Survey reveals British employees' concerns over pay and their lack of control in the workplace
British workers are feeling less secure and more pressured at work than at any time in the past 20 years, with pay cuts and diminished control over their jobs among the biggest concerns, according to a national survey of employees' wellbeing.
More than 3,000 workers aged between 20 and 60 were interviewed in 2012 for the latest in a six-yearly Skills and Employment survey, funded by the Economic and Social Research Council and the UK Commission for Employment and Skills.
The first findings from the survey reveal increased insecurity and fear among all types of employees, with those in the public sector as worried about work as those in the private sector.
Across the board, 52% of workers were concerned about loss of job status. The biggest concern was about pay reductions, followed by loss of say over their job. Alongside this, just under a third (31%) said they were afraid of unfair treatment at work.
For the first time since 1997, public sector workers were more concerned about losing their jobs than those in the private sector. They also expressed the most concern about losing their job status, registering more highly for fears about deskilling, pay cuts, being given less interesting work and having less say.
The research showed that job stress has gone up and job-related wellbeing has gone down since 2006. People reported working harder, with both the speed of work and pressures of working to tight deadlines rising to record highs.
Some 40% of workers said they worked at very high speeds 75% or more of their working time, against 23% in 1997 and 38% in 2001, while 58% said they worked to tight deadlines.
Despite the recession and job losses across many sectors, the researchers said this work intensification was not typically associated with organisations having reduced staff, but with technological change.
The researchers said that employees were more content and less anxious about job or status loss "where employers adopted policies that gave employees a degree of involvement in decision-making at work".
Prof Alan Felstead of the Cardiff School of Social Sciences, said: "The slowness with which employers in Britain are enhancing employee participation is becoming an issue of considerable concern."
He added: "In general, better job control entails increased employee involvement and participation. The intention should be to improve the balance between the benefits of hard work and the costs."
The Chartered Institute of Personal and Development said the survey made worrying reading.
Peter Cheese, chief executive at the CIPD, said: "Too many recent and spectacular failures – from the banking crisis to public sector scandals like that affecting the Mid Staffordshire NHS Trust – are almost entirely born of problems of culture. Although profoundly different in many ways, they have common roots in issues of trust, empowerment and engagement.
"What's good for people is good for business, and if we can embrace that truth to build cultures in which people want to work and are unified by a common purpose, we can not only prevent catastrophes, we can truly build more sustainable economic growth."
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