Work & Wages

IKEA – Introducing the Living Wage

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IKEA – Introducing the Living Wage is an investment we are incredibly proud of
By Katarina Verdon Olsson, Store Manager at IKEA Manchester (Ashton-Under-Lyne)

Since IKEA became the largest accredited Real Living Wage employer in retail  in 2016, the Greater Manchester Living Wage Campaign has worked with the local store in Ashton-Under-Lyne to promote their good work, and to encourage other employers to follow in their footsteps. Here the local store manager Katarina Verdon Olsson writes about the benefits to co-workers and the business as a whole.

As a values-driven organisation, we believe in providing a meaningful wage to our co-workers that supports the cost of living and this is why we were the first large retail employer to commit to paying the Living Wage and becoming an accredited member of the Living Wage Foundation.

On 1 April 2016, IKEA UK introduced the Living Wage – as defined by the Living Wage Foundation – for all of our co-workers. Today 9,000+ co-workers of all ages across the UK benefit from earning above the statutory National Living Wage. On a local level this has impacted the lives of 300+ co-workers living and working in the Greater Manchester area at the IKEA Manchester store in Ashton-Under-Lyne.

This move was part of a wider transformation of basic co-worker conditions introduced globally by IKEA to ensure that co-workers have the right level of pay, the right contract and an appropriate schedule.

Introducing the Living Wage is an investment we are incredibly proud of, particularly as our co-workers have told us about the positive benefits this has had on their lives. Below are some stories from our co-workers working at the IKEA Manchester store who have shared how the Living Wage increase has impacted them:

“My daughter loves to dance and is passionate about many different types of dance such as ballet, tap and modern. The increase in the living wage meant that we could afford more lessons and the cost involved with performances. The extra money also meant that I could take my family on weekends away more often within the UK.”
Tim (Recovery Co-worker)

“The increase in the living wage meant I could save more money for my dream wedding in Disneyland in Florida. I had also been secretly saving for a honeymoon in the Caribbean which I surprised my girlfriend with the news before we jetted off to the US for our wedding in November last year.”
Danielle (Kitchens co-worker)

Living Wage week photo for GM Poverty Action

IKEA workers front and centre at our 2016 Living Wage Week event

Implementing the Living Wage Foundation’s recommended rates of pay is not only the right thing to do by our co-workers and our values but it also makes good business sense. As we continue to grow in the UK, motivating and retaining our co-workers, as well as attracting new co-workers, becomes increasingly important. We also believe that a team with good compensation and working conditions is in a better position to provide a great experience to our customers.

Katarina Verdon Olsson IKEA article for GM Poverty Action

Katarina Verdon Olsson

As well as being good for society, we have also seen business benefits to paying the real Living Wage. At IKEA Manchester, since adopting the Living Wage in 2016 we have not only seen a decrease in staff turnover by -12%, we have also seen the improvement in the co-worker engagement survey (+3.7%) and customer experience key performance indicators.

We encourage other businesses to explore what the benefits of paying the real Living Wage would mean for their staff, business and the Greater Manchester area.



Can you become an accredited Real Living Wage Employer? It’s easier than you may think –
please fill out this form to start the process and join over 150 Greater Manchester-based employers in committing to paying your workers enough to live on.


i3oz9sIKEA – Introducing the Living Wage
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What difference does my vote make?

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Making the difference!

By Chris Smallwood, Director, Anchor RemovalsAnchor Removals - Chris Smallwood for GM Poverty Action

It is one of the most frustrating statements politicians hear from their electorate – “What difference does my vote make?”

I don’t agree with the sentiment or the statement, but I do share the sense of disenfranchisement. Let’s face it, when you have a family – mum, dad and two little infants running around, you are struggling to pay a bill or don’t know where your next earnings are coming from – why would you feel politics has any value to you?

Poverty isn’t new but according to Joseph Rowntree Foundation, after 20 years of falling poverty rates we are now seeing a trend upwards. Whilst I am no statistician and I am certainly not an academic, I am an employer and I can see around me in Salford more people on the streets living rough and more families struggling to survive. I wasn’t happy just dropping the odd tin of beans in for the foodbank at my local supermarket. As an employer I knew I had the power to change things even in my business of just 10 employees.

