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News : Irish Economy Last Updated: Sep 28, 2010 - 4:54:38 PM


Irish National Workplace Surveys: Less than 50% of employment in firms with pensions scheme for all; Media scrutiny and Freedom of Information requests causes of intense stress in public sector
By Finfacts Team
Sep 28, 2010 - 6:07:14 AM

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Irish National Workplace Surveys: Almost a third of private sector employment is in organisations with no pension scheme for any employees and less than 50% is in firms that offer all employees membership in such a scheme. Almost one in five private sector employees works in a firm that offers membership of a pension to some, but not all, employees. Meanwhile, intense media scrutiny and Freedom of Information requests are causes of stress in the public sector.

These findings come from two new National Workplace Surveys that are launched today by the Minister for Labour Affairs and Public Service Transformation, Mr. Dara Calleary, T.D. The studies were conducted by ESRI researchers and are published by the National Economic and Social Development Office. The studies draw on in depth surveys of over 3,000 employers and 5,100 employees in Ireland carried out in 2009. Similar surveys were carried out in 2003 and this provides an opportunity to examine change in the Irish workplace over a period in which there was a dramatic shift in the Irish economy from rapid growth to deep recession, and to examine the impact of those changes on employees and employers.

The Changing Workplace: A Survey of Employees’ Views and Experiences By Philip J. O’Connell, Helen Russell, Dorothy Watson and Delma Byrne National Economic and Social Development Office, 2010

The Changing Workplace: A Survey of Employers’ Views and Experiences By Dorothy Watson, John Galway, Philip J. O’Connell and Helen Russell National Economic and Social Development Office, 2010

Accountability is viewed as an issue for a substantial proportion of the public sector: 32% of the public sector experiences intense pressure as a result of scrutiny by the media; 25% as a result of requests under the Freedom of Information Legislation and 26% as a result of increased accountability to the Oireachtas. Scrutiny by the media and freedom of information requests have both become significantly more important as sources of intense pressure in 2009 compared to 2003.

The surveys show that aspects of the downturn are also making change more difficult in the public sector with budget constraints, recruitment constraints and uncertainty about the future emerging as the most frequent major barriers to change.

Significantly, inherited structures and practices that make it more difficult for organisations to adopt flexible employment practices were identified as major barriers for change much more often than in 2003.

These systemic barriers to change include the management structure within the organisation, the hierarchical nature of the organisation, the centralisation of HR, the promotions process, the willingness of staff to change and the willingness of unions to engage constructively with change.

The reports say it is likely that these barriers have become more salient with the intensification of efforts to introduce new workplace practices in line with the Transforming Public Services agenda.

These responses suggest that public sector managers experience considerable frustration arising from structures over which they have limited control in their efforts to introduce reforms. There was also a great deal of diversity across different types of public sector organisations in the factors identified as the major barriers to change. This suggests that a tailored and customised approach to public sector modernisation will be needed in order to progress the transformation agenda, say the authors.

In the private sector, the highest incidence of workplace innovation was found in the Financial/Insurance/Business Services sectors (67% of employment), Traditional Manufacturing (66%) and High-Tech Manufacturing (65%), with lower rates of adoption found in the Construction, Distribution and the Hotel, Restaurant and other Services sectors.

Foreign-owned firms are also more likely to introduce workplace innovation, with 74% of employment in the multinational sector being within firms that have introduced workplace innovation in the past two years. The difference across sectors in the commitment to workplace innovation was also reflected in the percentage of employment where the CEO considers workplace innovation to be very important to the future success and viability of the firm.

The survey reveals a high proportion of public sector employment in organisations with a commitment to innovative work practices and who have also been able to deliver new or improved services in the previous two years. The impact of the Transforming Public Services agenda is very evident in these figures, and also in the very high proportion of public sector employment in organisations where the manager believes workplace innovation to be ‘very important’ to the future success of the organisation: 81% in the public sector compared to 43% in the private sector.

The overall levels of commitment to workplace innovation in the private sector were lower than in the public sector. The main differentiating factor with respect to innovation in the private sector was firm size. Smaller firms were less likely to have introduced new products or services or workplace innovations in the previous two years and were less likely to believe that workplace innovation was very important to the future success of the firm.

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