The Key to Getting off on the Right Foot – A conversation with James Timpson on Hiring Offenders

[We’re pleased to welcome authors, Jenna Pandeli and Nicholas O’Regan of the University of the West of England. They recently published an article in the Journal of Management Inquiry entitled “Risky Business? The Value of Employing Offenders and Ex-Offenders: An Interview With James Timpson, Chief Executive of Timpson” which is currently free to read for a limited time. Below, they reflect on the motivations for this research:]

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James Timpson delivered a distinguished address at UWE Bristol, following which this paper was completed. I was delighted to be part of the interview team in adding the analysis and reflections to the interview given my research background in offender employment. My PhD research explored the employment of prisoner in private industries during their incarceration (Pandeli et al, 2018) and I am passionate about developing the use of employment as a form of rehabilitation rather than as simply a tool to pass time for prisoners, or as a form of additional income for the prison.

James’s approach provides an example of great practice for working with offenders; he works with them during their incarceration and then provides many with the opportunity to work for Timpson’s upon release. This type of ‘through the gates’ care is exactly what is needed and should be encouraged. Much of the literature on hiring offenders does point towards this approach, and so it is great to provide a real-life example of how this is working in practice to show how the theoretical and practical can go hand-in-hand.

One of the key motivations for writing this ‘meet the person’ piece is the positive impact that we might be able to have by presenting an employer’s insight into working with offenders, to show how providing these individuals with the opportunity to undertake meaningful, empowering work can have a positive impact on their lives and reduce the likelihood of them returning to crime. We believe that this can be useful to a wide range of practitioners including policy makers, the prison and probation service as well as other employers who may be thinking about working with offenders.

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Identity, Mental Health and Work

[We’re pleased to welcome author Hadar Elraz of Cardiff University. Hadar Elraz recently published an article in the Human Relations entitled “Identity, mental health and work: How employees with mental health conditions recount stigma and the pejorative discourse of mental illness,” which is currently free to read for a limited time. Below, Hadar Elraz summarises the findings of her study:]

Experiences of mental health in the workplace

huma_71_2.coverThis article examines how identity is constructed for individuals with mental health conditions in the workplace. The study found that people with mental health conditions use their experiences to perform more effectively in the workplace. The same strategies that individuals put in place to manage their mental health can also be applied to prioritize workload effectively, promote mental health awareness and achieve work‒life balance.

In a series of 60 interviews, the study reveals how people with mental health conditions overcome stigma, judgement and discrimination to stay in employment and, in many cases, prosper in the contemporary workplace. Those who have experienced mental ill health have knowledge and expertise about the interface between work and their condition and ways to address them.

The findings shows how the individual sensitivity to these issues addresses all kinds of strategies to manage their mental health and working lives more effectively. The interviews revealed the following coping strategies used by the study participants to manage their mental health conditions:

Maintaining silence

Some respondents recalled how they would maintain silence, coping on their own against all the odds without requesting support. While anti-stigma campaigns and awareness training are not uncommon in many contemporary workplaces, interviewees still felt looked down upon and discriminated against. Non-disclosure might be one response to this type of hostile environment.
One respondent recalled how they “didn’t think people associated mental illness with people who are functioning in high-status jobs. [Instead,] people associate mental illness with people who can’t work.”

Sheer hard work

Others developed strategies to manage their mental health effectively alongside their responsibilities at work, to stay, cope and thrive in employment.

Doubling their efforts in this way led many respondents to reflect on how they have grown more resilient than their colleagues who have not experienced mental ill health.

One respondent said: “I am a strong character. [But,] I don’t think people realise how strong a character you are. They don’t have any reference, because they never suffered from it [mental health condition] themselves.”

Another referred to this as “sheer hard work”, adding: “I just absolutely feel like I’m working twice as hard as anyone else in the place to achieve the same level of output.”

Taking control

Study participants used self-taught and reflexive techniques as well as self-medicating to take control of their health and performance at work. Combining both soft skills and medical insight into their condition made many of the participants experts on managing their mental health conditions within and beyond the working environment.

