focuses on “opportunity for women and men to obtain decent and productive work, in conditions of freedom, equity, security and human dignity”
Why decent work?
Dr Ishbel McWha-Hermann
Decent work is a term first coined by the International Labour Organization in 1999 and focuses on “opportunity for women and men to obtain decent and productive work, in conditions of freedom, equity, security and human dignity” (ILO, 1999:3). Key to the concept is that employment in and of itself is not enough, rather it must be of sufficient quality to satisfy human needs of identity (meaning), belonging and security. Decent work is built around four pillars: employment creation, social protection, rights and work, and social dialogue, and cuts across five main areas.
Work that is productive and delivers a fair income
Security in the workplace and social protection for families
Better prospects for personal development and social integration
Freedom to express concerns, organise and participate in decisions
Equality of opportunity and treatment for all women and men.
Work and organisational psychology science (WOP) has much to contribute to the ways that work can be, and remain, decent. Through application of the theories and tools of WOP we can understand how to create and maintain good quality - decent - work to ensure it provides important benefits for workers, and also for employers. Furthermore, decent work supports a fairer society that enables individuals to thrive and their families to prosper offering important benefits to the wider society.
A key component of the decent work stream is its focus on living wages. The EAWOP small group on living wages was formed in 2019, drawing together scholars from across Europe and beyond to discuss critical challenges, and evidence-based insights regarding how to enhance decent work.
Below are the briefing papers and below that is an open access paper – all for downloading.
A range of resources, centred around decent work, can be found below.
Yesterday, at our webinar “From decent wages to decent work”, we not only launched our serious game, SuperbMarket*, we also heard from speaker Prof Sharon Parker, who outlined her SMART framework for developing decent work.
More than 130 people registered in advance to listen to Prof Parker — one of the world’s most eminent work organisational psychological researchers.
During the webinar, hosted by the EAWOP impact incubator and the British Psychological Society’s Division of Occupational Psychology, Prof Parker demonstrated why separately and together her SMART framework could not only improve work from an employee perspective, but also improve the productivity and costs of employees.
Built through her extensive studies she reviewed each letter, starting with “S” for stimulating work. It also includes skill and task variety, and problem solving, while “M” is for mastery and focuses on clarity of a job role, including the provision of feedback and task identity. “A” comprises agency and concerns a worker’s autonomy to organise and make decisions about their schedules and methods. “R” is for relational, which identifies experiences of support, purpose and social contact in a job. It includes not just the support from those around them including a line manager, but also the significance of their work to others and to society, with an emphasis on whether the individual feels the work they do is appreciated. Finally, “T” is for tolerable demands, and captures the work demands, such as time pressure, emotional labours and role conflicts.
Prof Parker used a wealth of examples and illustrations throughout her talk and ended by using a real-life example of a worker at a recycling centre, to demonstrate how every job can apply the SMART framework. Jeremy transformed not only his job, but the space he worked in into a community and wildlife resource. Through the appliance of work psychology regarding the design of work, she revealed the health and well-being ramifications reducing cost for society but also employers and service providers, showing that SMART work is actually a better and cheaper approach to work for the person — like Jeremy — and for the organisations that employs them.
Overall, it was a generous and engaging talk, with many of the 138 people who registered asking her questions afterwards.
Her website - www.smartworkdesign.com.au/ has a wealth of resources and references to support those interested in finding out more.
Living Wage Week 2021
University of Glasgow
Discussing the captivating insights from some of the Living Wage week’s conferences held in November 2021, highlighting some of the fascinating scientific research and real-lived experiences of implementing the Living Wage
University of Glasgow
Spotlight episode 21
Rosalind Searle | December 2021
Living wages are a critical topic in making individuals and society more resilient. In this interview, Prof Rosalind Searle reflects on why they matter and the implications for Edinburgh City of becoming a living wage space, but also the consequences for other areas as poor quality jobs are pushed out.
She draws on her work with Dr. Ishbel McWha-Hermann to argue why we should be focusing on decent work rather than work per se if we are going to have a healthier, more productive and more sustainable society.
Spotlight is a podcast from the University of Glasgow, which looks at public policy and the political process.
Click to listen now...
