The way the private sector has dealt with the recession could help those in the public sector, as the planned £6bn spending cuts are announced today.
A survey commissioned by the CBI and recruitment experts Harvey Nash has highlighted the fact that employers believe that good communication and engagement with staff has been the key to making the workforce changes needed to safeguard jobs.
Now the private sector is emerging from recession, its experience of engaging employees to change working patterns and cut costs could help the public sector navigate imminent spending cuts.
The survey of UK employers, which together employ almost 3 million people, reveals that nine out of 10 employers (91%) communicated the impact of the recession on their business to staff. As a result, 87% of businesses believe staff understood the need to change working patterns, and more than half (56%) said staff showed a flexible attitude to change.
As the economy recovers, the survey also shows that employers have been able to phase out some of the more drastic measures introduced during the recession and are hiring again. A year ago nearly two-thirds of companies had a recruitment freeze in place. This fell to 37% six months ago and now stands at just 5%.
But economic conditions remain challenging, and as Whitehall is expected to go through its own pay and jobs freeze, consequently most businesses are still adopting a cautious approach to pay. In the private sector, 16% are still operating a pay freeze, while just 3% are planning to make an above-inflation pay award.
John Cridland, CBI deputy director general, said: "Employers have come out the other side of the recession, having managed to keep many more people in jobs than had been expected. This has been largely down to the flexibility and goodwill of staff who quickly adapted to emergency measures, including pay and recruitment freezes. Good communication played a key role in helping employees understand the changes needed to safeguard jobs.
"Although there are some signs that job prospects are improving, a good number of businesses are still operating a pay freeze. Those that can afford it are planning modest or targeted pay rises. By contrast, earnings growth in the public sector is outstripping the private sector."