One respondent said: “I have been doing that for years. I self-manage myself by taking mood stabilisers, anti-depressants […] finding one that works to get you up to a level where you can function.”

Public disclosure

While concealing mental ill health in the workplace was a key concern for many interview participants, some spoke of the positive outcomes associated with public disclosure.
Significantly, the interviewees that were more confident about the security of their employment found public disclosure raised awareness and improved mental health management. Motivated by a desire to share their experiences of mental ill health to encourage broader cultural change, these participants expressed eagerness to assist both employee wellbeing and organisational performance by openly disclosing their mental health experiences at work.

One respondent said: “I think it’s part of me. Why should I hide away? If I see other people, I think if I gave them a bit of insight and knowledge, maybe that’d save them from going through some of the things.”

Allaying their fear of stigma and discrimination, public disclosure represented a legitimisation of mental ill health within the working environment.

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The Short-Term Employment Costs of Regulatory Reforms

[We’re pleased to welcome authors Dr. Andrea Bassanini of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and Federico Cingano Bank of Italy.  They recently published an article in the ILR Review entitledBefore it Gets Better: The Short-Term Employment Costs of Regulatory Reforms,which is currently free to read for a limited time. Below, they reflect on the inspiration for conducting this research:]

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Despite their being understood as powerful tools to promote and sustain economic growth, the pace of structural reforms slowed down during the recent recession and subsequent sluggish recovery (OECD 2016; IMF 2016a). These trends have partly been traced to increasing concerns that such reforms may entail costly transitory adjustments whose burden becomes especially worrying in periods of persistent economic and employment slack.
But are such concerns grounded? Surprisingly, not much is known as to their actual relevance or, perhaps more importantly, as to whether appropriately designed policies could help attenuating them (see Boeri et al, 2015; IMF 2016b).

In “Before it gets better: The Short-Term Employment Costs of Regulatory Reforms”, A. Bassanini (OECD) and F. Cingano (Bank of Italy) looked at the employment consequences of reforms removing barriers to entry in product markets (PMR reforms) and lowering the cost of dismissals (EPL reforms). Drawing on more than 30 years of cross-country industry and regulation data, they show that both reforms entail non-negligible – though transitory – employment losses on average. A reduction of barriers to entry in network industries, for example,  induces industry employment to fall below its pre reform level during the first three years. Similarly, one year after the “average” reform of dismissal legislation employment in dismissal intensive industries is around 0.5% below its pre-reform level (relative to other industries).

These negative short-term consequences can be contained, according to the analysis. For one thing, employment losses turn out to be smaller, if not negligible, for product and labour market reforms implemented during economic upswings. When aggregate output is growing above its potential, as usually occurs in the years following a recession period, hiring is scaled up while there are few inefficient jobs to be destroyed.
Moreover, the costs of easing dismissals legislation are negligible when product market regulation is light. Because the reverse does not hold (the costs of lowering entry barriers are found to be higher when employment legislation is light) the analysis suggests that a highly regulated country interested in reforming both domains could minimize the short-term costs of its policy package by deregulating product markets before the labor market.

Finally, the paper finds that employment losses from reforms of EPL for regular, open-ended contracts are less acute in countries with significant labour market dualism, where volatile positions are typically filled with temporary contracts. This result is remarkable because lowering dismissal regulation on permanent contracts is probably the single most effective way to tackle segmentation between protected permanent contracts and precarious temporary contracts (see OECD, 2014). In other words, EPL reforms are likely to come at no cost (on employment) in those countries where they will bring the greatest benefits (on duality).

These findings are obtained accounting for a number of confounding factors including country-industry trends (capturing specialization patterns, trends in regulation), country specific yearly shocks (capturing the business-cycle, “waves” of reforms, etc.) and industry specific shocks (as technology or demand shocks). They also proved robust to a large set of specification and sensitivity checks, to tests for reverse causality and to using in political variables as instrument for changes in regulation.

 

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How Can Employers Support Mentally Ill Employees?

