A toolkit developed by experts at the Management School will help ensure that organisations operating in informal economies worldwide are upholding labour standards and respecting employee rights.
Created following research by Professor Jason Heyes and Dr Thomas Hastings, both from the Work, Organization and Employment Relations Research Centre (WOERRC) research centre, the document entitled ‘Extending Labour Inspection to the Informal Economy’, was commissioned by the International Labour Organization (ILO) – a specialised UN agency with 186 member countries.
Professor Heyes commented on the project, saying: “This toolkit is intended to help labour inspectorates to address employment rights issues in the informal economy, thereby increasing the protection provided to vulnerable workers.
“Most ILO member countries have a labour inspectorate of some kind – they check workplaces and ensure employers are respecting employment rights, including issues such as minimum wage requirements, health and safety concerns, holiday entitlements, freedom to join trade unions and equal opportunities in the workplace.”
Informal employment often means poor employment conditions and is associated with increasing poverty. Some of the characteristic features of informal employment are lack of protection in the event of non-payment of wages, compulsory overtime or extra shifts, lay-offs without notice or compensation.
It can include unsafe working conditions and the absence of social benefits such as pensions, sick pay and health insurance. Women, migrants and other vulnerable groups of workers who are excluded from other opportunities have little choice but to take these informal low-quality jobs.
The innovative toolkit has been designed to develop the ILO’s capacity to provide support to countries tackling issues related to the informal economy, and will increase the effectiveness and knowledge of inspectors in improving protection for employees.
The toolkit is accompanied by an online message-board, where users can discuss how the toolkit has impacted on their role and feed-back information to the research team at Sheffield.
Dr Hastings discussed further testing of the toolkit: “In December, we will present the toolkit and project findings to senior ILO officials in Prague. Then we hope that it will be trialled in South Africa in the New Year, and are exploring further international testing options throughout 2016. It has a global reach, as we have considered cultural differences throughout and the toolkit can easily be adapted to benefit countries all over the world.”
The practical implications of the toolkit are potentially huge, and align with the Management School’s commitment to supporting socially responsible work practices across the world.