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David Shoesmith
Business Development Manager

Mapping the contours of organisational fairness

The very contours of what is meant by 'fair' are changing; we are living through a period of socio-economic development where the ‘taken-for-granteds’ are subject to substantial social debates – from the provision of pensions and job opportunities across generational groups, to whether income inequalities have a deleterious effect on employee behaviour and a broader debate about the moral compass of leaders be these in political or corporate life. We observe a general fall in the social tolerance for a widening range of corporate activity (eg taxation arrangements) and executive perquisites.

With this in mind, we must now re-examine some of the principles and assumptions used to support and justify policy, practice and behaviour. This programme of research seeks to map out the evolving contours of fairness primarily within organisations so as to better inform both future policy and practice.

Our new programme of work seeks to:

  • Expand leaders’ and managers’ professional field of vision so they are sensitised to the ‘externalities’ shaping the employment relationship
  • Systematically investigate and map the processes that are currently determining, and will in future determine, the contours of (un)fairness
  • Develop an evidence-based approach to developing the skills and building the capacity to support the negotiation of (un)fairness by interested stakeholders of a healthy employment relationship

In Phase One of the programme, The Work Foundation in partnership with the Centre for Performance-Led HR at Lancaster University Management School and the CIPD will map out the contours of fairness by reviewing the literature broadly to identify patterns in the way fairness is defined and understood across disciplines, contexts and cultures.

Related Reports

The changing contours of fairness: Can we match individual and organisational perspectives?
The report, a collaboration between The Work Foundation, the Centre for Performance-led HR (Lancaster University Management School) and the CIPD, includes a review of multi-disciplinary academic literature on the sources, theories and applications of ‘fairness’, ‘equity’, ‘equality’ and ‘justice’. It also draws upon data from a survey representation of the UK workforce - the CIPD Employee Outlook survey.

Paul Sparrow, Wilson Wong, Lilian Otaye and Stephen Bevan
04 November 2013

Related Events

Embedding Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) in the workplace - Final Seminar
In collaboration with The Work Foundation, Lancaster University and the University of Sheffield, Aston Business School will be hosting the 7th seminar in the “Embedding Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) in the Workplace” seminar series.

Wed, 30 November 2016
14:00 - 17:00

Embedding Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) in the workplace - What Works in Practice?
In collaboration with Aston Business School, Lancaster University and the University of Sheffield, The Work Foundation will be hosting the 6th seminar in the “Embedding Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) in the Workplace” seminar series.

Mon, 10 October 2016
09:30 - 15:30

The changing contours of organisational fairness
Fairness is a concept that impacts on a wide variety of issues in the British economy, from the benefits system to women on boards, and is of increasing importance in the wake of the financial crisis and into the UK’s progressing recovery.In this seminar we will be discussing some of these differing notions of fairness and how they can affect key employment issues in the UK today.

Thu, 10 April 2014
08:15 - 09:30

The contours of organisational fairness
This interactive workshop is an opportunity to actively contribute to our research. The facilitated session will take you through our current thinking around the conceptual framework and investigate your own notions of fairness, where you struggle with the conflicting demands of various constituents in your workplace and in your other roles in society.

Tue, 04 June 2013
10:00 - 13:30

Related Blogs

Spotlight on Older Workers
It was a pleasure to take part in a lively debate at the APPG for Skills and Employment when I gave evidence on older workers and the challenges of retention, re-training and re-skilling. With the prediction that there will be 12.5 million job vacancies by 2022 but only some 7 million to fill them, longer working lives will be an increasing feature of the coming years.

15 June 2016

Mind the Gap
“For the first time in history officers of a company can become seriously rich without risking any of their own money. Their rewards are so beyond those of ordinary people that they risk being seen as aliens from another galaxy.”

18 August 2014

The Director's Report - April Issue
In his April monthly director's report, Geraint Johnes looks at the idea of fairness and how this has changed over time.

11 April 2014

Fairness in the public sector - NHS
The recent NHS pay award, in which the Government took the decision to only partially implement the Independent Pay Review Body recommendation, was met with a variety of responses by staff and trade unions.

Chief Executive of NHS Employers
08 April 2014

Are you heroic? The five-point plan to embed diversity
A hero in mythology often has close but challenging relationships with the gods.

Kate Faragher
13 November 2013

Performance-related pay and the rhetoric gap
Professor Stephen Bevan writes about performance-related pay and the implications as a result of having attended an event organised by the High Pay Centre.

Professor Stephen Bevan
12 November 2013

Can pay really be linked to performance?
Top executive pay has quadrupled in the past 10 years to an average of £4.3 million.

Deborah Hargreaves
15 October 2013

Perverse Consequences of the EU Bonus ‘Cap’?
Professor Stephen Bevan responds to the news yesterday that the Treasury is challenging an EU proposal to cap bonuses in the City.

Professor Stephen Bevan
26 September 2013

Can organisations ever be fair?
Paul provides a précis of the key points from his presentation to a CIPD HR Leaders Forum on the changing contours of fairness.

Paul Sparrow
17 May 2013

Related News

The Work Foundation featured in the Evening Standard on pay gap and worker engagement
Article on how large differences in pay can demotivate workers.

Evening Standard
20 August 2014

Stephen Bevan director of the Centre for Workforce Effectiveness at The Work Foundation featured in IBT on pay gap
An indication that, even among the friends of business, widening pay dispersion is proving harder to justify, especially if it does not reflect improvements in company performance.

19 August 2014

HR Magazine quotes The Work Foundation on organisational fairness
HR professionals must address the changing and complex issue of fairness within their organisations, or risk negative impacts on employee engagement, reputation and trust, experts agreed yesterday

HR Magazine
11 April 2014

Recruiter magazine quotes The Work Foundation on rehiring and redundancies in the workplace.
Public sector employers who “cut through” staff numbers in response to financial pressures before rehiring them must improve their workforce planning to avoid unnecessary payouts and pain.

Recruiter Magazine
09 April 2014