CDW: Centre for Decent Work

The research conducted by the Centre for Decent Work (CDW) focuses on contemporary developments in labour markets and the workplace. Much of the research undertaken by CDW takes a political economy perspective, examining how work and employment are affected by the interplay of changes in the social and economic policies of governments, national and international regulations and institutions, the strategies adopted by employers and trade unions, and shifts in the international division of labour.

Our Research

Our research addresses four core themes:

1. Employment and Productivity
Work under this theme examines: (i) the changing structure of labour markets and the growth in ‘atypical’ forms of employment, including underemployment, bogus self-employment and ‘gig work’; (ii) the consequences of atypical employment for the wellbeing of workers and their labour market prospects; (iii) the labour market and occupational mobility of disadvantaged workers, including the extent to which they cycle between employment, underemployment and unemployment and the factors that influence the ability of disadvantaged groups to progress from ‘bad’ to ‘better’ jobs; (iv) factors affecting the quality of jobs; (v) the complex linkages between employment, work organisation and productivity; (vi) and work in the informal economy.

2. Equality, Inclusion and Voice
Work within this theme focuses on: (i) understanding disability, gender and employment in advanced and emerging economies; (ii) challenging discriminatory structures, processes and practices and improving the quality and sustainability of work for marginalised workers ; (iii) promoting agency and voice for marginalised workers; and (iv) building ‘inclusive’ organisations.

3. Labour in the Global Economy
This research theme explores the position of labour in the global economy through the analysis of four dimensions of work and employment research. (i) The ‘Labour of Movement’ focuses upon employment relations and the labour process of workers in global logistics, warehousing and parcel delivery. This work addresses the political economy of the connected spheres of production, circulation and consumption. It also explores the impact of technology on workers in the logistics sector. (ii) Supply chain accounting and employment practices in the automotive and textile industries in South Africa and Brazil. This interdisciplinary ESRC-funded project engages with institutional theory and debates around global value chains, in addition to addressing concerns around vulnerable work. (iii) The politics of corporate social responsibility, workplace regulation and labour standards. (iv) Theorising Labour Regimes and the Labour Process: This dimension brings together social science researchers with different theoretical perspectives and approaches in order to explore these issues and develop a systematic programme of cutting-edge research and theory building.

4. Regulation and Governance of Work
Work in this theme explores: (i) the regulation of work and employment at the international, national, regional and local levels; (ii) the composition and behaviour of regulatory institutions; (iii) differing forms of workplace governance and the role of stakeholders; (iv) the challenges of regulating non-standard work and work in the informal economy; (v) variations in regulation and governance in the private, public and third sectors; and (vi) differing theoretical approaches to regulation and the intersection with broader processes of political economy.

In addition to advancing knowledge in these and other areas, CDW is committed to communicating our work to policymaking and practitioner communities and engaging with them with the aim of making improvements in the world of work.

The research topics on which we focus include:

  • Atypical employment;
  • Dependent and bogus self-employment;
  • Disabled workers, their employment opportunities and workplace experiences;
  • Employment rights;
  • HRM in China;
  • Informal economy;
  • Labour Process Theory and Global Value Chains;
  • Low-paid work;
  • New methods of conflict resolution;
  • Pension reforms;
  • Public administration and labour policy (labour administration);
  • Social policy and flexicurity in the UK and the EU;
  • Underemployment;
  • Women’s employment and careers;
  • Work and employment in the logistics sector;
  • Work and employment in SMEs;
  • Workplace support for working carers;
  • Young workers and their labour market transitions.

Our Projects

CDW projects

Members of CDW are leading and collaborate on a variety of projects, many of which are funded by research councils, charitable foundations, and government departments. We use our knowledge and research expertise to conduct research that informs academic debates and addresses real-world problems through applied scholarship and stakeholder engagement. To do this we use a broad range of approaches and research methods.

Social Dialogue in the Transforming Economy

SODITREC (Social Dialogue in the Transforming Economy)

SODITREC (Social Dialogue in the Transforming Economy) is funded by the European Commission (DG Employment) and seeks to develop knowledge and expertise about social dialogue and workers’ participation in Europe. The project work is led by Dragos Adascalitei. Based on a multistakeholder approach, SODITREC will update existing knowledge about the determinants of sustainable and inclusive social dialogue in European companies.

