The Mayor's 'Good Work' standard must include fair pay and tax transparency
Several My Fair London activists worked together over the summer to respond to the Mayor's call for evidence on a proposed 'Good Work' standard for London employers. Drawing on evidence that narrower gaps between high and low paid staff are good for staff motivation, and that greater pay equity is good for productivity and innovation, we suggested that any employer being commended by the Mayor as a good London employer should as a minimum be transparent on what is paid to all its employees and have a relatively narrow gap between the highest and lowest paid workers.
In our 2016 manifesto to the Mayor we called for him to work towards a maximum ten to one ratio between highest to lowest paid as a target to aim for for London. We copy below our response to the Mayor.
The consultation is still open and you can send in ideas and comments until 18 September. Visit https://www.london.gov.uk/what-we-do/business-and-economy/making-london-best-city-world-work?source=vanityurl for more information.
My Fair London Response to Call for Evidence on the Mayor of London’s Good Work Standards
We are pleased to respond to the Mayor of London’s ‘Good Work Standards’ consultation paper. We have broken down our response into two sections; a general commentary on the main content followed by specific answers to questions posed in the paper. We would be delighted to meet with members of the Mayor’s team to discuss our response more fully or to contribute in whatever way we can to help him develop this programme. The Mayor’s commitment to “exemplary standards in pay and employment rights for workers” is very welcome. Overall we welcome the proposal for a ‘Good Work’ standard for London. In order to become a real beacon of good employment practices and change business practice across London the Good Work standard will need ongoing political support, and sustained investment.
Overall we believe that the paper sets out an attractive and compelling vision of what a new compact for work might look like. We strongly support efforts to persuade London businesses to become better employers. There is good evidence that extreme disparities in pay rates within companies are harmful in a variety of ways. High levels of economic inequality, and unjustifiably large rewards at the top of the income distribution are unfair, unnecessary and harmful to society in general and to businesses individually. We would argue that any company that is rewarded with recognition as an ‘exemplary’ employer could not, by definition have wide pay ratios between its highest and lowest paid employees.
We believe that the planned Good Work Standards could be strengthened in the following ways:
- Page 2: There is mention of discrimination and disadvantage and the need to address a number of ways in which unfairness manifests itself. However wealth and income inequality is not explicitly mentioned and we believe that the case could be strengthened by making more explicit reference to the proven links between high levels of economic inequality and poor health, social and economic outcomes. (https://www.equalitytrust.org.uk/about-inequality/impacts)
- Page 3: In terms of the goals of a Good Work Standard, in addition to the London Living Wage, excellent working conditions and fair treatment (including appropriate use of zero hours contracts), we suggest that explicit mention should be made of the need for issues such as tax avoidance (ie how good companies pay their fair share), publication of pay rates, pay differentials and or wage ratios, and transparent management of executive remuneration to be included as accreditation criteria for the best employers. Also in the list of ‘development goals’ we believe that contractual arrangements should be explicitly addressed as a separate bullet point in order to ensure that employees are provided with appropriate levels of employment security and certainty.
(On the remuneration/reward issues see the joint High Pay Centre/CIPD response to Government from February 2017 http://highpaycentre.org/files/CIPD_and_HPC_response_to_BEIS_Green_Paper_on_Corporate_Governance_%281%29.pdf)
- Page 4: To this end we would suggest that the figure 1 model be amended to include two further bullets: ‘secure employment contracts’ and ‘published pay ratios’, in addition to the London Living Wage and Excellent Working Conditions bullets. We would also suggest that model could be broadened. Good Work results when the following conditions underpin it:
- Good job design – jobs that provide meaningful and fulfilling employment opportunities
- Engaged employees – employees who feel a sense of commitment and dedication towards the organization, their job and their colleagues
- Enlightened leadership and management – who understand that engaged employees are a critical factor in economic and business success and who demonstrate the appropriate leadership styles and behaviors
- An enabling culture – an organizational environment that encourages and stimulates everyone to give of their best
Further we would suggest that extremely high pay inequality in any company is incompatible with having ‘excellent working conditions’. Unfairness in terms of excessive rewards at the top will undermine other efforts to improve productivity, motivation and morale.
- We don't know whether the Chartered Institute of Personnel Development (CIPD), IPA -Involve or the Engage for Success (E4S) movement are involved in the consultation process but we recommend that their views and expertise is sought in this regard. We can effect introductions if necessary.
- There is no reference to the way in which technology will impact on job design and work – perhaps the Mayor of London could instigate a working group to study the effects of changes in technology in different sectors and identify what support is required in order to balance employment, business needs and social consequences.
Answers to Specific Questions
Q1: we would add goals regarding leadership / management quality and employee engagement measures. Also the negative links between bonus/ financial reward based business cultures and innovation and productivity. (See for example Kahneman, D., ‘Thinking Fast and Slow”, 2011 for exploration of the negative impacts of simplistic rewards on human behaviour and team functioning.)
Q2: public exposure / reputational risk for those organizations that do not meet the Good Work Standards, economic risk through failure to secure contracts. A ‘good work’ standard alone will have little impact on the major structural social and economic factors that have undermined social mobility – increased economic inequality being the most powerful factor.
Q3: Fair treatment would include transparency on pay rates within an organization, with pay rates published and pay ratios calculated and reported.
Q4: zero hours and short-term contracts, highly geared remuneration packages (ie low base pay, high variable pay by results), excessive, unjustified rewards for senior managers.
Q5: Professor Bruce Raynton’s research for the Engage for Success movement provides an excellent business case http://engageforsuccess.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/The-Evidence.pdf
Q6: recommend consulting CIPD or E4S for further evidence
Q7: short term financial targets, intransigent mind sets, lack of awareness of business benefits / risks, lack of knowledge and support about how to design and implement (particularly around management capability), for SMEs lack of capacity to commit and monitor against standards that are too onerous.
Q8: pay transparency, adoption of living wage, publication of pay ratios, adoption of engaging management practices, focusing on positive work cultures. It maybe difficult to create a single standard that all businesses, large and small, can meet.
Q9: demonstrate business case and competitive advantage that will result, greater access to labour market / talent ie ability to recruit the best people, potential financial ROI, raise the Standard’s profile, summarise the personal and wider negative social and economic costs of inequality (See for example ‘The enemy between us: The psychological and social costs of inequality’, European Journal of Social Psychology, 2017 (http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/ejsp.2275/full).
Q10: public awards, ‘Kite mark’, London league tables, celebrate the best employers .
Q11: meeting GWS standards as criteria for public sector tenders, persuade other large public sector employers to adopt (NHS, education etc)
Q12: My Fair London would welcome the opportunity to participate in judging leading employers, and in celebrating the achievements of those employers creating fairer employment practices. We hope that this scheme develops into a widely recognized and sought after ‘fairness’ kite mark, similar to some of the most successful environment quality standards (FSC for example).