What comes into your mind when you hear of the term decent work? As an employer, do you give your workers a decent work environment? As an employee, do you portray traits that can promote decency at the workplace? All these questions are fit to answer one question – the value of decent work and/or what it means?
Decent work involves respect for fundamental human rights coupled with rights to better working conditions. It is also the respect accorded for the physical and mental health of workers.
The International Labour Organization (ILO) looks at decent work as an opportunity that delivers a productive work environment. Work that offers security, social protection and fair working conditions are decent.
It also offers better prospects for personal development and social integration, freedom to express concerns, make decisions affecting lives and tackle gender equality and equity. ILO agenda on decent work involves job creation, rights at work, social integration, and gender equality.
The World Day for Decent Work (WDDW) is celebrated annually on 7 October, where trade unions, worker federations among other stakeholders come together to promote action towards decency at the workplace. 2021 celebrations marked the 10th anniversary, calling on governments to prioritize decent work for economic growth and sustainable development.
The United Nations vision 2030 agenda on sustainable development envisions decent work and its key pillars – employment creation, social protection, rights at work, and social dialogue. The agenda aims to promote inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment.
It looks at the significance of decent work to crisis recovery and sustainable economic development.
When the Covid-19 pandemic struck the world economy, the workplace was disrupted. Over 70 percent of workplaces were shut down. There is now a shift in the decent work paradigm.
The World Economic Forum (WEF) points that the impacts of the pandemic and automation are the key push factors for decent work. The reopening of workplaces across the world is taking a different course with acceleration to a remote work environment.
About 83 percent of companies that have resumed operations in the post-pandemic economy are opting for a remote work environment, according to the WEF.
However, this shift comes with its demands, revolving around the physical and mental health of a person and its impacts from the changing workplace. Another factor redefining decency at the workplace involves a change in work skills. WEF writes that around 40 per cent of workers will require reskilling and upskilling in the changing work environment.
Ways to achieve decency at the workplace
Companies and businesses can achieve decency at the workplace if they define tasks and allow flexibility among departments. This involves conducting employee education, guidance and counseling, defining terms of work and promoting gender balance.
The work standards guiding employer-employee relations at the workplace are key to decency. The values call for fair access to jobs, living wages, diversity, and inclusion.
Employee empowerment to achieve efficiency at the workplace is key. Organizations need to focus on how work is done in line with the results.
Technological changes are redefining workplaces and managers should align these changes with decent work models. Growth in the remote work environment and automation needs to be treated in a manner that merges fair working conditions, physical and psychological wellbeing of workers.
The International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) Secretary General Sharan Burrow says transparency is key to achieving decency in hidden supply chains.
“For the platform economy, we need occupational health and safety, a minimum living wage or income and maximum hours of work underscored by universal social protection, so that people can balance work and life. That’s what we have to see if we’re serious about an inclusive future on a stable planet with stable communities and stable economies,” says Burrow.
According to Bhushan Sethi, a Partner –Joint Global Leader, People, and Organisation –PwC, businesses can achieve decency at work by embracing the global meaning of decent work and highlighting strategies to achieve it.
Companies should also invest in the workforce that is unable to get decent jobs –especially the marginalised employees in developing economies.
Decent Work in the post-pandemic economy is vital for the reverberation of business opportunities and economic recovery. Businesses should take abreast of the changes to achieve decency at the workplace for sustainable development.