Fair work is work in which people are respected and treated respectfully, whatever their role and status. Respect involves recognising others as dignified human beings and recognising their standing and personal worth. At its most basic, respect involves ensuring the health, safety and well-being of others. Mutual respect is an important aspect of everyday social exchange and is a crucial element of relationships in the workplace where a significant proportion of life is spent. Crucially, mutual respect involves recognising the views, autonomy, status and contribution of others. Many discussions of respect and the related concept of dignity at work focus narrowly on issues relating to bullying and harassment. Respect as a dimension of fair work includes and goes beyond this to include dignified treatment, social support and the development of trusting relationships.
Individuals benefit by being treated respectfully. Treatment by others impacts significantly on self-esteem and well-being. Respectful treatment can underpin social support in the workplace. It can also support competence and promote trustworthy behaviour.
Organisations benefit from respectful treatment and relationships. Respect is important not only in avoiding the negative impacts (and potential liabilities) arising from some forms of disrespectful behaviour; more constructively, respect can improve standards of communication, social exchange and behaviour. Perceptions of fair and respectful treatment can support positive work performance. Crucially, respectful treatment underpins trust relationships. A failure to respect, on the other hand, can crowd out respectful behaviours.
Work is an important part of social life. Relations learned and reinforced in the workplace can spill over into other social spheres. More practically, respectful workplace relations may improve conflict resolution, reducing the need for public intervention to resolve and remedy disputes between employers and employees or workers.
Respect as a dimension of fair work can be supported in a wide variety of ways: through organisational policies and practices on dignity at work, adoption and genuine engagement with respect as a key organisational value, communication, training, managerial and supervisory approaches, approaches to conflict resolution and employee voice.