Time to cut the Gordian knot: the case for consensus and reform of the UK's employment relations system

Document type
David Coats
Smith Institute
Date of publication
11 September 2010
Social welfare
Material type

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This report presents a clear and comprehensive critique of the employment relations regime in the UK.  It identifies the problems, explores previous labour market reforms and the impact of the Labour government on employment relations, and finally offers a series of practical policy proposals. There is ample evidence to show that the UK has an employment relations problem, not in the sense of high levels of industrial action and workplace conflict, but in terms of the quality of the workplace relationships, the organisation of work, the design of jobs and the effectiveness of management. Two of the most significant problems in the world of work are a very low level of employee engagement and a very high level of perceived unfairness.  It is plausible to say that these unresolved employment relations challenges help to explain the UK’s persistent productivity gap with other major economies. Achieving a coherent public policy approach is difficult because the responsibilities for workplace issues are widely dispersed across government. Government, employers and unions need to establish a new employment relations settlement, and this will only succeed if it is rooted in a consensus.

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