The UK labour market faces a range of deep and intertwined challenges, including high rates of in-work poverty, the cost-of-living crisis, staff shortages, and low productivity. Against this backdrop, millions of workers are in insecure jobs - often characterised by low pay, unpredictable hours, poor protections, and limited career progression.
While sustained Government action to strengthen worker protections will be required to tackle these issues, legislation alone won’t resolve all the challenges faced in the working lives of insecure workers – we also need to see significant changes within organisations themselves.
New analysis from the Work Foundation and the Chartered Management Institute explores the critical role that good management practice plays in people’s experience of insecure work and provides a number of practical ways in which specific management choices and behaviours can mitigate some of the negative impacts of insecure employment.
Overcoming financial and contractual challenges
Approximately one in three workers in insecure work (30%) expect to lose their jobs in the next 12 months. And almost half of workers in insecure jobs (49%) cannot personally pay an unexpected bill of £300 if it was due within the next seven days.
Most of the managers we interviewed were aware and sympathetic to the financial and contractual challenges faced by the insecure workers they manage, but many felt they lacked the resources, power, and support to help.
Supporting more autonomy and predictable working patterns
Almost three in five (57%) of the insecure workers surveyed wanted more predictable hours and one in five (22%) workers who have spoken to their manager about this issue have not obtained more predictable hours. Some workers also felt unable to take sick days or refuse their manager’s requests to work additional or unsocial hours for fear that they could lose out on work in the future.
Managers reported that they are often not in a position to resolve issues with working hours, with nearly half (46%) stating that their team’s hours are set by others. Employers giving line managers more power to set their teams' hours could improve employee well-being and address some of the day-to-day concerns of those in insecure work.
Supporting flexible working that works for employers and employees
Many insecure workers are expected to be flexible with their working patterns to suit the needs of their employer, and this can deny them important forms of flexibility enjoyed by the wider workforce. Over one in three (34%) workers reported having at least one of their shifts cancelled with less than two days’ notice in the past month. Worryingly, half of workers surveyed (51%) say their mental wellbeing is affected by sudden changes to their work, schedule or weekly hours.
Managers can play a significant role in providing their colleagues with the right balance of stability, predictable hours and flexibility and, importantly, they stated that they are keen to do so.
Managers in insecure work settings need support too
Our research found that insecure workers who feel they are treated well at work are 7.5 times more likely to be satisfied with their job. Many of the workers we interviewed told us of the transformative effect of supportive management on their personal and professional lives.
But managers in insecure work settings often also face the same challenges as their colleagues, and often feel they lack the power to make the kinds of changes needed to support those that they manage.
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