So, what can a small business like mine do to make a difference? Since 2016 we have paid the real living wage as a minimum and we don’t operate zero hours contracts. In effect all our team are salaried with the minimum 40-hour week currently earning £18,200 per year. It’s not a lot but when you compare it with the widely feted “gig” economy – it is a game changer!

So, what is the “gig” economic model? It is companies employing people as sub-contractors, so they are not directly employed by the company, therefore any equipment, resources, holidays, National Insurance contributions and taxes are managed by the employee not the employer. The terms of any Service Level Agreement (SLA) will often have punitive measures for the employee in the event of a failure to deliver the SLA, this can be as basic as a day off sick. It is also fair to say that many of these sub-contractors (whilst bright and effective operators in their specialist trade) are not trained or equipped as business owners and very often fail to understand the hidden costs of keeping account of the business expenses, tax and other requirements. This often drives people into poor health and welfare (long hours, no holidays and barely seeing the family) or debt and the employee must wait for work to come in, which can mean no income at all. You can’t claim benefits if you are classed as working or self-employed and this is getting much worse thanks to the welfare and reform work act 2016 where the benefits cap has been substantially reduced (but it is a commonly held belief that there are a large number of “gig” workers on less than the minimum wage).

The current government see the new ways of employing as “entrepreneurial” but as an entrepreneur myself, I object to the comparison. It is a dereliction of duty for employers when they know they can employ on a full-time basis but choose not to. The government instead of encouraging better wages and a more stable working environment for employees, chooses to use the stick of reduced benefits, forcing people into impossible life choices.

Don’t get me wrong, it isn’t easy being a good employer and it doesn’t guarantee you good employees. But it is no coincidence that in a small business like ours, staff turnover is very low.  They love the company and they are proud of what we do!

The public and our customers want to see good practices like “fair trade”, and in our case fair employment terms. Overall, it produces happier staff and better customer service, society benefits with more people in the community employed, the government benefits from more taxes and the families of our employees benefit from less financial stress and regular working hours.  The idea that you can’t make money is refuted by the fact that we have been a socially responsible, profit making business for 3 years now! Having spoken to many employers, they do see the benefits of what we are achieving but they look at what the bigger organisations in our industry are doing and they want to be competitive.  However, it is worth noting that in 2017 small to medium sized enterprises (SMEs) employed 16.1 million people; that is 60% of all private sector employment in the UK* and they constitute over half of all accredited Living Wage employers**





i3oz9sWhat difference does my vote make?
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Working Wardrobe

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Working Wardrobe, funded by Bolton at Home, is being set up to tackle another barrier into employment that so many men and women face today. That barrier is the lack of suitable clothing to wear in order to make a good first impression at an interview.

Working Wardrobe want to give those people the best possible chance of making the right first impression and of being successful in getting that job.

Working Wardrobe for GM POverty Action

Members of the Working Wardrobe team: Tony Cottam, Carrie Riley, Dawn Juson, Linda Jones

Their offer is a one to one appointment in Bolton town centre, choosing an outfit and accessories.  The customer will be given this outfit to keep at no cost to them and they will also get final interview preparation advice. If they are successful at the interview then they can return to the store for additional clothing and critically in-work support for as long as they need it. This is so important as making the transition from benefits to work is often a difficult and troublesome period. They will be assigned their own officer who will help with any issues that may prevent the client sustaining that employment – this support will be tailored to their needs.


Working Wardrobe for GM Poverty ActionWorking Wardrobe believe this to be a unique selling point for this project. They will have already built up a good relationship with the customer through the first dressing visit. Trust and engagement will have already been established therefore making it more likely that this support will be well received and successful.

Working Wardrobe will be available to all of working age across Greater Manchester.  They now have to complete furnishing and stocking the store with interview type clothing and accessories and they will be looking to the community and local businesses to support this project.

