A retrospective look at employment since the Queen's coronation
Published on 13th June 2012
Alison Loveday, 13 Jun 2012
The Queen's Diamond Jubilee celebrations, this month, allows HR professionals a chance to consider the advances in the workplace over the last 60 years.
Women in the workplace
Then: In the 1950's, men and women were usually to be found in traditional gender roles, as large numbers of women who had entered the workforce during WWII were encouraged to return to traditional domestic life. However there were still signs of change, for example with 1.5 million women in Britain working as either secretaries or typists, but where women were working more often than not they did so in jobs traditionally seen as female. Pay equality was an issue simmering under the surface and 1952 saw legislation passed that called for pay equality for teachers.
Now: Since the 1950s, women's employment has been transformed and many women now occupy all sorts of different professions. The numbers of mothers in employment has increased 300 per cent since 1951. However, it is still the case that there is a scarcity of women in powerful business roles. Figures show that only 16 per cent of senior positions are currently held by women, showing that discrimination is still an issue in 2012. Numerous pieces of legislation have been passed since 1952, such as the Equal Pay Act of 1970 and the Sex Discrimination Act of 1975, and these have done a lot to change things, but there is clearly still much more that needs to be done.
The Home Office has said that it aims to have more than half of new public appointments filled by women by 2015, and has also called for top companies to have a minimum of 25 percent female directors by 2015. There was talk of enforcing this as a legal requirement, but that proposal has recently been dropped. The Government will now try to achieve its aim by encouraging businesses, rather than forcing the issue by legislation.
Then: It's now hard to remember, but there was a time before the internet and instantaneous email communication. Businesses relied on telephone calls, face-to-face meetings and post and communication was, needless to say, often much slower.
Now: The workplace has completely changed in the past 60 years due to technological progression. We now no longer need to wait for information, as the internet connects the world virtually instantaneously . Since the Queen's coronation, we have become a faster and, in many ways, more efficient country.
Employee wellbeing is more important than ever. Stress related issues have sky-rocketed, as workers find that with all the high speed technological communication, they struggle to switch off outside of work. Stress can result in long-term absence, which lowers productivity and can be costly for a business. Personal opinions also increasingly enter the public realm these days through the numerous kinds of social media. Now, any ill-advised opinions that were once shared only among close friends find themselves broadcast around the world through various social media outlets and this can cause big problems both for employers and employees.
Job Mobility & Pensions
Then: In 1953, people often had a single job for their whole life, meaning lack of job security was far less of an issue. This effected pensions and dismissal practices tremendously, with employees often benefitting from long term membership of lucrative final salary pension schemes.
Now: A recent Vodafone survey found that one in five employees are planning to move jobs in the next 12 months. This isn't an entirely shocking revelation, as it is has recently been claimed that the average person will have seven different jobs in their working lifetime. Although the accuracy of that figure is somewhat disputable, it does highlight the prevalence of job mobility in the workforce.
Pension reform is ongoing and will continue to be an issue so long as the employment environment continues to change over time. Currently, we face a wave of changes under the auto-enrolment scheme, where qualifying workers will be automatically enrolled into a workplace pension scheme that both they and their employers contribute towards. This will be a drastic change, as currently two out of three private sector workers are not in any kind of workplace pension. Low staff retention also has its own raft of issues, such as needing to protect a business's intellectual property, data and client information when employees leave.
Alison Loveday is managing partner/employment partner at law firm Berg