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Key points

  • 12.6% of all employees report their health as less than ‘good’ (fair or poor).

  • All employees in jobs where they experience an aspect of low quality (low job satisfaction, wellbeing, autonomy, security or pay) are more likely to report their health as fair or poor compared to employees who do not report that negative job aspect.

  • Employees with low job security or low job satisfaction are more than twice as likely to report poor health as the average employee.

This chart shows how different aspects of low-quality work affect employees’ health. Each individual’s experiences at work are assessed according to five aspects of job quality: job satisfaction, job wellbeing, job autonomy, job security and pay.

Low-quality work can be just as bad for health as unemployment. This can be due to workplace hazards and conditions, but also because of the stress and anxiety caused by a lack of control or autonomy, job insecurity, or insufficient income due to low pay. In every category, more people with a measure of low job quality report having worse health than people without one.

Low job security and low job satisfaction are particularly associated with ‘less than good’ health:

  • 3.8% of employees with low job security and 3.8% of employees with low job satisfaction report a poor health status, compared with an average of 1.6% across all employees.
  • 24.1% of employees with low job satisfaction report their general health to be fair or poor, compared with 14.5% of employees with low pay. 
  • The proportion of employees with low job security reporting a fair health status is 8.6 percentage points higher than the average across all employees.

The quality of work should not negatively affect people’s health, and minimum employment standards should make sure of this, through measures such as enforcement and regulation. Employers need to be made more aware of how work affects health, to improve their understanding and encourage better job design.

This indicator adapts measures used by Chandola and Zhang and is based on available data from the University of Essex Understanding Society survey. Aspects of low-quality work are measured as follows:

  • low job satisfaction – employees who report feeling somewhat, mostly or completely dissatisfied with their job 
  • low job autonomy – across five dimensions of job autonomy, an average score indicating little to no autonomy 
  • low job wellbeing – across six measures of emotional perceptions of jobs (whether it inspires feelings of tension, unease, worry, depression, gloom or misery), an average score indicating these feelings most or all the time
  • low job security – perception that job loss is either likely or very likely in the next 12 months 
  • low pay – earnings are below two-thirds of UK hourly median pay. The questions are asked of employees only aged 18-55 (self-employed people are excluded) and are specific to each job they hold.

Source: University of Essex, Understanding Society, The UK Household Longitudinal Study, 2022.

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