It is a life changing concept. It’s more than providing an outfit. It’s about changing the mind set and empowering every individual who walks through the door. Working on their strengths and motivating each customer to be the best that they can be.

Working Wardrobe have recently launched a crowd fund appeal. Please do take a look and support them where you can.

They will be open for business on Monday June 18th, 2018. For more information please visit their website


i3oz9sWorking Wardrobe
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Minimum Wages

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National Minimum Wage and National Living Wage

HMRC wishes to raise awareness of the new rates of pay that will come into force when the National Minimum Wage and National Living Wage increase on 1 April 2018 to ensure that all employers are at least paying their staff the legal minimum.

A website to assist employers is available and employers and employees can contact Acas for advice and support on a wide range of employment rights and responsibilities (or call 0300 123 1100 from Monday to Friday, 8am to 6pm but check your call costs first as they vary from 3p to 40p per minute).

HMRC also want to encourage low-paid workers to come forward to make sure they are getting the wages they are legally entitled to. They are looking to raise worker’s awareness of their entitlement and asking them to report any under-payments for HMRC to investigate if necessary.

HMRC believe that many people who are paid the National Minimum Wage or National Living Wage still lose out on their full entitlement because of a series of common errors made by their employers. Workers often don’t realise that they are being short-changed and that it’s possible for them to get back the money they are owed.

The new rates of pay per hour after 1 April 2018 will be:

For Apprentices in their first year or under 19:         £3.70
For employees under 18:                                            £4.20
For employees aged 18 – 20:                                     £5.90
For employees aged 21 – 24:                                     £7.38
For employees 25 and over:                                       £7.83

Comment from GMPA, “Under-payment of the minimum wage is a major issue of in-work poverty, particularly exploiting workers from marginalised groups. We fully support HMRC in encouraging low-paid workers to come forward to make sure they are not being underpaid. However we take issue with the description of the minimum wage as a “National Living Wage”, which is misleading and confusing for employers and the wider public and does not reflect what is needed to achieve a decent standard of living. 

The real Living Wage is an hourly rate independently calculated to be enough for a decent minimum standard of living. That rate is £8.75/hr outside London, a new rate is calculated and announced every November in Living Wage Week, and we encourage  employers to voluntarily commit to paying all of their staff that rate, and to become accredited as Living Wage Employers. Almost 150 employers across Greater Manchester have been accredited as Living Wage Employers, including Salford City Council, the GM Chamber of Commerce, and many businesses and charities. 

The so-called National Living Wage is a rebrand of the minimum wage, but it is not a living wage as it is not based on the cost of living. It could also be argued that it is not truly national as it does not apply to people under the age of 25. This distinction is important because both the minimum wage and the real Living Wage are valuable tools in the bid to end in-work poverty, and should not be allowed to confuse or to distract from each other. Please see the Living Wage Foundation’s explanation for further information.


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GM Good Employment Charter – Have your say

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Article by Graham Whitham

GMPA is delighted to see Andy Burnham taking forward the idea of an employment charter for Greater Manchester. This is something we’ve been working on for some time through our joint paper with the Inclusive Growth Unit, our Work and Wages Special Interest Group (SIG) and through the GMPA hosted Greater Manchester Living Wage Campaign.

An employment charter can both celebrate and promote existing good employers and encourage the adoption of positive employment practices by other employers. As a tool it has a role to play in helping to create a more inclusive economy where people are valued and secure in the job that they do.

Getting the charter right from the outset will be crucial in determining the impact it has. The scope and operation of the charter is something Andy Burnham’s team have been exploring and the Mayor has opened a consultation on what the proposed charter should look like. GMPA and the Greater Manchester Living Wage Campaign will be submitting a response (the deadline for responses is April 13th) and we’re encouraging members of our network to do the same, both from the perspective of being employers and as advocates for a more inclusive economy.

An evidence paper published to support the consultation recognises some of the challenges we face in Greater Manchester, around things like low pay and productivity. (The evidence paper can be downloaded from the Greater Manchester Combined Authority website here).  There are other areas where we fare worse than the national average, including employment rates for people aged 50 to 64 and people with learning disabilities. It also recognises some of the city region’s strengths and the potential for economic growth to be more closely linked to positive outcomes for individuals and communities.

