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Employers slow to embrace change in the workplace, finds study


"Managing workplace change", a new report by the Future of Work Programme (funded by the Economic and Social Research Council), has given some new insights into the conditions and methods of contemporary management.

Main findings
Unfair dismissal claims were on the rise, and employment issues generally made greater demands on management time in half the organisations surveyed.

Most organisations are doing no more than the legal minimum required to meet the family needs of their women employees, and remain reluctant to offer most of their staff innovative non-financial benefits - only three per cent of establishments provide any day care programme for the children of their employees and only eight per cent offer any financial assistance for this.

Very few have plans to introduce improvements of this type in the next year. Just five per cent planned to enhance maternity pay beyond the State minimum level, two per cent intended to contribute to the costs of childcare, four per cent were planning to introduce new parental leave schemes and four per cent again were introducing or extending term-time working arrangements for parents.

Most employees lack any effective voice or representation at work and many remain uninformed about the performance of their organisation - only 26 per cent of managers regularly consulted employee representatives, and only 52 per cent used an employee suggestion scheme.

However, 74 per cent of large establishments have considered or are considering how to reduce stress at work, which is perhaps a response to the long-hours culture.

Working hours legislation is also treated seriously and 65 per cent of all establishments monitor hours. 18 per cent of establishments had asked staff to opt out of the 48-hour week imposed by the Working Time Directive, and this rose to 40 per cent of the largest establishments (those with over 500 employees).

Contrary to some popular belief, downsizing and casual employment are not prominent among modern employment practices.

Organisations are recruiting more permanent and full-time employees and are not making any significant commitment to reducing their work forces to a small core and relying on different forms of sub-contracting to carry out most of their business activities. Moreover the great majority of employers have developed career ladders open to all their employees.

Just under 30 per cent of managers surveyed said their establishments used sub-contractors and agency workers. A third of establishments expected to increase the number of their employees in the next twelve months, but only 12 per cent expected to make additional use of temporary staff and only five per cent of freelance workers.

While the great majority of establishments have introduced information technology at work, many still have a long way to go before they use the new systems to improve all aspects of their performance. For example, 61 per cent of manufacturing establishments did not use computers for stocktaking and as many as 68 per cent of managers had yet to use the Internet to recruit employees.

You can download the report (pdf file) from the ESRC website.


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