Barriers to pay progression

The Chartered Institute for Personnel Development (CIPD) used Understanding Society to investigate the circumstances of the lowest paid.


The CIPD commissioned this research to inform their public policy work and increase the evidence base on progression from low-paid work. The CIPD have cited the findings from this research in their engagement with policymakers and other key stakeholders. The findings from the report attracted significant media coverage, including an article in the Financial Times and in the management trade press.

The CIPD is the professional body for human resource and people development experts in the UK and across the world. It has 140,000 members and has a key function in providing insights and resources through its knowledge hub. Crucially, the research also demonstrates how professional organisations can use Understanding Society to encourage informed practice amongst its members – in this case to tackle one of the most pertinent issues facing the UK economy.

Findings from the research

Being stuck in low-paid work was associated with being relatively older, being female or having health conditions or disabilities that limited work. Location also mattered; people living in London had the greatest chance of escaping low pay compared to all other regions of the UK.

Escaping low-pay was associated with gaining qualifications -each qualification gained compared to having no qualifications increased the chance of escaping. In relation to the work environment, each year of having promotion opportunities, each year of receiving annual increments and both moving to the public sector, and each year of working in the public sector, were all associated with leaving low-pay.

Further information

The research was commissioned by the CIPD, undertaken by Tooley Street Research and sponsored by the John Lewis Partnership. Further information on the research can be accessed via the CIPD.

This research uses a typology of outcomes for low-paid workers developed by the Resolution Foundation.

I hope by describing the barriers to progress, we can go some way to informing the creation of a more dynamic labour market in the UK.” Sir Charlie Mayfield, Chairman, John Lewis Partnership


Download the case study: Barriers to pay progression