The Government’s review of employment practices by Matthew Taylor, published this week, correctly identified the need to address the quality of employment alongside quantity of jobs.
It is absolutely the right debate to be having and is something we’ve been working on; enhancing the momentum towards better jobs in the retail industry is the vision for our Retail 2020 campaign.
The retail workplace becomes more dynamic and agile almost by the day as technology continues to drive exponential change.
The skill requirements across the workforce are diversifying, with growing demand for specific, technical requirements alongside the core customer service skills.
Our analysis of the future retail workforce indicates a net reduction of jobs across the industry as retailers strive to boost workplace productivity against a backdrop of a rising cost of employment and falling costs of technology.
But while a net reduction is likely, new jobs are emerging and roles are diversifying – 100,000 people work in retail in roles that previously did not even exist five years ago.
The opportunities presented by the development of technology are transforming thousands of roles and tasks in retail and we expect this change to accelerate.
A fair future
It is the industry’s aspiration to ensure that the future jobs in retail are as attractive, accessible and well remunerated as possible.
The march of increasing numbers of lower-paid individuals or people stuck on low pay must be countered to ensure that modern retail workplaces deliver for those in work and for the businesses they work for.
“Pay is only one aspect when it comes to determining quality work. In our survey of retail employees, when we asked why they work in retail, pay was ranked below flexibility, location, working with colleagues and wider benefits”
Retail is the largest private sector employer, accounting for 3.2 million jobs across the UK. The vast majority are employed as employees, with just 7% of them self-employed.
It is vital that any employment relationship is balanced and that people understand and receive the appropriate legal protections, while retaining flexibility.
I think Matthew Taylor was right not to recommend fundamental change to the employment status framework and instead focus on improving clarity, certainty and understanding of all people working.
The vast majority of retailers take their statutory responsibilities as employers very seriously. The industry has worked hard to introduce the National Living Wage (NLW) and raise the wage floor across the UK – the gap between retail and the economy for average pay is narrowing.
And as the Review noted, pay is only one aspect when it comes to determining quality work. In our survey of retail employees, when we asked why they work in retail, pay was ranked below flexibility, location, working with colleagues and wider benefits.
As the UK continues to increase the NLW, ensuring retail provides even more of the great opportunities to develop skills and progress into higher paid work is key.
It was also good to see the Review recognise the concerns from all sectors about the apprenticeship levy. Retail will make one of the largest contributions to the levy, with few retailers able to draw down all the money they put in.
“As the industry continues to evolve, modern workplaces will have to work harder to attract, engage and retain their people”
While retailers are committed to the training and development of their people, introducing much more flexibility in the way in which levy funding can be spent has to be the way forward and is something we continue to push for.
As the industry continues to evolve, modern workplaces will have to work harder to attract, engage and retain their people.
There is great work being done by many retailers, including initiatives to provide greater opportunities and support for those looking to progress but continue to work part-time or flexibly, on diversity and inclusion, but there is always more to be done.
Retail 2020 Dashboard
To track progress towards better jobs, we launched a series of metrics earlier this year, the Retail 2020 Dashboard. It measures productivity, pay rates and staff engagement levels across the industry.
The Review recognised the role of sectoral approaches and letting industry drive lasting change. Through the Retail 2020 Dashboard we are not only measuring quantity of work but also quality – our great industry is ahead of the game.
What we need now is for more retailers to get behind the Retail 2020 vision and use the positive recommendations in the Taylor Review to make faster progress to deliver better jobs in the years to come.