Study finds low-paid employees look beyond wage level

Low-paid workers value a raft of other factors beyond a decent hourly wage when looking for work, according to research.

Alongside the importance of a decent wage, respect and equality were valued highly by those on low pay in the UWS-Oxfam study. Image: John Devlin

Job security, paid holidays and a supportive manager were highlighted as priorities along with hourly rate in a report by Oxfam and the University of the West of Scotland (UWS).

Women value a supportive line manager more than men, according to the study of 1,500 workers, but the priorities were described as “remarkably consistent”.

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The report is said to be the first of its kind in Scotland and was designed to “provide a voice for workers who want decent work”.

Dr Hartwig Pautz, lecturer in social sciences at UWS, said: “It’s not surprising that being paid enough to cover basic needs was one of the consistent things identified as important.

“But the UWS-Oxfam Partnership research also shows that decent work is about much more than only a living wage, as important as a real living wage is.

“Many of the people we spoke to stressed that they wanted more fairness and respect in their workplace. For them, that meant fair pay for similar jobs and fair rules and procedures applied equally without discrimination.

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“Our experiences, as researchers in this project, clearly demonstrate that job quality and decent work are important topics for people in Scotland and that a public debate is needed. Our ongoing work in this project will contribute to this debate.”

Francis Stuart, Oxfam Scotland’s research and policy adviser, said: “Too often paid work fails to serve as a reliable route out of poverty - that should concern us all.

“While the focus placed on payment of the living wage is welcome, policymakers still tend to focus on increasing employment rates without paying enough attention to the quality of work created. This research shows the quality of employment is also critically important to people’s lives.

“Ahead of May’s Scottish Parliament elections, we hope all political parties consider the priorities identified by low-paid workers and outline what they will do using devolved powers to help make work better in Scotland.”