Britain at Work: As Depicted by 1998 Workplace Employee Relations Survey

Britain at Work: As Depicted by 1998 Workplace Employee Relations Survey

Britain at Work: As Depicted by 1998 Workplace Employee Relations Survey

Britain at Work: As Depicted by 1998 Workplace Employee Relations Survey


Britain at Work presents a detailed analysis of the 1998 Workplace Employee Relations Survey, the largest survey of its kind ever conducted. Across Britain, managers and worker representatives in over 3,000 workplaces completed worklife questionnaires. This is the first of two volumes which reports these results.


This book presents the first comprehensive account of findings from the 1998 Workplace Employee Relations Survey (WERS 98), the fourth in a series of surveys that began in 1980.

Over this period, the economic, political and institutional context to employment relations has changed greatly. the survey was first conceived in the late 1970s when British industrial relations was dominated by collective workplace institutions and characterised by voluntarism. the 1990 survey suggested a significant decline in traditional forms of collective representation. Most of the available evidence has pointed to further change since 1990.

As the world changes, so must the instruments we use to measure it. wers 98 is the outcome of a rigorous re-appraisal. This has led to some substantial changes to its design. Perhaps most fundamental is a re-casting of the management questionnaire, with less emphasis on the institutional aspects of employment relations and a greater emphasis on management policies and practices. Further innovations included reducing the size threshold for the survey to workplaces with 10 or more employees and, for the first time, including a survey of employees. in designing and implementing these changes, we learned from the experience of the research team involved in the second Australian Workplace Industrial Relations Survey.

Change inevitably leads to some loss of continuity. in part, though, continuity has been preserved through a separate panel study which involved a survey of workplaces interviewed in the 1990 survey. the focus of the questionnaire was on change between 1990 and 1998. a brief taster of the results is given in Chapter 10 of this book. a more extensive discussion of change will be presented in All Change at Work?, the companion to this volume.

Another development, as significant in its own way, was the move to computer-aided personal interviewing. This has considerably improved the quality of the data obtained, as well as enabling greater sophistication in questionnaire design within the setting of a ‘live’ face-to-face interview. It has also—without discounting the efforts of the authors—helped to reduce greatly the turn-round time on delivery of results. We published first findings from the survey four months after the final interview and, compared with the last survey, we have trimmed a year off the time taken to produce the source book.

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