The Charter will aim to complement existing initiatives at a local authority level, such as employer pledges and charters in Bolton, Oldham and Salford, and will be co-designed by local employers, employees and residents. It will also sit among a series of other policies that are focussed on creating a more inclusive economy.

Graham Whitham, Director of GMPA and author of report on economy for GM Poverty Action

Graham Whitham

During Living Wage Week in November, the Greater Manchester Living Wage Campaign hosted a series of workshops across GM looking at how an employment charter could work and what it might include. A number of key themes emerged from those workshops, including the need for clear standards for what ‘good employment’ means in Greater Manchester, a ‘good employment toolkit’ to support employers to amend and improve working practices and the active involvement of trade unions in workplaces. These themes will help inform our response.

Please make sure you take the opportunity to feed into this process.


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Is having a job the way out of poverty?

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Is having a job the single most important way out of poverty?

Last year GMPA Director Tom Skinner launched a series of articles on in-work poverty, asking “Is work the best route out of poverty?” Here Bolton Councillor Sue Haworth unpicks that question by exploring the changes in evidence over the last ten years.

The Prime Minister often declares at the despatch box that the best solution to poverty is for people to have jobs. But there are two stand out issues pertaining to this that we must address in Greater Manchester. The first is the fact that not all our citizens here in GM are able to take up paid employment. Mostly these are people with long term ill health problems and / or disability. Under devolution we have a responsibility to prevent worsening poverty in these people’s lives and to encourage them to volunteer and to stay included in communities in GM. The new Work and Health programme in GM can act to prevent all the dimensions of poverty in non-working people’s lives and seek tangible benefits for people and their families.

Secondly, we must unpick what the Prime Minister means by her statement. Work is a source of income and it is also a source of all round economic wellbeing, while poverty has many facets, for example relative and absolute poverty, and poverty of self determination and equality.

There is growing evidence in GM of a tipping point regarding these effects; make work too insecure, make the income stream from the work too variable or too low, and the benefit rapidly starts to wane. If the experience of work is low pay, persistent stress and poor working conditions, again a tipping point is exceeded, where the benefit of work becomes overshadowed by the daily negative experience of poor quality work.

Only five to ten years ago I was persuaded by the public health knowledge base in England that work was likely the number one factor that contributed to a person’s health and wellbeing. But this evidence is now under the microscope by today’s generation of academics, building the knowledge base on inclusive growth, work and poverty here in GM. Reports are already warning us of the tipping point effect that poor quality work is having in people’s lives in GM.

Work is no longer the poverty panacea we were working towards five or ten years ago. Reports from The Inclusive Growth Analysis Unit at The University of Manchester make it clear that we must address the quality of work with as much vigour here as we do tackling unemployment. Pay, terms, working conditions and underemployment are vital components of the work and poverty agenda in GM today.


i3oz9sIs having a job the way out of poverty?
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Tackling Poverty

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Tackling poverty – a view from Salford’s City Mayor

Paul Dennett, Salford City Mayor for GM Poverty Action

Paul Dennett

Recently Salford City Council and NHS Salford Clinical Commissioning Group announced a 10.7% pay rise for Salford’s care workers, boosting their pay to £8.30 per hour. The move will cost Salford about £725,000 annually and I believe that the city’s vital care workers are worth every penny. In Salford, we have a long standing commitment to tackling the pernicious effects of low pay and campaigning for all Salford employers to pay a decent wage. Salford remains the only council in Greater Manchester accredited as a living wage employer; in April 2018, we will once again refresh our pay policy to take account of the increase in the living wage recommended by the Living Wage Foundation.

Our leadership in this area is a good example of how Salford offers an alternative to the dogma of austerity that has dominated national politics since 2010. We have melded a highly successful approach to economic development with a deep commitment to social justice; this is seeing Salford become a high growth economy that creates well paid jobs whilst prioritising the public services that are vital to tackling poverty. At the same time as emerging as the best performing area nationally for business start up rates, we have invested £3million in measures to tackle poverty, including: £170,000 invested in Salford’s credit union; £300,000 invested in Salford Discretionary Support scheme for residents in crisis and £75,000 for a food crisis support service.

