Fair Work Convention Co-Chairs Mary Alexander and Professor Patricia Findlay have written the foreword in CIPD Scotland’s Survey Report Working Lives Scotland 2022
The Working Lives Scotland report offers us significant and valuable insight into workers’ experiences of fair work across the economy. This year’s report gives us a useful sense of how work is normalising after the COVID-19 pandemic, and the degree to which new norms are truly taking root in the labour market or if it is a return to ‘business as usual’.
The report provides an interesting picture on the role of homeworking, with only 15% of workers now reporting that they work exclusively from home. The shift to hybrid working perhaps signals the beginning of a more settled work pattern, but future reports will confirm the true impact and longevity of this change. What continues to be clear is the uneven nature of access to homeworking or hybrid working practices, with 68% of those surveyed who earn less than £20,000 reporting no access to home or hybrid working compared with the 20% of those earning more than £40,000 without such access. While this difference at least partly relates to the nature and structure of work, the report findings once again emphasise the benefits that all workers could enjoy with better access to flexible working.
Last year’s report offered an important sense of the value of fair work, with employers who had successfully embedded fair work practices coping better with the demands of the pandemic. This year’s report builds on that, with findings that voice mechanisms are increasing in smaller businesses, a positive legacy from the improved communication that the pandemic required in workplaces. As effective voice mechanisms are crucial to embedding the other dimensions of fair work, this perhaps signals a positive direction of travel for small businesses and one that we would hope to see built upon in future years.
We remain concerned, however, that just short of one fifth of those responding report no access to any voice mechanisms. Employers who offer no options for employee voice are missing out on the feedback, suggestions and engagement of their staff.
The report also suggests that there is a long way to go to fully embed fair work across the economy. Many indicators have returned to pre-pandemic levels and systematic differences in access to fair work remain. One stark example of this is the findings for key workers, who continue to experience poorer access to fair work across the board. With the applause now long silent, the toll of the pandemic on key services becoming ever more apparent, and a cost-of-living crisis on the horizon, a focus on improving job quality for key workers is long overdue.
Mary Alexander and Professor Patricia Findlay
Co-Chairs of The Fair Work Convention