Scotland's Local Authorities: Still 'Bastions of Decent Work'?

Mohammed Ishaq, Stephen Gibb, Asifa Maaria Hussain, Chik Collins (Editor), Rhiannon Sims, Hartwig Pautz

Research output: Book/ReportCommissioned report


Local authorities in Britain have in the past been perceived as bastions of good practice when it comes to the provision of ‘decent work’. However, changing times have seen local authorities faced with reduced resources and increasing expectations. There are concerns that decent work at local authority level is at risk in the current economic, social and political climate. This research investigates these concerns with a focus on how human resourcesand organisational development personnel in Scottish local authorities think about decent work, how familiar they are with the terminology around job quality, how much importancethey attach to the implementation of decent work practices, and what they see as central challenges to providing and promoting decent work. The findings indicate:• A perception among interviewees that local authorities are still ‘bastions of decent work’;• An understanding of decent work among interviewees that is broadly in line with contemporary thinking about employmentrelations;• Strong interest and commitment amongst interviewees to providing and promoting decent work;• A belief that current work and employment practices within local authorities are consistent with the advancement of decentwork;• A desire that decent work practices be replicated by external stakeholders, including those involved in procurement processes;• Evidence that local authorities view ‘employee voice’ mechanisms as key to advancing the decent work agenda;• A belief that the responsibility for promoting decent work should be shared between employers, employees and otherstakeholders, including trade unions.These research findings are mostly good news for advocates of the decent work agenda. They show that those in key roles within thepublic sector are aware of their responsibility to contribute to high standards of job quality. It also seems encouraging that human resources and organisational development personnel in Scottish local authorities understand that ‘employee voice’ is important for ensuring that decent work is a reality in any kind of localauthority job.However, sustaining any achievements visà-vis job quality in local authorities is a major challenge given the increasingly difficultfinancial environment in which local authorities operate.There are five recommendations emerging fromthe research:• Recommendation 1: All stakeholders within local authorities should be self-confident, open and honest about the realities around ‘making more work more decent’• Recommendation 2: Human resources and organisational development managers should lead in realising decent work inpractice and should help managers and employees to be aware of, and engage with, the concept of decent work• Recommendation 3: Human resources managers should take ‘bottom-up’ ownership of the decent work agenda and use ‘bestfit’ approaches within the diversity of local authority contexts• Recommendation 4: Local authorities should communicate with each other to learn from best fit approaches to decent work• Recommendation 5: Procurement processes should be ‘decent work checked’, in line with efforts taken by human resource managers to assure decent work.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationUnited Kingdom
PublisherUWS-Oxfam Partnership
Number of pages20
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2018
Externally publishedYes

Publication series

NameUWS-Oxfam Partnership, Collaborative Research Reports Series. Decent Work in Scotland: Thematic Report
PublisherUWS-Oxfam Partnership
No.Report no. 4


  • Scotland
  • society


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