The 2011 Workplace Employment Relations Study

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About the 2011 WERS

The 2011 Workplace Employment Relations Study (WERS 2011) is the sixth in a series of surveys that aims to provide a nationally representative account of the state of employment relations and working life inside British workplaces.


The survey series is jointly sponsored by the Department for Business Innovation and Skills (BIS), the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (Acas), the UK Commission for Employment and Skills (UKCES) and the National Institute of Economic and Social Research (NIESR). Previous surveys were conducted in 1980, 1984, 1990, 1998 and 2004.


The purpose of each survey in the series has been to provide large-scale, systematic and dispassionate evidence about numerous aspects of employment relations across almost every sector of the economy in Britain . This evidence is collected with the following objectives in mind:


    • to provide a mapping of employment relations practices in workplaces across Great Britain,

      and to monitor changes in those practices over time;

    • to inform policy development, and to stimulate and inform debate and practice;

    • to provide a comprehensive and statistically reliable dataset on British workplace

      employment relations that is made publicly available for research.

Survey Design

At each workplace, an interview was conducted with the most senior manager responsible for employment relations and personnel issues. A self-completion questionnaire was distributed before the interview to collect information on the basic characteristics of the workforce, and a second questionnaire was given to all trading sector workplaces at the end of the interview to collect data on financial performance.


At workplaces with worker representatives, the manager was asked for consent to interview one trade union employee representative and one non-trade union representative. Also with the manager’s consent, self-completion questionnaires were distributed to a randomly selected representative sample of up to 25 employees.


The 2011 WERS collected data from a representative sample of 2,680 British workplaces. Within these workplaces, data were collected from:


    • 2,680 workplace managers responsible for employment relations and personnel

    • 1,002 worker representatives

    • 21,981 employees.


Some 989 of these 2,680 workplaces had previously been surveyed in the 2004 WERS. The 2011 survey therefore incorporates a substantial panel component, which enables researchers to examine the changes that took place at the workplace between 2004 and 2011.

Topics covered in the survey

The 2011 WERS covers key aspects of employment relations, including:


    • establishment and organisational characteristics

    • management of employment relations

    • recruitment and training

    • information, consultation and communication

    • employee representation

    • payment systems and pay determination

    • collective disputes and procedures

    • redundancies, grievance and discipline

    • equal opportunities

    • work-life balance and well-being

    • health and safety

    • flexibility and performance

    • business strategy and workplace change

    • employee engagement and job satisfaction

    • experience of the recession.

Key Dates

Fieldwork for the survey began in February 2011 and was completed in June 2012.


The First Findings from the 2011 WERS were published in January 2013.


The survey data from the 2011 WERS were made publicly available through the UK Data Service in February 2013.


Employment Relations in the Shadow of Recession - a comprehensive discussion of the findings from the 2011 WERS - was published by Palgrave in November 2013.


Further details on the outputs from WERS are provided in the Publications and Data sections of this website.

The Research Team for the 2011 WERS

The research team for the 2011 WERS was compiled from four of the sponsoring organisations and comprised seven researchers:


Dr Brigid Van Wanrooy (Acas) - Project Lead

Dr Helen Bewley (NIESR)

Dr Alex Bryson (NIESR)

John Forth (NIESR)

Dr Stephanie Freeth (BIS)

Lucy Stokes (NIESR)

Prof Stephen Wood (University of Leicester)


The research team was overseen by a Steering Committee, consisting of representatives from each of the sponsoring organisations and chaired by Bill Wells (BIS).


Fieldwork for the 2011 WERS was undertaken by the National Centre for Social Research (NatCen).


The involvement of researchers from NIESR was made possible with funding from the Nuffield Foundation (Grant Ref OPD/37358).


"The WERS sequence is a major and distinctive achievement

of British social science."


Prof Ed Heery, Cardiff University

(Work and Occupations, Nov 2014)