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Protecting workers in a post-pandemic economy

By Nick Wilson | |6 minute read

What can Australia learn from calls for the UK government to do more for workers?

CIPD’s (the UK’s professional human resources body) Manifesto for Good Work has called for a long-term workforce strategy to support workers in the coming period of economic transition.

“It’s essential the next UK Government sets out a bolder, long-term vision for economic growth to raise job quality, innovation and productivity across all sectors”, said CIPD chief executive Peter Cheese.

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“Achieving this requires an inclusive industrial strategy for growth, and a strategy for jobs and good work, together with skills support and investment in the UK workforce to meet the opportunities and demands for the future.”

According to CIPD, protecting workers will be crucial as the UK navigates the following economic challenges:

  • Cost-of-living crisis
  • Skills shortage
  • Pressure on public service
  • Discrimination and inequality in employment opportunity, health, and income
  • Poor productivity growth
  • An ageing workforce

All of which will complicate the transition to net zero and the effective adoption of new technologies such as AI.

CIPD classed its recommendations under three themes designed to guide the UK government’s economic and workplace policy.

1. Skilled work

Skills are at the core of the CIPD’s proposals, with recommendations made for long-term strategies to support vocational training, upskilling and reskilling to smooth the adoption of new technologies, a business support service to aid with training and recruitment and a revitalized industrial strategy to boost productivity in science and tech.

Talk of skills shortages will surely ring true for an Australian readership.

As mentioned in a recent HR Leader article, “according to Australian Information Industry Association’s (AIIA) latest report, lack of tech talent remains the biggest inhibitor to business growth, at 44 per cent.”

2. Healthy work

To support a healthier workplace, CIPD called for stronger protections for workers through, for example, a new enforcement body, a better-resourced Health and Safety Executive with the power to investigate systemic workplace issues and changes to employment rights for vulnerable workers.

Among the proposals, CIPD called for the establishment of a taskforce on AI and the workplace to safeguard against “fast-moving developments in AI and potential risks to workers’ health and employment rights”.

These concerns are not limited to the UK. In a recent HR Leader article, we covered IBM’s Augmented Work for an Automated, AI-Driven World which estimated that 40 per cent of the workforce will need to upskill to keep up with AI advancements over the next three years.

As stated by IBM, AI won’t replace people but people who use AI will replace people who don’t.

The Australian government recently formed its own taskforce to investigate the risks and benefits of AI developments in the Australian Public Service (APS).

“AI has the potential to improve productivity within the APS and make government services better for Australians. But we also need solid plans to guard against emerging risks as well,” said Katy Gallagher, Minister for Finance, Women, and the Public Service.

3. Fair work

To develop fairer workplaces and better access to employment and job progression, CIPD called for a suite of reforms, including:

  • A new enforcement body to enact rights under equality legislation
  • Better protections around flexible work arrangements
  • Enhanced childcare and parental leave protections
  • Stricter requirements around pay and pension information in job advertisements
  • New legal right to paid bereavement leave
  • Employer-led campaign to encourage menopause-friendly workplaces
  • Efforts to encourage workplace reporting

CIPD’s calls for better fair work protections are similar to Australia’s recently proposed amendments to the Fair Work Act 2009 and the associated protections for casual employees and crackdowns on wage theft.

As Australia continues to define its post-pandemic economic strategy, borrowing from insights gained by bodies such as CIPD will be invaluable.

“A long-term workforce strategy can support the systemic thinking needed in policymaking across government departments. It can help create a more productive and sustainable economy and the inclusive growth needed to raise living standards for all,” said CIPD.

Nick Wilson

Nick Wilson

Nick Wilson is a journalist with HR Leader. With a background in environmental law and communications consultancy, Nick has a passion for language and fact-driven storytelling.