Managerial Competences

Managerial Competences, Engagement and Productivity - Developing Positive Relationships

Led by Paul Latreille from CDW, with R. Saundry (Plymouth University), P. Urwin (Westminster University) and G. Dix (Acas). This ESRC-funded project will evaluate the impact of training interventions designed to equip line managers with conflict competence and other skills needed to foster positive relationships with those they manage.

Combining Work and Care

Combining Work and Care: Workplace Support and its Contribution to Sustainable Care Arrangements

This project (led by Jason Heyes, CDW and Janet Fast, University of Alberta) contributes to Sustainable Care: Connecting People and Systems, a major ESRC-funded research programme led by the CIRCLE. The project will generate insights into sustainable care and wellbeing by comparing developments in the UK and other countries and working with Employers for Carers and Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development and international academic partners. The project contributes to knowledge on paid care leave and voluntary workplace arrangements as sources of sustainability and wellbeing in care relations.

The Impact of the National Living Wage on Businesses

The Impact of the National Living Wage on Businesses

Funded by the Low Pay Commission, this project aims to generate information about the ways in which UK employers have responded to the introduction of the National Living Wage (NLW) and changes in its level. The research examines the consequences of the NLW for employers and for the decency of work by focusing on the hospitality and retail sectors. The research explores the extent to which the NLW has impacted on businesses in the two sectors, the ways in which employers have responded to the introduction of the NLW and changes in its level, and the consequences for establishments’ performance and employees’ pay and conditions.

productivity insights network

The Productivity Insights Network (PIN)

PIN was established in January 2018 and is funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC). As a multi-disciplinary network of social science researchers engaged with public, private, and third sector partners, the aim is to change the tone of the productivity debate in theory and practice. It is led by the University of Sheffield, with co-investigators at the Cambridge Econometrics, Cardiff University, Durham University, University of Sunderland, SQW, University of Cambridge, University of Essex, University of Glasgow, and the University of Leeds. Kirsty Newsome is a Co-investigator to the project and leads the ‘Work and Employment’ theme. The three-year programme of work to December 2020 aims to provide new insights on the productivity puzzle in the UK. The PIN network is committed to growing the Productivity Insights Network through the participation of academic, public, private, and third sector partners who bring new insights to the productivity debate.

The Growth of Non-Standard Work and Productivity Outcomes

The Growth of Non-Standard Work and Productivity Outcomes

This project is funded by a Pioneer Award from the ESRC Productivity Insights Network. Kirsty Newsome and Ed Yates are co-investigators on this research project, which is led by colleagues at the University of Leicester. The research explores the productivity puzzle in the context of fast-rising employment levels since 2012 and the significant growth of non-standard, insecure work in the UK. It aims to uncover the workplace practices and labour market conditions that may be inhibiting the return to a higher productivity trajectory. The project will illuminate the relationship between the growth of non-standard contracts – zero hours, temporary and `bogus’ self-employment – and workplace practices that may be inimical to productivity gains.

Tackling the undeclared economy in the West Balkans

Tackling the undeclared economy in the West Balkans

Professor Colin Williams has been appointed to advise six countries in the West Balkans on their strategies for tackling undeclared work, to aid their accession to the European Union from 2025 (Albania, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Kosovo, North Macedonia, Montenegro, and Serbia). Working with the Regional Cooperation Council and ILO, the objective is to align the strategies towards tackling informal employment in these six countries with the approaches being adopted in the European Union’s European Platform Tackling Undeclared Work. This will facilitate their smooth accession to the EU.

Service contract to the European Platform Tackling Undeclared Work

Service contract to the European Platform Tackling Undeclared Work, 2016 -2020

A consortium led by the University of Sheffield, ICF (a private sector consultancy company) and Centre of Social Democracy (Bulgaria) has a €5.6 million contract to provide the expert advice to the European Commission’s European Platform Tackling Undeclared Work. The Platform is a permanent body within the European Labour Authority.

Out of the shadows: tackling undeclared work in the European Union

Out of the shadows: tackling undeclared work in the European Union, 2017-2019

This €200,000 project involves a Marie Skłodowska-Curie Fellow, Dr Ioana A Horodnic from Alexandru Ioan Cuza University of Iasi in Romania, working in SUMS for two years to evaluate the effectiveness of different policy approaches for tackling undeclared work.

Members of CDW are leading and collaborate on a variety of projects, many of which are funded by research councils, charitable foundations, and government departments. We use our knowledge and research expertise to conduct research that informs ongoing academic debates and addresses real-world problems through applied scholarship.

