WF100 Centenary Celebration

Shape a more competitive and inclusive future for the UK

 Victory Services Club,
63-79 Seymour Street, London W2 2HF

Thursday 2nd May 2019, 9.00 – 16.30


For over a century the Work Foundation has specialised in understanding changes in the world of work, to create more ‘good work’ that makes the most of people and enhances benefits for individuals, employers, and communities and economies. We are fast approaching our centenary event, which marks the end of our Centenary celebrations for 18/19, and is a chance to take stock.



When the Work Foundation became established as the Industrial Welfare Association, at the end of the First World War in 2019, it set out its core purpose and mission. Its goal was to:

  • study the most pressing employment challenges of the day
  • design schemes to support better employee welfare and working conditions for all, and
  • build opportunities to exchange views and share experiences through meetings, conferences and communication activities to raise the quality of working practices.

In the 21st century, 100 years later, building on this strong heritage and deep expertise, the Work Foundation continues to progress these core traditions.

In many respects the world of work has changed dramatically since the First World War. We have more people in work than ever before, lower rates of unemployment and higher earnings. But, there are also similarities and common threads from the past that can help offer insights about the future. The 4th Industrial Revolution, like those before it, has the potential to drive huge transformational changes in the composition of local economies and the nature of work through the rapid pace of innovation and rates of mechanisation, industrialization, and urbanization. Whilst the precise shape and form of changes may vary, there are similar aspects from which we might learn if we are to secure improvements in productivity and employment prospects:  for instance

challenges around management practices are creating precarious forms of employment which in turn raise challenges of fairness, inequality and securing opportunities for all to actively participate and progress. A more polarised labour market, and rising divisions between those that can progress to high skilled roles and those stuck on low pay, means securing work no longer necessarily supports social progression and career pathways are truncated. Growing concerns around workplace practices, combined with an ageing workforce threatens employee health and wellbeing. And, although the workforce is more diverse, we find women, older workers, people with disabilities, and people from black Asian and minority groups experiencing problems participating and progressing in the labour market.

This Centenary milestone presents a very unique opportunity for the Work Foundation to revisit with its partners what progress has been made to restore good work for all in a modern economy, and how we can continue to demonstrate its value, creating happier, healthier and more productive working environments in future. Whilst there is no consensus on what is needed to tackle these problems, and no silver bullets or quick wins that can achieve success, there are some vital solid steps that can be taken. It’s to these that the Work Foundation wants to draw attention in its WF 100 celebrations and to encourage a national debate amongst a diverse range of stakeholders at the event on 2nd May. Faced with significant megatrends which threaten increasingly to disrupt traditional business models, ways of working and career pathways, the debate and associated call to action aims to cover the following areas:

  • Dynamism: How do we create a productive, dynamic, empowered workplaces supporting continuous improvement, upskilling and ongoing technological adoption and use?
  • Resilience: How do we best prepare for Careers of the Future, tackle new and emerging skill gaps, support lifelong learning and build an agile & resilient workforce?
  • Partnership: How do we inspire a new model of collaboration through socially responsible leadership and effective corporate governance?
  • Fairness: How do we create opportunities for all tackling disadvantage, inequality and poor workplace health to secure good work, wellbeing and inclusive growth for generations to come?


Key speakers include:


Nigel Whitehead (BAE Systems)
Sir Brendan Barber (ACAS)
Matthew Taylor (RSA)
Tony Danker (Be the Business)
Rannia Leontaridi (BEIS)
Matthew Fell (CBI)
Andreas Schleicher (OECD)
Mark Keese (OECD)
Phil Smith (formerly Cisco)
Paul Nowak (TUC)
Professor Dame Sue Black (Lancaster University)
David Hughes (Association of Colleges)


Join us, as part of our celebrations, to discuss with a range of senior stakeholders including business leaders, policy makers, trade unions and wider experts how to secure the future of good work for generations to come.


Please see the Agenda for the full programme of the day.