Impact For Individuals & Organisations
& Andrea Coulson
Individual employees undertake work in return for fair pay. If we consider living wages as an exchange in this way then some important psychological insights emerge about the positive consequences of living wages for individuals.
29 March 2022
"From decent wages to decent work: showcasing the SMART work design framework"
SuperbMarket now open!
Our serious educational game draws on science concerning the living wage and decent work. It explores connections between job quality, employee identity, organisational commitment, fairness, and trust.
Being paid a living wage not only improves a worker’s physical and mental health, it brings benefits to their employing organisation, to family and to society. And if the concept of “decent work” – beyond just wages – is applied in the workplace, employee experiences can be enriching, rather than depleting. This is because seemingly insignificant workplace events can have important implications all round, both for the employees and for the organisation.
These are all themes that are explored in a new online interactive serious educational game, launched this week by EAWOP (European Association of Work and Organisational Psychology) and ESRC (Economic and Social Research Council), in partnership with Adam Smith Business School, University of Glasgow and University of Edinburgh Business School. The game explores the connections between job quality and employee identity, organisational commitment, fairness and trust.
Research by both university’s academics has revealed that being paid a living wage is an important means of resilience, especially post pandemic to workers, families and society. Paying a living wage means workers can focus their effort on one main employer so they are more likely to upskill, resulting in easier upward mobility, better productivity and improved job satisfaction. Fewer sick days are taken, there is increased employee retention and recruitment costs are reduced.
The research also showed that paying a living wage means a reduced cost to governments because as an individual’s health and skills improve, they create less demand for welfare support.
Professor Ros Searle, from the Adam Smith Business School and Director of the EAWOP Impact Incubator said:
“A living wage is one that enables workers to meet their everyday needs and to meaningfully participate in society beyond just ‘surviving’ financially.
"Set at a higher level than a minimum wage, a living wage gives workers choices to allow them to change their lives and move out of poverty, meaning they can develop their capabilities for future employability – from learning to drive a car to undertaking other forms of education and skills development.
"It can act as a step change for organisations, stopping them focusing on the ‘revolving door’ of staff constantly exiting and having to be replaced and instead enabling them to improve the capability and capacity of their workforce.”
Superbmarket follows four characters centred around a particular business, with players being able to decide on a step-by-step approach the conditions to provide for staff. The game then takes players through the consequences of their decisions on the individuals and the business itself. Through these decisions, players gain an insight into the broader impact of their choices for their workplaces and the world beyond.
The online game comes with an instructor overview and a player worksheet for each part:
Part 1 focuses on personal reflection related to playing the game and aims to encourage critical thinking and reflection about the choices that are made when playing the game.
Part 2 connects organisational theories with the game, to increase understanding of the the practical implications of these theories in real world settings.
Part 3 connects with broader organisational strategies related to business challenges to become more socially responsible and provide decent work.
Dr Ishbel McWha-Herman, from the University of Edinburgh Business School, said:
“We developed Superbmarket as a way of understanding that events that happen in the workplace can have important implications for individual workers, their line managers, for human resource teams and for organisations.
"The events in the game might seem insignificant when they occur, but over time they can accumulate to create far bigger outcomes and consequences that extend beyond the organisation into families and society.
"The game also explores the concept of decent work and how it shifts the balance of cost and benefits in ways that not be sufficiently recognised.”
Professor Searle concluded:
“We should not underestimate the psychological impact of financial strain in our society currently. Receiving a living wage is an important way employers can signal their respect and care for staff. It provides one less diversion for job tasks.
"The dividends of having to only work one job are huge for the rest and recovery of employers, but also for their families – any effort to reduce the anxiety families are facing allows people to improve the quality of their relationships - less stressed workers has important and positive ripple effect beyond the individual.”
Link to research paper:
1. Searle, R.H. and I. McWha-Hermann, “Money’s too tight (to mention)”: a review and psychological synthesis of living wage research. European Journal of Work and Organizational Psychology, 2021. 30(3): p. 428- 443.
2. McWha-Hermann, I., R.H. Searle, and S.C. Carr, Striving for more: Work and Organizational Psychology (WOP) and living wages. European Journal of Work and Organizational Psychology, 2021. 30(6): p. 771-776.
Professor Ros Searle
Dr Ishbel McWha-Herman
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