12178605035_786bf7b47f_mPeople with mental illness often find it daunting to find a job, much less keep one. It may be difficult for a person  with a mental illness, like depression or anxiety, to balance their psychological needs with the stress and demands of a job. The challenge of balancing work and mental health often acts as a barrier to mentally ill people trying to find employment. However, the structure, stability, social exposure, and meaning that employment can provide means working is vital for mentally ill individuals. In addition to the challenges presented by mental illness itself, a significant facet of the issue is that employers may be unwilling to hire and accommodate them. In a recent SAGE Open article, “Employers’ Perspectives on Hiring and Accommodating Workers With Mental Illness,” authors Janki Shankar, Lili Liu, David Nicholas, Sharon Warren, Daniel Lai, Shawn Tan, Jennifer Couture, and Alexandra Sears demonstrate just how urgent it is that employers help to improve the employment rate of the mentally ill. The abstract for the paper:

Many individuals with mental illness want to return to work and stay in employment. Yet, there is little research that has examined the perspectives of employers on hiring and accommodating these workers and the kinds of supports employers need to SAGE Openfacilitate their reintegration into the workforce. The aim of the current research was to explore the challenges employers face and the support they need to hire and accommodate workers with mental illness (WWMI). A qualitative research design guided by a grounded theory approach was used. In-depth interviews were conducted with 28 employers selected from a wide range of industries in and around Edmonton, Canada. The employers were a mix of frontline managers, disability consultants, and human resource managers who had direct experience with hiring and supervising WWMI. Data were analyzed using the principles of grounded theory. The findings highlight several challenges that employers face when dealing with mental health issues of workers in the workplace. These challenges can act as barriers to hiring and accommodating WWMI.

You can read “Employers’ Perspectives on Hiring and Accommodating Workers With Mental Illness”  for free from SAGE Open. You can also find more open access content from SAGE Open, including articles on subjects like management, communication, education and more, by clicking here.

*Mental illness image attributed to Alachua County (CC)

Labor Economics and May Day throughout the Year

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As in recent years, work and economic issues have been on the minds of citizens worldwide – and not just on May Day. Almost on a daily basis we’ve seen or read about the challenges faced by employers, employees, unions, policy makers, and governments worldwide. From debates over raising the minimum wage, to discussions of pay equity and discrimination, workplace health risk factors and health insurance, and more, labor and work concerns are affecting us all. On this week set aside to recognize the international labor movement, we are pleased to highlight key journals in Economics, Industrial Relations & Labor.

We invite you to enjoy access to the following journals through June 30th. Click here to access the trial.

NEW TO SAGE IN 2016: We are pleased to publish The American Economist, the official journal of Omicron Delta Epsilon, the International Honor Society in Economics. The American Economist publishes original research from all fields and schools of economic thought, written by young scholars and those who are teaching the next generation of economists, as well as experienced and prominent economists whose influence has shaped the discipline. We invite you to read a special collection of articles from Nobel Peace Prize winning authors here.

Is There A Skill Shortage in the US?


5832437491_a8d1b4512d_z[We’re pleased to welcome Peter Cappelli
of the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. Peter recently published an article in ILR Review entitled “Skill Gaps, Skill Shortages, and Skill Mismatches: Evidence and Arguments for the United States” ]

Concerns over the supply of skills in the labor force, especially education-related skills, continue in the United States as well as in some other countries where employers complain about difficulty finding the talent they want. In the United States, there is little evidence consistent with the complaints about a skills shortage, and a wide range of evidence suggests the complaints are not warranted. Indeed, a reasonable conclusion is that over-education remains the persistent and even growing condition of the U.S. labor force with respect to skills. The best explanation for persistent employer complaints begins with a reminder that there is a market for labor regulated at least in part by supply and demand. Employers appear to be demanding more from applicants, most important, that they be able to perform jobs without any employer-provided training, and wages have not increased to match that greater demand. Employers and ILR_72ppiRGB_powerpointespecially their associations and consultants suggest some public policy response is in order to address employer complaints, but what that response should be is far from obvious.

