IGN Insights

Good Employment Conference 2023

Centre for Progressive Policy Francesca Cave square

Francesca Cave

IGN programme coordinator

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On Thursday 14th September, the Inclusive Growth Network convened a Good Employment Conference in partnership with ACAS, the Centre for Decent Work and Productivity, and Metropolis at Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU). We would like to thank Dr. Sarah Crozier, Reader in Occupational Psychology at MMU, and Terry Duffy, Strategic Growth Partnership Lead at ACAS, for their contributions to organising this highly successful event.

Bringing together different viewpoints, the event explored good employment agendas across the UK from a range of practical, policy, and academic perspectives. Over 50 delegates joined the day, including experts from across the worlds of local government, academia, think tanks, and unions, fostering an environment that encouraged the sharing of good practice and peer-to-peer learning. Speakers included Ian MacArthur, Director of the Greater Manchester Good Employment Charter, Daphne Doody-Green, Head of CIPD Northern England, Jay McKenna, TUC Regional Secretary for North West England, and representatives from IGN members Liverpool City Region Combined Authority, Belfast City Council and North of Tyne Combined Authority.

The impacts of a global pandemic and ongoing economic volatility characterised by the cost-of-living crisis have raised concerns around employment standards across the UK and put access to fairly paid, secure, and flexible work at the forefront of the national agenda. Alarming statistics show that 1 in 8 workers currently earn less than the real Living Wage[1] and almost 1.2 million workers are employed on precarious zero-hour contracts[2]. With falling living standards and absolute poverty set to rise, there is an increasingly urgent need to focus on strengthening job quality across the UK.

Set against this backdrop, the Good Employment Conference provided an opportunity to engage in discussion, share valuable insight from places, and collectively develop an onward agenda to embed good work across the UK.

Here are five key takeaways that emerged from the event.

  1. Place matters. The good employment agenda is being pioneered at the place level, with local areas at the forefront of creating meaningful change in their regions. This allows for tailored approaches to charter development that reflect local needs and the shape of different economic geographies. For a current or future national government seeking to improve working standards, there is much to learn from local approaches to good work. National government should use its legislative authority to establish and embed core standards and give local areas more devolved powers in this area to further drive this agenda.
  2. Partnership working and collaboration are key. The importance of partnership-working, collaboration, and co-design was stressed in every session. To promote and deliver better employment standards, we need a growing movement of people committed to the cause. A good employment charter can enable this, influencing more employers and partners to adopt better employment practices. However, this requires deep collaboration to ensure all employers, irrespective of size and sector, can join the movement. This is about doing with, rather than doing to employers. Recognising that each will be at different stages in their journey to good employment, charters should be a source of support, not just challenge.
  3. Knowledge is power. Sharing knowledge and challenges is crucial, both among employers and across places. This not only spreads good practice but also fosters a culture of community which is essential to navigating the ever-evolving landscape of good employment. As one speaker put it, “remember, in the end, nobody wins unless everybody wins”.
  4. Good work is good business. Each of the employers involved in the day emphasised the positive impact of embedding high working standards on their productivity and bottom lines. The key message conveyed was that good employment practices enable rather than hinder business success.
  5. Good employment matters. The most important lesson of the day came from the candid testimonies of Greater Manchester good employers, illustrating the profound impact of good working practices on employees and on local economies. It served as a powerful reminder that the good employment agenda is only meaningful when it translates into tangible, positive change for people and places across the UK. “Good work is both fundamental and human – it shouldn’t be a debate”.