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Regional Employment Charters are filling the ‘policy gap’

The government published its Good Work Plan in 2018, but has been slow to develop policies that might deliver better job quality,

In the absence of government-led policy, the Mayoral Combined Authorities (MCAs) in England have been developing employment charters to drive job quality policy.

To date, five of the 10 MCAs (including the Greater London Authority) have launched a charter promoting Good Work, Fair Work or similar, and another is in the final stage of developing its charter, demonstrating remarkable progress in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic.

ReWAGE has undertaken a review of these regional initiatives to find out what commonalities have led to their successful development and launch; what leading-edge practice could be shared across England; how these charters could support the UK government in its policy development; and how the UK government could provide cross-charter underpinning support.

Our Evidence PaperLink opens in a new window and Policy BriefLink opens in a new window are available to download.

Professor Chris Warhurst, Co-Chair of ReWAGE and Director of the Institute for Employment Research at Warwick University which undertook the study said:

“We found that there are common features across the charters – they all largely reflect the dimensions of Good Work recommended to the UK government in 2018, but each one responds to differing local needs, which is a result of extensive local consultation. In all cases the main driver has been mayoral backing, although the charters do need to be sustainable in the event of a change in leadership. Interestingly, despite both main political parties championing the creation of more ‘good jobs’, and the publication of the Good Work Plan by the current Conservative government, at the time of the review there were no Conservative-controlled MCAs that currently have, or are developing, fair work or good work charters.”

Insights and lessons

In the absence of independent external evaluations of the MCA charters, there are a number of insights and lessons from the ReWAGE review that are helpful:

  • Sharing information is a key feature of MCA charters’ development. There is scope for ACAS or the CIPD to work with MCAs to produce a reference document that might include a ‘how to’ guide plus implementation toolkits/checklist for MCAs to use.
  • There is strong co-design and co-development of charter content involving a wide range of organisations in their partnerships. Partners should be involved in the early stages so that they can develop ‘ownership’ of the charters and have continued buy-in.
  • The role of place is important in charters’ introduction, development and take up amongst employers, and their future development requires the maintenance of strong local partnerships.
  • Engagement with charters also needs to extend to other, often smaller organisations which arguably need more support to improve their quality of work and employment.
  • Engaging with, signing up to and re-accrediting the charters needs to be as straightforward and bureaucratically simple as possible for employers. A key mechanism is to have different levels of accreditation.
  • There is a growing body of evidence of the impacts of good work on business performance that could be marshalled to publicise charter benefits and further encourage employer take up.

Developing future policy

Providing cross-charter underpinning support is a role that the UK Government could provide, which would help to develop an overarching approach rather than the current ‘patchwork’ approach. Recommendations include:

  • The promotion of research into the impact of Good Work practices on firm performance e.g., productivity, and recruitment and retention. This material could then help persuade firms of the benefits of Good Work.
  • Working through ACAS and with the FSB to encourage the provision and/or collation of effective practice support materials to enable firm to achieve aspects of Good Work. This support would help those organisations that might find charter accreditation more challenging (e.g., SMEs and organisations in low-pay sectors).
  • Working with the ONS to develop a dataset for job quality based on the Good Work measures that applies to the whole of the UK – enabling the evaluation of outcomes of specific charters and cross-charter comparisons of those outcomes. ReWAGE has already made suggestions about how this dataset might be created.
Mon 26 Sep 2022, 08:44