An ERSA blog by Professor David Etherington, Associate Professor Jo Ingold FRSA FIEP and Professor Martin Jones

With fears of very high unemployment in the UK following the Covid-19 pandemic, there are calls for a back-to-work strategy involving a Job Guarantee for young people and the long-term unemployed. Job Rotation (JR) can play a crucial role in such a strategy, linking a range of tried and tested employability support (including pre-employment training and coaching), lifelong learning and in-work support. Evaluations show a high rate of job retention – around 75% of unemployed JR participants gain permanent jobs.

With the phasing out of the Job Retention Scheme, this is a particularly opportune time to be thinking about Job Rotation. Is it an idea whose time has come?

What is Job Rotation?

Job Rotation (JR) was originally developed in Denmark and the Nordic countries and was mainstreamed throughout the EU in the 1990s and early 2000s. Job Rotation (JR) is a form of job matching and a short-term job guarantee - it prepares people for the labour market by guaranteeing placements for unemployed individuals and also guarantees employment and skills training for employees in the partner employer organisation. An essential ingredient of the JR model is the role of social dialogue and the bringing together of relevant labour market partners, including trade unions and worker representatives.

There is a resurgence of JR initiatives in Denmark promoted by the trade unions and Danish local government association (KL). There have also been small-scale initiatives in the UK.

How does JR work?

The JR process is based on a seamless rotation model comprised of:

Identifying the training needs of low-skilled workers in a participating organisation. Unemployed ‘substitutes’ can free up workers for training without the organisation 

  • losing production/service delivery. In this way JR dovetails with the existing Unionlearn model.
  • Unemployed individuals are targeted to apply for JR jobs.  Unemployment benefits are topped up so they work for the agreed rate for the job, usually at the Living Wage.
  • Unemployed individuals receive pre-employment and in-work mentoring (this could be performed by Work Coaches in Jobcentres or provider caseworkers), as well as access to vocational courses.
  • Workers in participant organisations can access apprenticeships and Apprenticeship Levy and Unionlearn funding can be packaged for training.

How could it be funded?

There is no hard and fast prescribed model but it generally involves:

  • Budget for a wage subsidy (benefit with top-up to make up to the Living Wage for unemployed substitutes) which can involve some matching fund by employers
  • Budget for pre-employment mentoring and training
  • Budget for in-work training for unemployed substitutes
  • Budget for vocational training for existing employees

This could involve packaging funds from a range of sources (e.g. employment programmes, Universal Credit, the Apprenticeship Levy and Unionlearn funds, (LEP-matched funds).

What are the benefits of Job Rotation?

  • JR meets three separate but inter-related needs of local economies: tackling unemployment, encouraging business development through staff training and learning and the promotion of Lifelong Learning.
  • JR helps disadvantaged labour market groups by providing a period of paid work placement, along with the opportunity to improve their vocational skills and qualifications.
  • Employers reap the benefits of enhanced training for existing employees, and the enhanced capabilities of future employees, improving their retention, reducing turnover and saving costs to their business.

We know that it’s difficult to engage employers/businesses in programmes, largely due to the number and complexity of programmes. The JR model is effective and efficient in reaching its target groups and reduces the potential for programme duplication and employers being approached by multiple providers. 

A number of smaller businesses could be connected to secure volume in the JR activity, allowing the development of bespoke courses for employees from the different companies. This is already a tried and tested approach in the employability sector that improves employer engagement. For example, in Health and Social Care, JR could provide career routes for low-skilled workers without loss of staffing cover for essential services.

There is scope for Combined Authorities and City Regions to pilot and test this model in local and regional labour markets in the UK, with potential for scalability. JR provides opportunities for unemployed people and upskills existing employees. It can be applied in both public and private sectors and could be particularly useful for sectors or businesses who struggle to recruit and could be a solution to the UK’s long-lamented under-skilled labour market.

David, Jo and Martin will be giving an ERSA Webinar on Job Rotation on Tuesday 14th July 2020. Register here

David Etherington is Professor of Local and Regional and Economic Development, Staffordshire University

Jo Ingold is Associate Professor of Human Resource Management and Public Policy at Leeds University Business School, a member of ERSA, a Fellow of the IEP and a Fellow of the RSA.

Martin Jones is Professor of Human Geography and Deputy Vice-Chancellor at Staffordshire University

References

https://learningandwork.org.uk/news-and-policy/act-now-to-tackle-record-rise-in-unemployment-and-prevent-long-term-damage/

https://cdn.ymaws.com/www.myiep.uk/resource/resmgr/docs/employment_response_to_coron.pdf

https://www.tuc.org.uk/research-analysis/reports/new-plan-jobs-why-we-need-new-jobs-guarantee

Kruhøffer J (2007) Job Rotation in Europe as the Feasibility environment for the Jobrotation e-Service, Berlin AOF
https://www.eurofound.europa.eu/observatories/emcc/erm/support-instrument/ob-rotation

Etherington D (2008) A strategy for an inclusive labour market, Feasibility Study for a Job Rotation Pilot for Incapacity Benefit Claimants in Ealing, Report to Ealing Primary Care NHS Mental Health Trust, London, Middlesex University

https://business.leeds.ac.uk/downloads/download/91/ceric_-_employer_engagement_in_active_labour_market_programmes_in_the_uk_and_denmark_final_report

https://cdn.ymaws.com/www.myiep.uk/resource/resmgr/docs/iep_journal_issue_1_-_june_2.pdf