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UK workers in ‘routine’ jobs denied same access to training as ‘higher’ roles

New research has found job quality has been “surprisingly unaffected” by the pandemic but inequalities persist
CPID found job quality was "surprisingly unaffected" by Covid-19 but inequalities persists and could have long-term effects. Image credit: Cherrydeck/Unsplash

Inequality in workplaces is limiting access to skills development and leaving lower-level employees with less support than management throughout the pandemic, a human resources body has warned.

The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development’s (CIPD) Good Work Index found job quality had been “surprisingly unaffected” by the Covid-19 pandemic though existing inequalities still remain across the UK.

CIPD’s survey of 6,527 workers found marked differences in job quality between occupations. Only 27 per cent of workers in “routine” occupations – including bar staff, labourers and bus drivers – reported being given access to skills development, compared to 67 per cent in “higher” managerial and professional occupations. A third of routine workers said managers were good at seeking views of employees, compared to 55 per cent in higher positions.

It may well be that we are still in the calm before the storm

Mel Green, research adviser at the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development

But the findings could be “the calm before the storm”, according to Mel Green, research adviser at the CIPD, as reduced access to skills development could hurt job security in the long-term.

Green said: “While the pandemic has had a huge impact on people and business, our data shows that there hasn’t been a dramatic shift in job quality. There are a number of possible reasons for this and it may well be that we are still in the calm before the storm. 

“Employers should not, though, 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.”  

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Despite a large shift to home working for many and key workers carrying out their roles on the frontline during the pandemic, there was a small decline in the proportion of workers who said work is bad for their physical or mental wellbeing.

There was also a marginal increase in the percentage of workers who said work offers good opportunities for development – up to 52 per cent from 48 per cent in 2020.

Meanwhile 30 per cent of workers reported unmanageable workloads in 2021, down two percentage points on 2020, and one in four workers continued to report a poor work-life balance – the same as before the pandemic.

Furloughed workers surveyed also reported less opportunity to develop skills which CIPD called an area of “particular concern”, warning workers need to boost skills to improve longer-term job security. 

The pandemic also uncovered trade-offs in job quality with home workers enjoying more autonomy than those going into work but reporting higher workloads.

CIPD urged employers to “keep workers’ wellbeing high on the agenda” after the pandemic as well as improving skills development, reviewing flexible working options to tackle work-life balance challenges and monitoring workloads for remote workers and key workers.

Green added: “A strong economic recovery post-pandemic is not just about more jobs, but better jobs too. 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.” 

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