From the TUC

New TUC poll shows many have problems at work

13 Nov 2014, by in Working Life

A new TUC poll commissioned from YouGov reveals a rich and complex mix of attitudes to work.

Work is an important part of anyone’s identity, and most of us spend a large part of our lives in paid jobs. When we ask someone “what do you do?”, we know this a question about their job. Contrary to right-wing newspaper mythology most of the unemployed are desperate to get a job, and not just because they need the money.

Most of us have aspects of our jobs that we like and parts that we do not. For many it is the social experience of work that is important, especially if the actual job content is not that fulfilling. Others derive satisfaction from the job itself. But bad pay, insecurity, unfair treatment and overwork can spoil even the most fulfilling jobs done with great colleagues.

Our poll captures these diverse and sometimes contradictory attitudes. For poll enthusiasts there is a report Work in Britain 2014 and the full results are also available for study. I am going to highlight some findings in further posts over the next few days.

While only a minority look forward to going to work in the mornings, when they get there most people find their work interesting and enjoyable.

Yet most people are dissatisfied with some aspects of their job, and some experience real problems, such as bullying and harassment, that we should not accept in a decent society .

Just under one in three think they are in a job with prospects, and just over half think they are on a long-term career path.

And in one answer to the so-called productivity puzzle, just under half of people at work say that their job does not use their skills and talents to the full.

Not surprisingly, given the longest living standards squeeze since the 1870s, most do not think that their pay has kept up with the cost of living over the last few years, and a big majority of the private sector workforce think that their employer could afford to give better pay rises than those given to staff. We have already published the detailed findings on pay.

(The sub-group of those working in accountancy in the poll was too small to be statistically significant, so I’m not allowed to tell you that they were the most likely to think their boss could pay them more.)

Here are some key results from the poll:

  • 46% of the workforce manage other staff.
  • 51% say they are on a long term career path.
  • 34% usually look forward to going to work.
  • 60% rate their job as interesting and enjoyable.
  • 23% (six million workers) disagreed that there is enough flexibility in their job to balance work and the rest of their life
  • 33% (more than 8.5 million workers) do not agree that they have regular opportunities to improve their skills at work.
  • 44% say they have a real say in how their work is organised.
  • 40% do not agree that they have a good chance to progress in their job.
  • 48% say their job does not make full use of their skills and abilities.
  • 24% (more than six million workers) worry they might lose their job in the next 12 months.
  • 33% (more than 8.5 million) are worried that their job may offer worse conditions such as fewer hours or less pay in the next 12 months.
  • 21% say that at least one person has been sacked or made redundant without good reason from their workplace.
  • 19% say that either they or someone else at their workplace has experienced insecure or irregular work that meant they did not know how much work or pay they would get from week to week.
  • 43% (more than 11 million) say they never seem to have enough time to get their jobs done.
  • 65% say that the amount of work that they are expected to do has grown over the last few years and 34% say they have been expected to do unpaid overtime.
  • 41% say people in their workplace have been micro-managed.
  • Only 20% say their pay has kept up with the cost of living over the past few years.
  • 57% say that the gap between those at the top of their organisation and the rest is too great.
  • There is a three to two ratio (28% disagree to 19% agree) against thinking that their performance related pay system is run fairly.
  • 31% say their employer does not pay the living wage to all staff which splits between 25% who say they could afford it and 6% who say they could not.
  • 21% say they have personally experienced preferential treatment or favouritism, 16% say they have been bullied and 4% say they have suffered sex or race discrimination.

Of course we should remember that this is a poll asking people about their attitudes and perceptions, we should always take care before claiming that it is an objective measurement.

But attitudes are important. If more people than not think that their performance pay system is unfair, then it suggests that performance pay may demotivate, rather than motivate, despite the huge enthusiasm among many managers.

While we did not ask directly about how well people think they are managed, there are some worrying signs here.

The large numbers who think they are micro-managed and/or do not think their job makes use of their skills and capabilities are signs of poorly run workplaces. The one in three who say they do not have opportunities to improve their skills, reinforce the view that flexibility in the UK too often means easy hire and fire, rather than a skilled and adaptable workforces.

But while it is inevitable that the focus will be on the negative findings in a report such as this, the high percentage (60 per cent) who find their jobs interesting and enjoyable confirms the importance of work in people’s lives and the importance of full employment.

There are very few people who have only negative or only positive views about their job. In the next post I will look in more detail at how these positive and negative attitudes balance out.


This is the first post in a series on this poll. Here are links to the set.

4 Responses to New TUC poll shows many have problems at work

  1. John
    Nov 14th 2014, 2:26 am

    After reading your detailed article Nigel, my first thought was that we would work in more Worker Coop’s were the organisational structure is I believe is level as opposed to heiarachical like a pyramid & jobs are often rotated to share responsibility, job interest & physical activity. Wages are supposed to be the same. It may read as idealistic, but would not a Yougov poll on this show much more positive results? In hindsight I wish I actually had experience of this. Thankyou for your report.

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