Call for sector-specific Good Work Agreements

A new report from the Resolution Foundation calls for Good Work Agreements, starting in social care, to address low pay, poor career progression and job insecurity.


New sector-specific ‘Good Work Agreements’ could help tackle low standards, unsafe working conditions and minimal progression opportunities in social care, warehousing and cleaning among other sectors, according to new Resolution Foundation research.

Innovation Nation – the 41st report from The Economy 2030 Inquiry, funded by the Nuffield Foundation – examines how the UK’s labour market institutions can be reformed to maintain flexibility, but solve associated problems with low pay, job insecurity and poor progression.

The report says national policy like the minimum wage is important, but will not on its own address the job insecurity associated with zero hours culture and a lack of training for progression.

It says new sector-focused institutions need to be set up to complement existing national frameworks. The report proposes the creation of new Good Work Agreements (GWAs) that bring together worker and employer representatives to collaborate and solve problems within challenging sectors. It says these agreements would then be enforced on the same statutory basis as existing labour market regulation in order to give the agreements legal teeth.

The Foundation is calling for a ‘trailblazer agreement’ in social care, a sector associated with low pay and huge skills shortages, to be launched to lead the way.  It says a GWA in social care should be followed up by agreements in the warehousing and cleaning sectors. Both sectors have particularly high levels of insecure contracts or volatile hours – 28 per cent in warehousing and 17 per cent in cleaning – increasing use of agency staff and intense workloads.

The report adds that some of the overly burdensome rules governing union recruitment and recognition should also be modernised, given their contribution to the decline in union membership from 52 per cent in 1980 to 22 per cent in 2022.

Hannah Slaughter, Senior Economist at the Resolution Foundation, said: “Britain has seen national labour market regulations improve the quality of work in recent decades – most radically via a fast-rising minimum wage. But many of our most deeply entrenched problems in the world of work are specific to particular sectors and roles.

“We now need a new focus on innovative ‘Good Work Agreements’, bringing together worker and employer representatives in the most challenging sectors to set new legally-enforced minimum standards and improve the quality of work.

“There is no better place to start solving these problems than social care – where unlawfully low pay and unsafe working conditions have left damaging worker shortages, and a care system close to collapse.”

The concept of Good Work was the central plank of Matthew Taylor’s now shelved Modern Working Practices report for the Government which addressed issues such as job security and conditions.

The TUC welcomed the Resolution Foundation report. Its General Secretary Paul Nowak said:  “Insecure work has rocketed over the last 13 years as workers have endured the longest pay squeeze in modern history.

“This report rightly recognises the importance of improving job quality across Britain and the crucial role unions can play in achieving this.”

The TUC has today launched a new Artificial Intelligence [AI] taskforce as it calls for “urgent” new legislation to safeguard workers’ rights and to ensure AI benefits all. The taskforce will bring together leading specialists in law, technology, politics, HR and the voluntary sector.

Its chief mission will be to fill the current gaps in UK employment law by drafting new legal protections to ensure AI is regulated fairly at work for the benefit of employees and employers. The taskforce aims to publish an expert-drafted AI and Employment Bill early in 2024 and will lobby to have it incorporated into UK law.

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