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The spine of this long-term research project on the British workplace consists of two representative surveys of British employees funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) and the UK Department of Trade and Industry (subsequently the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills).

Planning for the research began in 2006 and led to an ESRC award in the following year. The ESRC project included the British Workplace Behaviour Survey (BWBS), the largest representative study of workplace ill-treatment so far conducted anywhere in the world. The Principal Investigator on the ESRC project was Ralph Fevre; co-investigators were Amanda Robinson, Trevor Jones and Duncan Lewis (Plymouth University).

The research company TNS (subsequently TNS-BMRB) were responsible for fieldwork on the BWBS and in the following year Ralph Fevre was the lead academic in a successful bid with TNS-BMRB to undertake the UK Government’s second Fair Treatment at Work Survey (FTWS) for the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills. Theo Nichols (Emeritus Professor at Cardiff) was a co-investigator. Although it was intended to gather information on a wider variety of topics, this very well-resourced survey also allowed the repetition of some questions asked in the BWBS, using a random rather than quota sample.

Four qualitative case studies (funded as part of the ESRC project) complete the dataset. These were effectively four separate research programmes undertaken in well-known British companies. The case studies helped us to pin-point the major causes of the ill-treatment of employees and the actions that organisations could take to bring about better treatment. For instance, the research established that conventional solutions to problems of ill-treatment, as codified in dignity at work policies for example, were either ineffective or made things worse. The remedies we identified centre on the need for organisations to deliver on promises of an individualised approach to relations between employers and employees. The active commitment of senior leaders is critical to this process.