Workplace Employment Relations Survey 2004

Funded by: Nuffield Foundation


August 2003 to February 2006

PSI researchers:

Background, summary and aims

Background and Aims

Between 1979 and 1997 Conservative governments de-regulated the labour market in pursuit of economic growth.  The Labour government has been re-regulating the labour market since it came to power in 1997, but to what effect?  The Nuffield Foundation has funded PSI to investigate the impact of labour market re-regulation on employees’ experience of paid work.

Project Design  

Alex Bryson and Helen Bewley will form part of the Research Team (together with colleagues from the DTI, ACAS and the ESRC) designing and analysing the 2004 Workplace Employment Relations Survey (WERS).  To establish the impact of labour market re-regulation on employees we shall analyse the nationally representative data on employees and their workplaces available in the WERS for 1998 and 2004.  We shall use descriptive and multivariate statistical techniques to link changes in practices, employees’ experience of work and statutory interventions.  We shall consider the impact of regulation on different groups of workers, with special emphasis on the most vulnerable employees – the young, the old, women, ethnic minorities, the disabled, the low paid and the low skilled. 

Importance of Research

The importance of the survey, and its predecessors, for understanding employment relations in Britain can not be overstated.  John Purcell, Professor of Industrial Relations at the University of Bath, has referred to WERS as “the most authoritative time series survey of industrial relations ever undertaken in the world” (British Journal of Industrial Relations, 38:4, 2000: 651-653).  For government, it is the flagship survey on employment relations and is continually used in the formation of policy and in advising ministers and parliamentarians. Trades unions, the TUC, employers and employer organisations such as the CIPD are fervent supporters of the series.  The surveys for 1998 and 2004 provide a unique opportunity to map the impact of re-regulation on employees.


See also: WERS 2004 Small Firms Report