About the series
The Workplace Employment Relations Study (WERS) is the
longest-running survey series that NatCen is involved in. It was
first carried out as the Workplace Industrial Relations Survey
(WIRS) in 1980. Subsequent surveys were carried out in 1984, 1990,
1998, and 2004. The sixth survey is scheduled to take place in
You can read about the 2004 survey and how to access the findings here.
What the study covers
The survey looks at ways in which the management of employing
establishments communicates with their workforce.
Trade Unions have always been a key focus of the study, with other forms of representation growing in prominence over the study's 25-year span.
However, WERS has always covered a wide range of employment topics, including:
Potential policy impact
WERS has informed the decisions and development of numerous policies, both within government and among stakeholder organisations. WERS is equipped to do this because it has mapped employment relations in Britain over several decades. For example, the study has tracked the decline in the recognition of trade unions and in membership among employees. It has monitored the implementation by employers and employees of key aspects of government policy. WERS has sought to identify links between management practices and business performance.
The WERS design has continued to evolve since it first took place in 1980. the core component of WERS is the face-to-face interview with the most senior management respondent who is responsible for employment relations at the workplace. An interview is also conducted with the most senior union and non-union employee representative at the workplace, where present. In 2011 this interview will be conducted either face-to-face or by telephone. In 1998, a survey of employees was added to the study. up to 25 employees are randomly selected at each workplace and provided with a self-completion survey. In 2011, employee participants will also have the option to complete this survey on-line.
In 2004, the Financial Performance Questionnaire was added to the research agenda. This is a self-completion survey that is given to the management respondent to fill in after the main interview has taken place.
Workplaces with 25 or more employees were included in the first WERS. The inclusion of workplaces in the study has gradually widened and workplaces with 5 or more employees were introduced into the study in 2004.
A follow-up 'panel' survey has also taken place alongside each WERS, in which establishments in the previous cross-section sample were re-visited to identify changes.