Research Excellence Award: Hearing the unheard: amplifying the voices of frontline essential workers £99,008

Project: Research - Studentship

Project Details


Employee voice – defined as the ability to have a say at work and influence over workplace affairs – is a central dimension of a good job and fair work (Fairwork Convention, 2021, Norris-Green and Gifford, 2021; Taylor, 2017; Wilkinson, 2021). For much of the twentieth century in Britain employee voice was synonymous with trade unions and collective bargaining. However, union representation is now unavailable in 90% private sector workplaces, and limited voice has a disproportionate impact on workers most vulnerable to exploitation. It also has the the potential to exacerbate intersectional inequalities among those already identified as having a constrained voice at work including women, the disabled, younger workers and ethnic minorities (Hodder and Lefteris, 2015; Wacjman 2002; William, 2009). The pandemic highlighted societies dependency on frontline 'essential workers' defined by the Scottish Government as 'people who keep the country running'. However, many essential workers, including those in retail, logistics and the platformed mediated gig economy, are in low paid and insecure employment. These 'minimum wage heroes' (BBC, 2020) are also among the most likely to be treated unfairly but least likely to have access to traditional collective union voice mechanisms. This does not, however, mean such workers have no voice. Many employers have devised their own organisational voice channels, though concerns have been raised about the extent to which these can challenge management authority or promote employee interests. Workers also have alternative means of expressing themselves, including informal dialogue with peers and managers, social media, as well as support from other interest and advocacy groups. However, little is known about whether such channels are sufficient in empowering vulnerable frontline workers, promoting good jobs or promulgating fair work. Assessing this issue is the aim of the project.
Effective start/end date1/10/221/10/25


Explore the research topics touched on by this project. These labels are generated based on the underlying awards/grants. Together they form a unique fingerprint.