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Research toolkit will improve working lives on a global scale

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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 (pictured above) and Dr Thomas Hastings, both from the 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, who has worked with the ILO since 1998, commented on the project: “The ILO creates, promotes and upholds labour standards in all of its member states. I work with the Governance and Tripartism Department, which is responsible for providing member countries and social partners with advice and support on matters connected to labour administration and labour inspection. Labour inspectorates are government bodies that, through proactive and reactive inspection work, play a vital role in improving employer compliance with employment rights.

“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.”

The innovative, easy-to-use toolkit has been designed to connect new academic theories with practice, via actions taken by the inspectorates. It will 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 huge, and align with WOERRC’s mission to promote decent work and decent workplaces and the Management School’s commitment to supporting socially responsible work practices across the world.

This research was funded the ILO and an ESRC Impact Accelerator Award.
Click here to download the toolkit.

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