The abstract:

Concerns over the supply of skills in the U.S. labor force, especially education-related skills, have exploded in recent years with a series of reports not only from employer-associated organizations but also from independent and even government sources making similar claims. These complaints about skills are driving much of the debate around labor force and education policy, yet they have not been examined carefully. In this article, the author assesses the range of these charges as well as other evidence about skills in the labor force. Very little evidence is consistent with the complaints about a skills shortage, and a wide range of evidence suggests the complaints are not warranted. Indeed, a reasonable conclusion is that overeducation remains the persistent and even growing condition of the U.S. labor force with respect to skills. The author considers three possible explanations for the employer complaints and the associated policy implications.

You can read “Skill Gaps, Skill Shortages, and Skill Mismatches: Evidence and Arguments for the United States”  from ILR Review free for the next two weeks by clicking here. Want to know all about the latest research from ILR ReviewClick here to sign up for e-alerts!

*Desk image credited to Nick Keppol (CC)

Peter CappelliPeter Cappelli is the George W. Taylor Professor of Management at The Wharton School and Director of Wharton’s Center for Human Resources.  He is also a Research Associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research in Cambridge, MA, served as Senior Advisor to the Kingdom of Bahrain for Employment Policy from 2003-2005, and since 2007 is a Distinguished Scholar of the Ministry of Manpower for Singapore.  He has degrees in industrial relations from Cornell University and in labor economics from Oxford where he was a Fulbright Scholar. He was recently named by HR Magazine as one of the top 5 most influential thinkers in management and was elected a fellow of the National Academy of Human Resources.  He received the 2009 PRO award from the International Association of Corporate and Professional Recruiters for contributions to human resources.  He serves on Global Agenda Council on Employment for the World Economic Forum and a number of advisory boards.

 

 

 

Unlimited Free Access to Unscripted Voices of 21st Century Workers “On the Front Line”

gears-94220_640[We’re pleased to welcome Paul Brook, one of the editors of Work, employment, society. All 10 articles in the On the Front Line (OTFL) collection are being made permanently free as part of Work, employment and society’s wider commitment to public sociology.]

These powerful testimonies of employees’ accounts of their working lives form a series of vivid, ‘behind the scenes’, portraits of the contemporary world of work. Each story is told frankly and all brim with a rich mixture of hope, despair, enjoyment and anger, revealing the hidden, often harsh, realities of work in the 21st century.

These popular and compelling stories are being increasingly used for university teaching but can now be taken-up by schools, colleges and others keen to get ‘under the skin’ of today’s world of work and employment. In doing so, we hope to introduce individuals and groups outside of the academy, especially young people, to the richness of what C. Wright Mills called the “sociological imagination”.

F1.mediumThe OTFL collection includes accounts of the indignities of working as a cleaner in a luxury hotel; an activist’s story during a protracted factory strike; the dangerous health consequences for a slimming club consultant striving to ‘look the part’; the unremitting time demands on a supermarket manager; the endemic abuse and violence suffered by a trainee haute cuisine chef in Michelin starred kitchens; and the personal struggles of a pioneer woman priest.

OTFL also offers first-hand accounts of major political-industrial events, such as working inside HBOS bank during the 2008 financial crisis; a pit supervisor’s experience of Britain’s miners’ strike of 1984-85; organising inside the factory occupation movement as part of the Argentinian anti-IMF uprising of 2001-02; and the disturbing account of work under hazardous conditions in a Scottish plastics factory shortly before a devastating explosion that killed nine workers in 2004.

Unlike standard research articles, OTFL contributions are co-authored by the worker and an academic/s. Each one is preceded by a brief scene-setting commentary written by the academic. If you would like to write an OTFL article, the Work, employment and society website has guidance. You can also contact us to discuss your ideas further.

Making OTFL free access is part of Work, employment and society’s wider commitment to public sociology. We want to encourage more scholars to work with workers and employees, especially the less powerful, to help give voice to their hidden experiences and unheard views. We also want to make our small contribution to ensuring that workers’ experiences, views and ideas will not be consigned to the “enormous condescension of posterity”, as E.P. Thompson famously claimed was the fate of earlier generations of workers.