Storm clouds gather for public sector employees

Official GDP figures published on Friday may confirm the UK has continued its climb out of recession, however the Chartered

Institute of Personnel and Development's (CIPD) quarterly Employee Outlook survey suggests that things will get worse for public sector workers before they get better. The findings follow hot on the heels of new CIPD predictions this week that 500,000 public sector jobs will be lost over the next five years, whoever wins the elections.

The survey of 2,000 employees shows job satisfaction in the public sector has hit a new low of +34 percent* compared to +45 percent this time last year, with rising levels of job insecurity and an increase in work pressure likely to be the main culprits.

Nearly one in five (18 percent) of public sector workers now think it likely they could lose their job as result of the economic climate, compared with just 7 percent in April 2009. Almost four in ten (39 percent) public sector employees say their organisation is planning to make redundancies, up from 14 percent a year ago. And nearly two thirds (63 percent) of public sector workers think it would be difficult to get a new job in contrast to 56 percent a year ago.

Against this backdrop it is not surprising that public sector workers feel under increasing pressure, with one in four (23 percent) reporting they feel under excessive pressure at work every day compared to just 13 percent in spring 2009. The proportion of public sector workers reporting an increase in stress in their organisation has soared to 56 percent from 43 percent this time last year. And compared with a year ago, they are also less likely to say they are satisfied with their work-life balance (52 percent compared to 57 percent last year).

Ben Willmott, CIPD Senior Public Policy Adviser says:

 "These findings highlight the increasing realisation among public sector staff that major changes are on the way, regardless of which party wins the election. Our survey shows that many public sector employers have already made redundancies and that many more are in the pipeline. Not surprisingly, this is putting more pressure on public servants to do more with less, leading to an increase in pressure at work.

"Public sector leaders need to focus on communicating why change is needed and to consult with staff to find the best ways of making efficiencies without cutting frontline services. Employees who feel they are consulted and have a voice and a stake in change are more likely to understand why things need to be done differently and pull together for the benefit of the organisation and public service users.

"The role of the line manager becomes increasingly crucial to ensure that individuals are given clear and well communicated objectives, feedback on performance, and are also developed and coached on the job. Line managers are also the best people to spot the early warning signs if someone is not coping at work and to manage absence effectively. Equipping line managers with these skills is a priority if public sector productivity is to improve in the face of swingeing cuts."

Private sector staff remain hard hit by the ‘real economy,’ with a net job satisfaction score of +36 percent compared to +46 percent last year. In contrast to the public sector, however, job security concerns have eased slightly, with a fall in the proportion thinking it is likely they will lose their jobs (from 23 percent to 20 percent) and just 9 percent saying their employer plans redundancies compared to 17 percent a year ago.

There has also been an increase in the proportion of private sector workers feeling under excessive pressure at work every day (16 percent compared to 12 percent this time last year) and in the proportion reporting a rise in conflict at work between colleagues and bullying by line managers.

The survey finds employees’ views of senior leaders are particularly negative across all sectors, with low levels of trust and confidence, as well as unhappiness over the level of consultation on important issues:

• 37 percent of employees agree they have confidence in their senior management team
• a third (34 percent) agree they trust their senior managers
• a quarter (25 percent) of respondents agree they are consulted by senior managers about important decisions

* score is the percentage of employees agreeing minus the percentage disagreeing

Source: ©CIPD


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