The Midlands Good Work Charter: advancing employment policy and regional innovation in post-Covid Midlands
This project aims at facilitating the launch of the first ever Midlands Good Work Charter in 2022 and contributing towards a better understanding of good work initiative through knowledge exchange events and activities across the region.
Following a successful 2021 policy research on decent work, the current project continues the collaboration with a key external partner ACAS (The Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service) to provide crucial support to the promotion of the Charter, which advocates inclusive post-Covid recovery and growth for the region in the context of the Government’s Levelling Up agenda. Supporting the Midlands Innovation, Keele Deal Recovery and Keele Deal Inclusion initiatives, the project will bring together government organisations, employers, trade unions, and universities within the region and beyond to facilitate the debates, dialogues and knowledge exchange on good work and employment.
The project will support a Charter launch event, the creation of a dedicated Charter website, and other related events and activities that will advance knowledge exchange on good work between policy making and implementation communities, businesses, civil society organisations and higher education institutions, improving the impact of Keele University’s public policy engagement. The outcome will include a report to government on good work policy measurement and recommendations, and academic output and disseminations. The project will have a major impact on developing a more coordinated employment policy framework to strengthen Midlands’ labour market, attract and retain the best talent, and create new opportunities for knowledge sharing and best practice at the workplace.
Good Work is a key area of the policy agenda in contemporary Britain (Green 2019) and has significant implications for both central and regional governments in promoting sustainable, inclusive economic development. Public policy and practice are the two key pillars in supporting ‘good work’. However, despite the wide consensus on promoting good, fair or decent work, there has been little progress on public policies specifically targeting the advocacy or measurement of good work. Particularly in the Midlands, the development of good work policy and practice has been significantly delayed and side-lined due to the
coronavirus pandemic, the conflicting interests within the region, and a lack of coordination that can draw all parties together.
In the UK, it has been recognized that a post-Covid recovery workplace needs policy support to building better working conditions based on compassion, trust and equality in workplaces (ACAS 2020). But policy development addressing the decent and good work agenda in the UK in general, and in the Midlands in particular, is slow. A range of barriers in the Midlands can be challenging, too, including the conflicting interests between within the region, the large and diverse nature of the Midlands, funding for the implementation of new employment policies, and the lack of a figurehead to lead the regional affairs, especially on policy front.
Despite the wide consensus on promoting good, fair or decent work, there has been little progress on public policies specifically targeting the advocacy or measurement of good work. Without a coordinated, clear Good Work policy agenda, it is hard for employers to implement fair work practices as well. In contrast, a high-profile government policy review has found the UK labour market has been undermined by a declining work quality, growing precarity and uncertainty, an increase of zero-hour contracts, and a lack of worker’s rights in the gig economy (Taylor et al. 2017). Furthermore, the development of policy and practice on Good Work have been significantly delayed and side-lined due the coronavirus pandemic and other reasons.
It is in this context that the ACAS has initiated an unprecedented pan-Midlands Good Work Charter, a framework document providing crucial advice, ideas and guidance, and helping employers and employees to evaluate and improve working conditions in their organisations. Drawing on extensive policy developments and good work practices experienced elsewhere in the countries, e.g., Greater Manchester Good Employment Charter (Greater Manchester 2021), Liverpool Fair Employment Charter (Liverpool 2021), and IFOW Good Work Charter (IFOW 2022), the Midlands Charter is the result of extensive consultations with key stakeholders, business leaders and SMEs from across the region.
Addressing the central concerns of good work requirement, the Midlands Charter contains seven key indicators: a clear and fair reward structure, secure employment, active employee voice mechanism, mental and physical health and wellbeing, positive workplace behaviours and responsibilities, meaningful job design and nature of work, and work-life balance. The policy framework demonstrated by the Charter is a direct policy response to the UK Government’s recent white paper calling for developing everyone’s happy and fulfilling lives and improving their capabilities across the country in the longer-term.
The project is trying to address the following key questions:
- To what extent can the Good Work Charter help address the work and employment challenges in the Midlands?
- How far can the Charter respond to the Government’s Levelling Up agenda aimed at improving the quality of working lives in the region?
- How do key stakeholders in the region respond to the implementation of the first ever pan-Midlands document on good work?
The main outcomes of the project include a launch event for the Midlands Good Work Charter, the support to a Charter website, and qualitative data on the policy implications of the Charter for the regional stakeholders. Another important outcome will be the dissemination of project findings, including media exposure, academic publications and a policy recommendation report, which will be shared with government, local authorities and other key stakeholders. Follow-up collaboration with ACAS and other partners is envisaged in the near future, to further explore the policy implications for the future of working lives in the region.
The project is intended to make the following contributions and impacts. First, it will provide vital support to the promotion of the Good Work Charter across the region through a range of activities that will help advocate the benefits of the Charter as a meaningful umbrella of knowledge hub in improving the quality of working lives, tackling skills shortage and increasing productivity. Second, the project will have a major impact on developing a more coordinated employment policy framework that is aimed at strengthening Midlands’ labour market, attracting and retaining the best talent, and creating new opportunities to share knowledge and best practice at the workplace.
Third, findings of the project will add on the existing research into decent, fair or good work policy and practice, which have attracted increasingly more attention from both policymaking and business communities. Working with external partners, particularly ACAS, the project will broaden Keele University’s public engagement initiative and enhance the University’s role in promoting Midlands Innovation through inclusive development research, contributing to regional post-Covid recovery with a meaningful response to the Government’s Levelling Up agenda. A subsequent impact is that the project will facilitate employment policy research by extending partnership with a wider range of stakeholders, strengthening the relationships between academic and policy communities. More policy support opportunities are envisaged through this project on work and employment areas, which are crucial for the sustainable and inclusive growth of the economy.
- March-September 2022
- Dr Xuebing Cao, Keele Business School (firstname.lastname@example.org)
- Professor Will Foster, Keele Business School
- Professor Tony Dobbins, University of Birmingham Research Assistant: Bryn Evans, Keele Business School (email@example.com)
- Acas East Midlands and Acas West Midlands
- Graeme Young (firstname.lastname@example.org)