The Fair Work Convention’s year in review and look ahead to 2022

When The Fair Work Convention was established in 2015, we had a vision that by 2025, people in Scotland will have a world-leading working life where fair work drives success, wellbeing and prosperity for individuals, businesses, organisations and society. But none of us ever foresaw a devastating worldwide health pandemic and the impact it would have on Scottish businesses, workers and job security. The pandemic has dominated our lives now for nearly two years and we have all had to adapt to a “new normal,” although what that looks like is different for every person and worker across Scotland.

As we strive to recover from the pandemic, the need to focus on fair work has never been greater. Fair work is essential to ensuring that we build back better and deal with the structural inequalities that persist in our workplaces and labour market. Although there is still much to do to achieve our vision by 2025, this last year (2021) has seen encouraging progress towards this goal.

At the beginning of 2021 we welcomed the publication of the Independent Review of Adult Social Care report which incorporated in full the recommendations from the Fair Work Convention’s inquiry into social care published in 2019. Further progress on this saw wider investment in fair work for adult social care staff in this year’s Scottish Government’s Budget 2022-23.

In February, the Scottish Government launched its ‘Fair Work First Guidance’ and Scottish Enterprise’s ‘Fair Work Employer Support Tool’ and we welcomed these two new Fair Work Resources. The Convention views the publication of the Fair Work First guidance as a crucial step in making fair work practices a reality and we continue to monitor the ongoing impact of the Government’s Fair Work First approach. The Fair Work Employer Support Tool, together with our Fair Work Self-Assessment tool are also very useful resources in helping both employers and employees assess where they are on their fair work journey and make practical changes which embed fair work in their workplace.

It has never been clearer that tackling big problems requires working together at the workplace and across sectors. Last year we hosted two on-line events that tried to support conversations and stimulate debate, bringing unions, employers and other voices together to exchange ideas. In March ‘A Fair Work Recovery’ event welcomed fascinating insight from our guest speakers and debate from our expert panel on how we embed fair work into our national recovery and reflected on international experience and approaches that could help us embed improved fair work outcomes in Scotland. Similarly our recent ‘Rising to the Challenge: a Just Transition and Fair Work’ webinar was an opportunity to reflect on the 26th UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) and to explore and discuss the action Scotland must now take to create a net zero carbon economy by 2045 that has fair work at its heart.

The Fair Work Convention made important connections with key stakeholders throughout 2021 by become a partner with The Global Deal and joining with CIPD Scotland in a Strategic Partnership. The Global Deal is a platform that highlights the value of social dialogue and strengthens co-operation and learning around the world and one that we can contribute to, and learn from. We also hope that our strategic partnership with CIPD Scotland will be the first of many partnerships that will further help to ensure fair work drives success, wellbeing and prosperity for individuals, businesses, organisations and society across Scotland.

2021 was an election year for the Scottish Parliament and we took the opportunity to appeal to all political parties to put fair work at the heart of their manifestos and proposed some urgent steps needed to make fair work a reality by the end of the next Parliament.

The pandemic is undoubtedly still an area of great concern for Scottish workers’ rights and for job security. Throughout this past year the Convention has spoken out against the practice of ‘Fire and Rehire’ and spoken up for the Right to Disconnect. We have also explored the impact of Covid on workers across the economy in our survey which revealed a mixed picture on fairness at work, access to sick-pay and support for carers during the pandemic.

Collaboration has been a constant theme within our work throughout the year and so we were delighted to welcome five new members to the Convention. Our new members come from a variety of backgrounds across the public, private, voluntary sectors and Scotland’s trade unions, bringing with them an unparalleled collective understanding of Scotland’s workplaces, labour market and a commitment to fair work and high quality, innovative work practice.

Perhaps the most significant progress seen in Scotland towards fair work principles was the introduction of Scottish Government’s requirement to pay the Real Living Wage to public contracts. While the Living Wage Foundation’s increase of the Real Living Wage to £9:90 means that the thousands of workers in Scotland already working at Living Wage Accredited workplaces will see their pay rise.

Looking forward as we enter 2022, the Fair Work Convention will publish its final report and recommendations from our Construction Industry Inquiry Group, a sector that has been significantly affected by the pandemic and which will play a vital role in the just transition to a net zero carbon economy. The Convention plan to launch a new inquiry into Fair Work in the Hospitality Industry later this year as well as publishing recommendations following a commissioned piece of research exploring the pay and career experiences of women aged over 50. We will also continue to be in close collaboration with the Just Transition Commission as we each pursue our closely entwined agendas.

The Fair Work Convention is firmly of the view that properly embedding fair work principles will continue to help Scotland respond to the challenges caused by the current pandemic as well as other issues around aging, climate change, automation, EU Exit and changes in patterns of global trade. Our appeal is now to keep building on progress that has been made and make greater efforts throughout 2022 to ensure security, opportunity, respect, fulfilment and effective voice become a reality for every worker in Scotland.  This is the time to commit further to fair work.