Other projects involving members of CDW include:

  • An examination of the local economic governance strategies of UK cities and how they impact local labour market outcomes. Edward Yates.
  • An exploration of the labour market conditions for young workers in the UK in the post-crisis austerity period. Edward Yates.
  • Trade Union Internationalism in Latin America: A Study of the International Dockworkers' Council. Katy Fox-Hodess.
  • Political Solidarity on the Docks: A Cross-National Study of Dockworker Solidarity with Palestine. Katy Fox-Hodess.
  • An evaluation of Effective Conflict Resolution Skills training at an NHS Foundation Trust. Paul Latreille (with R. Saundry, Plymouth)
  • An exploration of disability and employment in the public sector in Australia and the UK. Paul Latreille, Pauline Dibben and Nik Bakalov.
  • How the one-child policy affects the work-life interface of universities academics in China. Huiping Xian.
  • An exploration of daughters’ identity as successors and leaders in Chinese family businesses. Huiping Xian.
  • The impact of technology on logistics workers: A comparative study. Kirsty Newsome and Chima Anyadike-Danes.

Recently completed research and consultancy projects involving CDW members include:

Impact, Engagement and Partnerships

Impact and engagement are vitally important activities. CDW engages with a wide range of organisations with the aim of ensuring that our research delivers benefits to workers, employers, policy bodies and practitioner organisations in the UK and elsewhere in the world. We have particularly strong links with Acas and the International Labour Organisation. We are also building an international network of academic collaborators, working with colleagues at the University of Copenhagen and Copenhagen Business School (Denmark), Griffith University (Australia) and Nelson Mandela University (South Africa).

We pursue them in a variety of ways:

Research and consultancy: CDW members have conducted research projects on behalf of a variety of policy and practitioner bodies, including the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (Acas), the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), the European Commission, the European Trade Union Institute (ETUI), the Low Pay Commission, the International Labour Organisation (ILO), the Trades Union Congress (TUC), Ministry of Justice/Department for Constitutional Affairs, BEIS/BIS/BERR/DTI, and the Welsh Assembly Government/National Assembly for Wales.

Advice and support: CDW members have acted as advisors or provided support to various bodies, including the International Dockworkers Council and the Civil Mediation Council Workplace & Employment Group.

Practitioner tools: CDW members have developed tools to assist businesses and governments in tackling problems. Examples include a training toolkit for labour inspectors, created on behalf of the ILO, and the SCA-Emp diagnostic toolkit for employers to evaluate their HR, accounting and supply chain management practices and those of their suppliers.

Media engagement: members of CDW have published in publications such as the Conversation, the European Financial Review and Financial Management. Their work has been cited in practitioner publications such as the UK Mediation Journal, Tribunals, and newspapers including the Independent, the Guardian and the Daily Telegraph. Research findings produced by the Centre have also been referred to in the UK and New Zealand Parliaments.

Academic engagement: CDW’s members publish regularly in highly-regarded journals. In addition, CDW organises regular academic seminars and events, including the 2017 International Labour Process Conference and a 2019 joint conference with the ILO on the Future of Work.

Our Members

Meet the experts that contribute research to CDW

Staff members of CDW
Dr Dragos Adascalitei
Professor Pauline Dibben
Dr Katy Fox-Hodess
Dr Jo Grady
Professor Jason Heyes
Professor Paul Latreille
Professor Kirsty Newsome
Professor Adrian Wilkinson TBC
Professor Colin Williams
Dr Huiping Xian
Dr Edward Yates
CDW Research Associates
Dr Chima Anyadike-Danes
Dr Gareth Crockett
Dr Stefanie Williamson
Visiting Researchers
Dr Ludek Rychly Visiting Professor of Employment Relations
CDW PhD students
Yousef Alanzi
Ali Aljaber
Camille Allard
Nik Bakalov
Yolanta Breese
Leah Derham-Boyce
Yingying He
Fanke Huang
Paula Kohn
Justin Kwinter
Drilon Lacji
Jan Lawler
Maria Marimpi
Hedham Al Mazruii
Joe Morris
Shweta Sharma
Grace Whitfield
Minesh Parekh

Contact CDW

If you would like to discuss a potential research/consultancy project or any other activity that CDW might be able to assist you with, please email

Professor Jason Heyes, the director of CDW at the following address:

If you would like to find out more about the activities of CDW, then please follow us on Twitter: @CDWSheffield

Study With Us

CDW members are interested in receiving applications from individuals who are interested in studying for a PhD.

Further details can be found here.

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