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Work Employment Relations Study

Tea at work
Researchers: Martin Wood


The Workplace Employment Relations Study (WERS) is the most definitive and influential study of employment relations in Great Britain. We have spoken to almost 2,700 public and privately-run workplaces across Britain about all areas of workplace policy and practice, from job satisfaction to employee representation. The data we collect is used widely by Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS), Advisory Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS) and the research community.


Impacts of the recession

In response to the recession, 76% of all workplaces took some form of action that affected employees:

  • 42% cut or froze wages
  • 28% stopped filling vacant posts
  • 24% changed the way work was organised
  • 21% postponed plans to expand their workforce

The recession  prompted compulsory redundancies in 14% of all workplaces and voluntary redundancies in 7%.

The most common changes reported by employees were more work and less pay – 33% of employees said they had been affected by wage freezes or cuts and 29% said that their workload had increased.


In 69% of workplaces no one earnt the adult National Minimum Wage (NMW) or less. However, in 9% of workplaces more than half of the workforce were earning the NMW or less.

Working long hours

46% of all employees usually work at least 40 hours per week with 11% working more than 48.

Feeling tense, worried and uneasy was more common among those who worked longer hours. 69% of those who worked more than 48 hours per week felt tense all, most or some of the time.


There are four elements of the study

  • A face-to-face interview with the most senior management respondent who is responsible for employment relations at the workplace
  • An interview with the most senior union and non-union employee representative at the workplace.
  • A survey of up to 25 randomly selected employees at the workplace
  • A Financial Performance Questionnaire.

The study includes a sample of workplaces who took part in the previous WERS to allow longitudinal analysis, as well as providing cross-sectional data.

Read 2011 First Findings report

View all reports and data