Christine Allen, Director of Progressio highlights how the basic principles of justice in the workplace remain as relevant today as they ever were

In our complex world it can sometimes be difficult to navigate a way through the pressures and strains of everyday life. Whether it be finding a job, facing debt, earning enough to make ends meet, and juggling the challenges of family life (what is called today “the work-life balance”), people today face a range of different challenges. For employers too, the pressures are not insignificant – keeping businesses running, recruiting and retaining the right people.

Today we face questions of justice, economics and organisation that go beyond even the thinking of the most contemporary management manual. And when put in a global context, the issues are polarised.  There are millions around the world who toil in horrific conditions to bring goods to the tables of the global rich or to prop up the luxurious lifestyles of the few.

Pope Leo XIII’s groundbreaking encyclical Rerum Novarum – Of New things (1891) laid out the rights of workers. It came at a time when the industrial revolution was dramatically changing the world of work. The core of the Pope’s  message was that the dignity of the human person needed to be respected in work, and that the Church had a duty to speak out when human dignity was affronted.

One of the central themes – that work should be a means to find fulfilment, not a form of slavery, is a point still relevant today, especially when we look at the nature of work across the world.


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