The retail industry is at the bottom of the UK’s progression league table. In general employees in retail are far less likely to escape low pay than those working in other sectors. And it is the same story for young people i n particular, who are much less likely to sustainably exit low paid work by their late 20s if they work in retail.
Now is the time to act. Retailers are starting to take talent strategy more seriously as labour shortages grow and Brexit threatens a big shift in migration policy. This presents a real opportunity for retailer businesses to concentrate more effort on progression. At firm-level, employers need to learn from the practice being developed by their peers to encourage progression, including flexible working initiatives, trial promotions, and better job design.
Collectively the retail sector must come together to work with government on an industrial strategy with good jobs at its heart. It must also respond to the development of the new apprenticeship regime to develop in-work qualifications and opportunities that lead to great careers in individual firms and across the sector.
Finally, the government must show leadership by setting a policy framework that is conducive to good jobs and progression. It must ensure that the social security and skill system encourages progression; improve the quality of insecure entry-level job s to give employers reason to invest in their people; and develop an industrial strategy ‘sector deal’that supports retailers to embrace innovations that lead to better work.
This briefing paper provides background on pay and progression in the UK, reports the findings of a new analysis of progression in retail, and reviews approaches that are being taken to improve progression rates at the firm, sector and economy-wide levels.