The research finds that while British employers have maintained long-term career relationships with employees in spite of competitive market pressures, they have devised ways of extracting more effort and higher performance. These practices include team-based forms of work organization, individual performance-related pay, and policies that emphasize the development of individual potential.
Such human resource management practices are thought to be good for staff morale as well as an essential ingredient of successful modern business performance. Yet, finds the research, the pressure to perform which they generate has a knock-on effect on employees’ families.
Women’s family relationships are more adversely affected by such employment practices than men’s. In addition, both women and men are more likely to become anxious about childcare arrangements when placed under pressure by workplace practices. Women are also less likely to get help at home from male partners if the men have jobs in which they face the pressures of modern human resource management.
A significant new source of stress in the modern workplace is ICT surveillance. The research shows that more than half – 52 per cent – of all British employees report that a computerised system keeps a log or record of their work. This picture is confirmed by employers, with managements of one in five workplaces reporting that all employees are now covered by computer-based monitoring systems.
The spread of ICT surveillance has led to a sharp increase in work strain, reflected by feelings of exhaustion, anxiety and work-related worry. There is an overall 7.5 per cent rise in strain among employees whose work is checked by ICT systems compared with those in similar jobs which are controlled by more traditional methods. Evidence of work strain is particularly strong among administrative and white-collar staff in places such as call centres, where it rises by 10 per cent among employees whose work is continually checked by ICT systems.
“Computers and IT systems are bringing surveillance to most workplaces,” comments Michael White, who co-directed the research study. “Now for the first time we can see how this development is damaging employees’ well-being.”
The research, funded as part of the ESRC’s Future of Work research programme, covers the period 1984-2004 and shows significant changes in the prospects and job conditions of British employees: the results are published this week in a book “Market, Class, and Employment” co-authored by Patrick McGovern, Stephen Hill, Colin Mills and Michael White.
On the basis of US experience, it had been widely supposed that the highly competitive market environment in which most businesses and much of the public sector now operate would lead to moves towards hire and fire practices, temporary jobs and a decline in training and the concept of careers. But the research finds that, although British employers use redundancy as a normal way of adjusting staff numbers, in general they have not abandoned the retention and long-term development of employees.
The proportion of employees in permanent employment remains above 90 per cent and rose during the 1990s. Fixed-term or casual employment grew in the 1980s but declined during the 1990s. Increased use by employers of communication techniques, employee participation, team organization, training and development, and rewards for performance all point to efforts to maintain a long-term workforce.
A decline in trade union recognition and membership, say the researchers, could expose employees to unfair treatment. But this has in part been balanced by a growth in alternative forms of employee engagement such as meetings with management and consultation with individuals over work changes.
By 2000, about one in three employees was taking part in individual bargaining over pay. This is more likely to occur in workplaces where there are no unions and, note the researchers, it is leading to increasing inequality. Managers and professionals are more likely than other employees to strike personal pay bargains. Women are less likely than men to bargain over pay when they are recruited. They are also less likely to be represented by a union, so the ability of women to challenge the gender gap in pay is limited on both sides.
The research concludes that class differences in job rewards have increased since the early 1990s. Earnings inequality, for instance, increased during the 1992-2000 period. This reflected large real increases in the average earnings of higher managers and lower but still substantial gains for other managers, while the earnings of those in semi-routine and routine occupations remained static or declined.
The research examined a wide range of fringe benefits including occupational pensions, sickness pay and paid holidays. There was a marked class gradient in favour of higher managerial and professional groups across all these. Moreover, the gap was tending to increase rather than decrease over time. Job desirability – reflecting not only pay but also non-financial factors that are valued by employees, such as flexible hours and autonomy in planning tasks – also differed greatly by class.
It is likely, conclude the researchers, that inequality in pay and benefits will continue to grow because of other developments identified by the research. Managerial and professional staff are more able to benefit from the expanding opportunities for personal bargaining over pay increases. They are also the group most involved in pay-for-performance deals which bring opportunities for substantial bonuses or salary increases.
Summing up the research lead author Patrick McGovern says: “The major story about work in Britain is not that it has become more precarious or fragmented, rather it has become more demanding while the returns have become more unequal. The major winners in the so-called new economy are professional and managerial employees who have actually moved further ahead of the rest of the labour force.”
Danielle Moore | alfa
How Strong Brands Translate into Money
15.11.2016 | Kühne Logistics University - Wissenschaftliche Hochschule für Logistik und Unternehmensführung
Demographic change depresses tax revenues
04.11.2016 | Fraunhofer-Institut für Angewandte Informationstechnik FIT
Yersiniae cause severe intestinal infections. Studies using Yersinia pseudotuberculosis as a model organism aim to elucidate the infection mechanisms of these...
Researchers from the University of Hamburg in Germany, in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Aarhus in Denmark, have synthesized a new superconducting material by growing a few layers of an antiferromagnetic transition-metal chalcogenide on a bismuth-based topological insulator, both being non-superconducting materials.
While superconductivity and magnetism are generally believed to be mutually exclusive, surprisingly, in this new material, superconducting correlations...
Laser-driving of semimetals allows creating novel quasiparticle states within condensed matter systems and switching between different states on ultrafast time scales
Studying properties of fundamental particles in condensed matter systems is a promising approach to quantum field theory. Quasiparticles offer the opportunity...
Among the general public, solar thermal energy is currently associated with dark blue, rectangular collectors on building roofs. Technologies are needed for aesthetically high quality architecture which offer the architect more room for manoeuvre when it comes to low- and plus-energy buildings. With the “ArKol” project, researchers at Fraunhofer ISE together with partners are currently developing two façade collectors for solar thermal energy generation, which permit a high degree of design flexibility: a strip collector for opaque façade sections and a solar thermal blind for transparent sections. The current state of the two developments will be presented at the BAU 2017 trade fair.
As part of the “ArKol – development of architecturally highly integrated façade collectors with heat pipes” project, Fraunhofer ISE together with its partners...
At TU Wien, an alternative for resource intensive formwork for the construction of concrete domes was developed. It is now used in a test dome for the Austrian Federal Railways Infrastructure (ÖBB Infrastruktur).
Concrete shells are efficient structures, but not very resource efficient. The formwork for the construction of concrete domes alone requires a high amount of...
10.01.2017 | Event News
09.01.2017 | Event News
05.01.2017 | Event News
18.01.2017 | Materials Sciences
18.01.2017 | Information Technology
18.01.2017 | Ecology, The Environment and Conservation