The Partnership At Work Fund (Closed)

The Partnership at Work Fund was a Government grant scheme established by the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) created in 1999 to encourage the development of industrial relations by encouraging employers and employees to work together effectively.

The Partnership at Work Fund formed an essential part of the Government’s non-legislative approach to maximise potential in the workplace.

What is Partnership at Work?

Partnership at work refers to the relationship between employers, employees and their representatives. It is about developing better employment relationships at all levels, helping to build trust in the workplace, sharing of information and working together to solve business problems. Where Partnership is successful, employers and employees recognise the importance of their relationship and positively work towards developing this further for mutual reward. 

All of the most successful businesses engage in ongoing dialogue with their employees, and have processes in place to enable this. This means that employees know their duties, roles and responsibilities, obligations and rights. Involving employees helps them to feel their contribution is valued and encourages them to challenge and improve business policies.

What was the Partnership at Work Fund?

The Partnership Fund was not intended to replicate other schemes (eg the Trade Union Education and Training grants (TUET) or the Work Life Balance Challenge Fund).The Partnership Fund was also not intended to provide consultant advice but to provide financial assistance to help employers and employees chart their own route to partnership in the workplace. The Partnership Fund has therefore aimed to complement other schemes and so offer businesses and organisations a variety of sources to turn to for support and advice.

The Fund was a grant award scheme designed to improve employer-employee relationships, workplace productivity and job satisfaction. Projects for support under the Fund were invited on a competitive basis during fixed rounds. Organisations could be looking at partnerships for the first time or building on existing efforts. An independent Assessment Panel assessed all applications to the Partnership Fund against the published criteria. The grant scheme offered up to 50% funding of eligible projects that are looking to adopt partnership approaches.


Partnership was declared by Tony Blair to be central to the Fairness at Work document later enshrined in the Employment Relations Act 1999 (Section 30) which established the Partnership Fund. The fund was allocated an original budget of £5m in 1999. This was fully committed at the end of the fourth round. In December 2001 the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry announced a further £20m of funding at the Manufacturing Summit, £9m of this was apportioned to the Partnership Fund.

Following the review of the scheme in 2004 as part of the Business Support review the Fund was - in it's then current format - closed.

Which Projects have been successful?

The Fund supported:

(a) Workplace Partnership projects within individual organisations.

(b) Dissemination of key messages about Partnership to a wider audience.

(c) Strategic Partnership projects by providing support to intermediaries. This provided the leverage to reach out beyond single company projects to address sectoral and regional issues.

The DTI has funded 249 workplace projects, over 20 strategic projects and committed over £12.5 million under the Fund up to 31st March 2004.