Greater commitment to progress is needed if Scotland is to achieve its ambition of being a Fair Work Nation by 2025

Scotland’s Fair Work Convention has urged a greater commitment by government, employers and trade unions to implementing and progressing fair work if Scotland is to achieve its ambition of being a Fair Work Nation by 2025.

The Fair Work Convention’s latest report ‘Fair Work in Scotland, published today (Tuesday 15 December), analyses official data for each of the dimensions of Fair Work – Security, Opportunity, Fulfilment, Respect and Effective Voice.

The Report reveals that that disabled workers, ethnic minorities, women and young workers often experience poorer work outcomes and are often more heavily concentrated in precarious and low paid work.  It also highlights the significant challenges across all of the dimensions of fair work which the COVID-19 crisis is presenting, reinforcing the need for decisive action.

Amongst other things, the Report found that in the five year period prior to the COVID-19 crisis:

  • there has been no improvement in access to flexible working;
  • there has been no improvement in the number of illnesses caused by work;
  • the use of zero hours contracts has increased;
  • effective use of skills in the workplace has decreased;
  • workers’ participation in workplace learning has decreased; and
  • trade union membership has decreased.

More positively, the Report found that:

  • the proportion of people earning less than the real living wage has decreased;
  • the overall measure of employment security has improved;
  • levels of participation in involuntary non-permanent work and involuntary part-time work have improved
  • the gender and ethnicity pay gaps have narrowed; and
  • collective bargaining coverage has increased.

In light of these findings, the Fair Work Convention makes several recommendations which it believes are necessary if Scotland is to achieve the collective vision of a Fair Work Nation by 2025. These recommendations include a demand for joint action by the Scottish Government, employers and unions:

  • focused on improving the experience of workers in sectors where fair work performance is poorest, including Agriculture, Forestry and Fishing; Construction; Retail; Hospitality and Care;
  • to improve the experience of fair work for disabled workers, ethnic minorities, women and young workers;
  • to make fair work a condition of all public funding available to employers as a means of improving and embedding higher standards of fair work policy and practice;
  • to improve workers’ access to training and the more effective use of their skills; and
  • to give more workers access to ‘voice’ arrangements at work, including union membership, with a particular focus on young workers and those participating in the Young Persons Guarantee.

The Convention also recommends that Scottish Government invest in improving the quality of workplace data, particularly as it relates to workers with protected characteristics.

Commenting on the Report Professor Patricia Findlay, Co-Chair of the Fair Work Convention, said:

“This Report shows that there is much to be done if Scotland is to meet its vision to be a Fair Work Nation by 2025.  While progress has been made in some areas, the extent of persistent inequality at the workplace is deeply concerning and is likely to worsen as a result of the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on those already experiencing the poorest fair work outcomes. The need for urgent action by government, employers and unions is critical to ensure that fair work is at the heart of our response to, and recovery from, the current crisis, and to deliver a Fair Work Nation that enhances the lives of our citizens while strengthening our economy and society.”

Grahame Smith, Co-Chair of the Fair Work Convention added:

“The Scottish Government, employers and unions must all play their part in addressing the longstanding challenges that our Report identifies. Their response to the current pandemic, particularly the development of guidance on workplace issues, should be the foundation for more concerted action in sectors such as hospitality, care and construction where the evidence reveals that workers’ experience of fair work is poorest.

“Now is the time to reaffirm our commitment to fair work and its crucial role in delivering the type of Scotland we want and need. 2025 is within the next Parliament. All political parties in Scotland should put a commitment to fair work at the heart of their manifestos for the nation’s economic recovery, for reducing inequality and for improving the wellbeing of Scotland’s workers, citizens and communities.”

Read the full ‘Fair Work in Scotland Report’ here