Poll exclusive: What are the barriers to fair work?

Unequal pay, discrimination and lack of opportunities for career progression are the top three barriers to workplace fairness, a new poll reveals today.

Dan Whittle is the director of Unions 21, a research and policy organisation supported by a network of 21 unions; he edits UnionHome

Polling of more than 1,000 working people we’re sharing exclusively with Left Foot Forward readers today has found unequal pay, discrimination and lack of opportunities for career progression are the top three barriers to workplace fairness.

The research, conducted by Survation as part of the Fair Work Commission provides evidence of quite how tough times are for Britain’s workers.

Unequal pay topped the poll with one in five making it their priority. Across Britain real wages have been shrinking for nearly four years, and one in ten workers want more hours. We’re looking at how upward pressure on wages from initiatives like the Living Wage campaign could reduce pay inequality.

Discrimination came second in the poll, with 16.7% making it their priority. This adds to concerns raised by a recent LRD report showing bullying and harassment is on the rise.

Lack of opportunities for career progression came third with 16.3% of workers making it their priority. Part-time workers felt this most acutely, with 18.7% rating this highest. The role of workplace training in providing opportunities for advancement will be a key area for the Commission.

Part-time workers also saw temporary/agency employment status as a barrier to fairness, prioritised by 16.8%.

Through the recession it’s been a case of fairness forgotten in UK Plc. We need to act now to secure a fair recovery and we’ve launched the Fair Work Commission to bring together new ideas for how that can be achieved.

Clearly the role of workplace union reps and collective bargaining has never been more important, and we’ll be examining how, by increasing union influence, we can improve fairness. But these figures should also be ringing alarm bells with business: an unfairly treated workforce is less engaged, less productive, and puts the recovery at risk.

This poll doesn’t aim to provide solutions, but to focus minds on where working people are feeling the pain. I encourage Left Foot Forward readers to make their submission to the Commission at www.fairworkcommission.co.uk. We’re reporting back on our findings to our 20th anniversary annual conference in March 2013.

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