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Stress and lack of development blight UK job quality

The CIPD has launched what it says is the first comprehensive measure of job quality in the UK

The CIPD's new annual UK Working Lives survey looks at seven dimensions of job quality, measuring how important each one is to people in work.

The launch of the survey follows the government’s response to the Taylor Review, which called for a measure of job quality across all levels, sectors, and regions.

This year's results show that while overall headline satisfaction with work and jobs is reasonable, there are a significant number of people who are not satisfied. There are some major systemic issues with overwork, stress and a lack of training and development, the CIPD said.

This year's survey found that 64% are satisfied with their job overall. However, middle managers and those at low levels face significant challenges with stress and a lack of support. More than a third (37%) of workers in low-skilled and casual work stated they had not received any training in the last 12 months, while two in five (43%) said their job did not give them opportunities to develop their skills.

Meanwhile, the research suggested that high workloads among middle managers are having a detrimental effect on their health and wellbeing. Three in 10 (28%) said work has had a negative impact on their mental health, while more than a third (35%) said that they have too much work to do.

Those at the top of the workforce were found to be the most satisfied at work, and felt less pressurised than middle managers. Poor work/life balance was found to be the main drawback of these roles, with 28% saying they found it difficult to fulfil personal commitments because of their jobs. This is despite the fact that senior leaders had the most access to flexible working, with 60% having the option to work from home.

The report made a series of recommendations for employers, including offering clear pathways for progression, increasing opportunities for flexible working, conducting stress audits, and signposting support services to staff.

Peter Cheese, chief executive of the CIPD, said that while the news of strong job satisfaction should be welcomed, there are still structural issues within the labour market that have to be addressed.

“Those in management positions are often overworked, which can not only lead to stress and poor mental health, but also means they are not able to manage their teams to the best of their ability," he said. "Stress in the workplace passes down, and combined with the concerning lack of training and development opportunities for those in low-skilled work is a heady mix that needs to be better understood and addressed to enable better productivity and wellbeing across all organisations."

The CIPD also called on the government to provide greater investment in training, careers advice, vocational and lifelong learning, and the apprenticeship levy.

Speaking to HR magazine, research adviser for organisational behaviour at the CIPD Jonny Gifford said that the government and employers need to adopt a broader approach towards learning and development.

“We’ve seen from our research that workers in low-level positions are at risk of feeling trapped in low-quality jobs because of a lack of opportunity. The government’s pledge to give extra funding to the apprenticeship levy simply doesn’t go far enough. We need to look at learning, development and skills in a far broader sense, rather than something that stops when workers reach the age of 25,” he said.

“Organisations also need to recognise that part of being a great employer is helping people to develop their skills regardless of their age, ambitions or what kind of job they’re in.”

The survey was carried out by YouGov for the CIPD using its UK panel of approximately 350,000 adults in work.