.

The discussion outlines valuable ways of making sense of the complexities of job quality and fair work in practical terms that are measurable and actionable, including:

  • three broad categories of ‘job quality plus’ (employment quality, work quality and workplace quality)
  • the dimensions of fair work (effective voice, opportunity, security, fulfilment and respect)
  • ways of measuring job quality and the importance of considering various job attributes together in a ‘dashboard of dimensions’
  • how the concept of productivity relates to employee-driven innovation and performance

Throughout the conversation, the fundamental role that the HR profession needs to play in shifting the dial on the concepts discussed is highlighted. The podcast provides powerful ways of highlighting the value of HR professionals’ expertise and how they can support the development of fair work – and in so doing, harness the capabilities of employees to come up with the innovations necessary for businesses to restart and recover in the weeks and months ahead

Part 2

In part two of this podcast, Graeme, Ed, Alan and Tricia focus on what the Covid-19 crisis and enforced homeworking means for job quality and the varied experiences of different types of workers, and make a compelling case for why the fair work principles need to sit at the heart of the post-Covid economic recovery.

The speakers explore the way in which the crisis has highlighted existing inequalities in the world of work including:

  • Inequalities between sectors (e.g. white-collar workers versus those working social care and logistics)
  • Gender
  • Individuals with disabilities

The discussion explores the need to rethink the nature and value of different sectors and the necessity to deliver fair work to jobs that are not highly valued in market terms but that play an essential role in our society.

The speakers explain that there are two alternative approaches employers may take as we move out of the Covid-19 crisis:

  • Low road approaches – where job quantity is prioritised at the expense of job quality and fair work. Job quality decreases further in sectors already struggling in this area while the quality of jobs in other sectors potentially rises – increasing the inequality between different types of jobs
  • High road approaches – both job quantity and job quality are seen as important and emphasis is placed on closing the gap in job quality between sectors

Listeners are given a stark reminder that the low road does exist and the important roles of government, UK institutions and the HR profession are emphasised in ensuring that the high road is taken and that we avoid widening the gap between fair and unfair work.