We are on a journey to becoming a Fair Work nation and the next few years are critical in ensuring we make the progress needed to achieve our vision, and meet the changing needs of our economy and workplaces. The Fair Work Convention’s Fair Work in Scotland Report 2020 sets out that more needs to be done to provide flexible working, reduce zero hours contracts, improve skills utilisation and participation in the workplace. In addition, the labour market has changed since 2019 and will continue to change in light of the impacts from the COVID-19 pandemic, EU exit, the ongoing climate crisis, demographic change and the impact of technological change, such as increased automation. As well as our Fair Work approach being central to our Covid Recovery Strategy and the ten year National Strategy for Economic Transformation, we will continue to focus on:
Public sector leadership
The Scottish Government will continue to provide leadership on this agenda, as an employer, and through our policies. We will continue to work with the public sector to drive Fair Work First adoption and promotion. We will work in partnership with employers, unions, local authorities and other stakeholders to ensure that by 2025 Fair Work conditions are applied to the scoring criteria for all public sector funding, where it is proportionate and relevant to do so under current legislation. We believe that the stimulus and public sector funding government provides should lever in wider benefits, such as the promotion of Fair Work and the just transition to a net-zero economy, in order to support the development of a sustainable economic recovery and a successful wellbeing economy over the long term. By using all the levers available to us, including conditionality and targeted funding, we will promote effective voice mechanisms including union membership, promote the increase of the number of people paid at least the real Living Wage and receiving secure contracts, work to eliminate pay and employment gaps, increase job retention, job satisfaction and productivity, and increase the number of businesses demonstrating responsible and ethical business practices.
Beyond this, Fair Work will be woven right through the National Strategy for Economic Transformation, such is the importance of Fair Work practices to our economic recovery and renewal. Actions taken to progress Fair Work will also complement the policy development for the new Human Rights Bill, to be introduced in this Parliamentary session. The Bill will incorporate into domestic law, as far as possible within devolved competence, the United Nations International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, alongside three international human rights treaties for the empowerment of women, disabled people and minority ethnic people. We will also seek to maintain alignment where possible with EU legislation, policy, and standards, through primary and secondary legislation and through the powers granted under the UK Withdrawal from the European Union (Continuity)(Scotland) Act 2021. This approach will aim to ensure that Scotland is able to continue to enjoy and advance the high standards of regulation that we enjoyed as a part of the EU (in compliance with existing law), and ensure ease of market access and ease the process of Scotland re-joining the EU in the future.
We will continue to support key sectors of the economy where progress should be made to improve fair working practices, including those identified by the Fair Work Convention, and we will continue to promote Fair Work in other areas where focused improvement is needed.
The Scottish Government believes that the single most important driver of quality of a child’s early learning and childcare (ELC) experience is a high quality workforce. Promotion of fair work practices are a key way of supporting this, and all providers delivering ELC must demonstrate a commitment to adopting and demonstrating fair work practices in their setting. To support this commitment to Fair Work all private and third sector providers delivering funded ELC receive a sustainable rate of funding, to enable payment of at least the real Living Wage to all childcare workers delivering the funded entitlement.
We will continue to work with the social care sector to drive fair work practice in line with the recommendations from the Independent Review of Adult Social Care and the Fair Work Convention’s report on Fair Work in Scotland’s Social Care Sector. Improving Fair Work practice within the Adult Social Care sector is fundamental to long term improvements not just for those who work within social care, but also for those who they support. Acting on the recommendations from both reports, we will create a National Care Service to oversee the delivery of care, improve standards, ensure enhanced pay and better conditions for workers, and provide better support for unpaid carers.
In construction, the Scottish Futures Trust and Construction Scotland are leading work to develop a Construction Accord in line with Scottish Government priorities. The concept of a Construction Accord was a recommendation of the Infrastructure Commission for Scotland in its Phase 2 report. The Accord, due to be published Autumn 2021, will comprise of a shared vision for the industry as a vibrant part of the Scottish economy, including a strong commitment to fair work practices that will help create more diverse and inclusive workplaces, where workers have greater security of pay and contract, can develop their skills and have an effective voice in the workplace.
More could of course be achieved if employment law powers were devolved to the Scottish Parliament. These powers would enable the Scottish Government to enhance workers’ rights and help shift the curve on poverty and deliver a fairer, greener and more prosperous Scotland. As a minimum, we could ensure all workers in Scotland receive at least the real Living Wage – a wage that represents the true cost of living. We could outlaw fire and rehire tactics, prohibiting employers from dismissing employees and re-employing them on diminished terms and conditions; and we could ban the inappropriate use of zero hour contracts, giving people certainty about their working hours and pay. However, these levers are currently unavailable to the Scottish Government as the UK Government retains reserved powers in respect of employment law generally.