I am both proud of our achievements and determined to go further in developing a local economy where wealth serves people and communities, as opposed to the other way round. Yet, it is deeply frustrating that misguided national policies – in welfare reform, housing, and local government finance – at best impede the council and at worst completely fetter our ability to act.

The government’s record in Salford is long:

•  Since 2010, it has cut 47% of the council’s revenue funding, starving our public services of vital resources

•  we have also seen one off hits such as a £2.3million raid on Salford’s new homes bonus this year; money normally received for creating new housing has been taken to prop up the chronically under funded adult social care system

•  Welfare reform and benefits conditionality policies have penalised poor people and undermined the welfare state, leading to reliance on food banks and other forms of emergency support

•  The national planning policy framework allows for a 20% profit margin for developers  before the need for affordable housing can be considered

•  National rules mean that Salford faces restrictions in borrowing to build the social housing that we need to address the chronic shortage of homes in the city, forcing people into expensive, insecure private rented accommodation.

In Salford, we are succeeding in spite of these national failings, yet we will continue to campaign hard for the government to do the right thing: to provide adequate funding for public services and discontinue the welfare reform and housing policies that damage lives and entrench poverty.

More information about Salford’s No One Left Behind Anti-Poverty Strategy


i3oz9sTackling Poverty
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Under twenty Fives

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A real living wage for all: combatting discrimination of young people under 25
by Victoria Egerton, Citizens Advice Manchester

The government National Living Wage Policy applies to those aged 25 and over, but under 25’s do not receive a young person discount on groceries, or specific tariffs on their energy bills. Under 25’s also tend to be more likely to be subject to zero hour contracts, and to be part of the gig economy. So why are they paid less?

At Citizens Advice Manchester, we value diversity, promote equality and challenge discrimination. We have seen an increased demand for advice for young people, and in the level of in-work poverty. We are reaching out to young people to provide advice and guidance in innovative ways.

We have implemented incentives such as our WhatsApp debt project and are campaigning for change by raising awareness of the impact of in-work poverty on young people. Through our involvement in GM Living Wage Campaign, we are consulting with the public to influence the GM Combined Authority Employment Charter.

We are also conducting research to assess the impact of the National Living Wage Policy on young working people in Greater Manchester. We seek to identify if direct age discrimination of young people is justified. We will identify if there are adverse effects of low wages on young people such as difficulties budgeting, debt, increased risk of homelessness due to rent arrears and exacerbated health problems.

There must be proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim to justify direct age discrimination. This means the national living wage policy age restriction must be both appropriate and necessary. The argument that young people tend to live at home with parents is not a satisfactory reason alone to justify discrimination.

According to the 2016 Office of National Statistics data on young adults living with their parents, the likelihood that 18-24 years olds are more likely to live at home than those aged 25, is not significantly different. For example, the study found that 48% of 23 year olds lived at home compared to 30% of 25 year olds.

There are no other circumstances where pay is proportional to need, and there are numerous reasons why a young person may live with their parents. This is particularly relevant to young people on low wages, that are young carers and those with fluctuating income.

Vicky Egerton

Research conducted by the Living Wage Foundation shows that employers benefit from paying the real Living Wage of £8.45 per hour (outside London), which is based on the cost of living and applies to all workers aged 18 and over. Real living wage employers reported to have increased levels of staff retention, morale and a better business reputation.

The Paid Less, Worth Less? report by the Young Women’s Trust states that 79% of HR decision makers polled, argued that young people were as valuable to the workforce as their older colleagues.

You can find our survey here Please share this survey with young working people under 25 in Greater Manchester to help us assess the impact of the National Living Wage Policy.

More information about Citizens Advice Manchester and their free WhatsApp debt advice service.


i3oz9sUnder twenty Fives
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Our economy isn’t working

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Can Greater Manchester pioneer a new way of doing things?

By Graham Whitham

The UK is failing to ensure economic and jobs growth leads to higher living standards for all. GDP growth has been positive in every quarter since the end of 2012. The employment rate is at a record high and the unemployment rate at its lowest level since 1975. Yet, living standards aren’t going up and the IFS says incomes for the average family will not grow over the next couple of years.

In contrast, the richest 1% have recouped losses in income from the financial crash. That’s because the economy is configured so that wealth is increasingly captured by capital rather than workers. The richest 1% have received a quarter of the £4 trillion national increase in wealth since 2000.

Policy encourages a business culture that promotes short-term, shareholder driven approaches, at the expense of workers, who have found their position undermined. The UK has adopted this business culture and approach to its economy despite high levels of economic inequality hindering economic success, and evidence that putting money in the pockets of those on low incomes reaps greater economic rewards than concentrating wealth in the hands of the very rich. A new approach is needed.

As the birthplace of the cooperative movement, and a place with a proud tradition of doing things differently, Greater Manchester should be at the forefront of a new economy that fosters alternative business models that re-balance wealth distribution and shift power relationships. The phrase, ‘What Manchester does today, the rest of the world does tomorrow’ may stem from a very different economic school of thought, but this city region should be at the vanguard of a new, more human centred economy that lights the way for the rest of the country.

Alternative structures of business are emerging that are better geared to sharing wealth more evenly. These are either mission driven or ensure that the stakeholders most impacted by the business also own the business. Such business structures are geared to not only reinvest more into their business but also work more constructively for the benefit of all stakeholders.

Employee-owned businesses, such as John Lewis, have grown significantly in multiple economies, outperforming other businesses on sales and employment growth. Studies on employee ownership show that those types of businesses generate more employment growth and lead to significantly higher pay for their employees.

Multi-stakeholder cooperative models also aim to balance the interests of various stakeholders, such as consumers and workers. These typically structure company governance to ensure that the interests of workers and consumers, or producers and buyers are balanced in key decisions, including on how profits are used. The Go-op train cooperative is one example of this model.

Fostering an alternative approach to business and the economy in our city region will require an acknowledgement across GM that ‘trickle down’ doesn’t work. Whilst the Manchester economy has remained relatively robust, the city region is home to lower than average wages, some of the highest levels of child poverty in the country and growing inequality between the south and north of the conurbation. A plan for addressing these challenges and implementing an alternative GM economy should include:

•  Adoption of human centred indicators as a means of measuring economic success.

•  Promotion of companies that adopt alternative business models through

◦  active public procurement that favours such models

◦  access to finance for such businesses through a regional/local investment bank

◦  tailored start-up and business development support

◦  trialling business rate deductions and working with central government to identify other incentives for such businesses.

•  Promotion of decent work, including the voluntary Living Wage, through

◦  Development of a Decent Work Standard and appointment of a Decent Work Commissioner

◦  Adoption of the Decent Work Standard across all public sector bodies.

◦  Introduction of a GM wide Employment Charter (based on the Standard) with real teeth

◦  Active public procurement that favours businesses that provide decent work

◦  Working with businesses to identify means of effectively measuring the business benefits (e.g. employee morale, productivity and retention) of adopting decent work employment practices.

•  Promoting positive corporate behaviour through greater transparency around business behaviour and practices.

Graham Whitham, Director of GMPA and author of report on economy for GM Poverty Action

Graham Whitham

The UK faces major challenges of in-work poverty, stagnating living standards, low productivity and the prevalence of poor quality work. There is widespread acknowledgement that the economy doesn’t work for all, but lack of a concerted effort to adopt a new, alternative approach at central government level. Greater Manchester should be a beacon for a new way of doing things, becoming a home for companies that do things differently.


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Lessons from France

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Supporting out-of-work partnered parents with job search and training: lessons from France
By Abigail Taylor

Throughout 2017 we’ve been running a series of Work and Wages articles exploring in-work poverty and the challenge of supporting people in to decent work. In this latest article, Abigail Taylor compares employment support in the UK with that of France. Abigail’s research illustrates the benefits of a more personalised and person-centred approach to supporting people into work. 

The British economy does not exist in a vacuum. The experience of other countries can be very helpful in developing policy solutions. Comparative policy learning was central to my PhD which compared the experiences of coupled parents who were both out of work in Sheffield and Lille, France.

France represents a pertinent comparison since on paper, its nationally run employment service le Pôle Emploi and the locally administered RSA system (employment and social support for beneficiaries of the RSA the main minimum income programme for those aged 25 or over and either unemployed or on a low salary), would seem to offer personalised support with job search similar to that offered by Jobcentre Plus, the Work Programme and Universal Credit.

As has been previously discussed in this newsletter, the quality of jobs offered is vital in determining whether work will lift unemployed people out of poverty. My study suggests personalised and intensive support with job search is also critical. Whilst a recent report, the Future of Jobcentre Plus, (JcP), (Work and Pensions Committee, 20161) stresses the importance of personalised support, my research indicates that French policy may be more successful in supporting claimants into long-term, sustainable employment because it offers more reactive and less procedural support with job search and training.

Many of the couples I interviewed in the UK, particularly fathers, had taken part in government training schemes and desired to work but nonetheless, were long-term unemployed with few prospects of finding regular work. Whilst parents suggested Community Learning Centres offered strong pre-employment support in a supportive atmosphere, courses appeared short-term. Training courses offered by JcP and the Work Programme2 were criticised as too procedural and insufficiently person-focused. Participants implied they rarely inspired them to widen their job aspirations or expand their skills with Work Programme providers instead ‘creaming’ (see Carter and Whitworth, 20153) the most job-ready claimants with those with multiple barriers to employment receiving job search targets rather than training. One father interviewed had been unemployed for six years, having previously worked as a labourer. He described being hindered in finding work by a lack of experience and qualifications. JcP only offered him limited job opportunities, ignoring his job preferences. He added he was unable to set up a gardening company because he did not have a driving licence and funding was unavailable through JcP. In addition, participants in the UK suggested tension with JcP staff and limited support from JcP with things like travel costs.

By contrast, in France, a greater level of tailored support was observed. Parents in France indicated that support available there is more reactive and that claimants build up stronger relationships with work assistance organisations. The way in which the RSA référent system operates at city-level within neighbourhoods and takes a broader focus than JcP appeared important in building trust. Training provision appears longer-term, more comprehensive and more innovative. One father interviewed had been out of work for a year due to his poor qualification level but had received considerably greater support than the father mentioned above in the UK. He was shortly to begin an innovative training programme that built on one of his interests – sport – but combined this with training in how to look for work effectively, confidence building and obtaining a driving licence. The scheme appeared to have been chosen with his interests in mind whilst also offering considerable employment prospects. Whilst support for those with the most complex needs could be improved further in France, parents suggested the subsidised and extensive public transport network was an important factor in aiding their ability to look for jobs.

Photo of Abigail Taylor to go with supported employment search article for GM Poverty Action

Abigail Taylor

This study suggests UK policy makers may wish to tailor training courses better to individual needs, provide greater support with transport costs and work to enhance relationships between advisors and claimants, if claimants are to be supported into long-term, sustainable employment. The greater role for Work Coaches within Universal Credit has the potential to lead to claimants receiving more tailored support with job-search and training. However, it is essential that Work Coaches are provided with the appropriate infrastructure to refer claimants to. There is little sign, as yet, of this happening.

By Dr Abigail Taylor, Aston University. Follow her on twitter @taylor_abigail1

House of Commons Work and Pensions Committee (2016) The Future of Jobcentre Plus, House of Commons.

2 The interviews were conducted prior to the roll-out of Universal Credit.

3 Carter, E. and Whitworth, A. (2015) Creaming and Parking in Quasi-Marketised Welfare-to-Work Schemes:
Designed Out Of or Designed In to the UK Work Programme? Journal of Social Policy, 44/2, pp.277-296. jc



i3oz9sLessons from France
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