1. Ministerial Foreword
Jamie Hepburn MSP, Minister for Business, Fair Work and Skills
In February 2019, I launched our Fair Work Action Plan. Since then, we have made good progress on a number of fronts. In the past year we have found ourselves in the most unprecedented of circumstances which has forced us to deal with and consider workplace issues on a scale that none of us had prepared for. The Covid-19 pandemic has affected all of our daily lives, including our workplaces, and the challenges faced by workers, employers and businesses cannot be overstated. Our early progress on Fair Work enabled the Scottish Government and our partners to respond more quickly and effectively to the impacts of Covid-19, and I am thankful to our partners and those employers who have already taken up the Fair Work mantle.
The pandemic response has highlighted the importance of our continued partnership working across government and with stakeholders. Our strong relationship with the Fair Work Convention and the STUC, and our shared commitment to Fair Work principles were evident in the Covid-19 Statement of Fair Work Practices which we issued jointly with key partners from the public, private and third sectors and the STUC. Central to our Fair Work approach is the expectation that employers, trades unions and workers should work together to ensure workers are treated fairly and that concerns from workers are taken seriously. In the absence of employment powers, we will continue to reward and encourage those committed to Fair Work, using all levers available to us.
In the many conversations I've had with businesses throughout the pandemic, I have been struck by the strong support for Fair Work and calls for the Scottish Government to hold steadfastly to our strong Fair Work values. I do not believe there has been such a level of understanding that employers need to be close and responsive to their workforce if they are to have a good chance of surviving in these very difficult times. I am also confident, therefore, that those employers who are adopting Fair Work practices will be well placed to step up their business when the time is right. Indeed, our Homeworking Guidance and Safer Workplaces sectoral guidance have supported workers and business alike: protecting individuals and livelihoods and enabling business to operate safely.
The health and wellbeing of individuals, communities and the economy remains our absolute priority, and despite the challenges and uncertainties we face now and in the future, one thing remains certain: Fair Work is more important than ever, and the Scottish Government remains committed to ensuring this priority agenda remains at the heart of our economic recovery. The Advisory Group for Economic Recovery endorse this view, signalling a strong message that we need to make quick progress in embedding Fair Work across the economy.
Our Action Plan laid strong foundations for implementing our Fair Work approach, setting out the key levers we have committed to use in order to set a clear example both as an employer and through our substantial investment in the services provided for the people of Scotland and our support for business. In addition, we have committed to focusing our efforts on areas of significance such as social care and construction sectors, which the Fair Work Convention have also highlighted for focused attention. In addition, over the past two years we have continued to build our relationships with business and third sector partners, employers, trade unions and local government to garner the great support I was confident was already out there for this ambitious agenda.
I have always been clear the Scottish Government and public bodies must lead the way on Fair Work. Since the publication of the Action Plan, the Enterprise and Skills Agencies have been in the vanguard in adopting our flagship Fair Work First approach, and we are now extending this across Scotland's public bodies. All public bodies have been encouraged to adopt Fair Work agreements with their trade unions, in the same way the Scottish Government and the bodies within the civil service sector did in November 2018.
We have set our sights and are aiming high for Scotland to be a leading Fair Work Nation by 2025. This vision was always ambitious; it is ever more testing given the very real challenges employers and workers are continuing to manage from the pandemic. The Fair Work Convention's Fair Work in Scotland Report, published in December, acknowledges the progress we have made but makes clear that if we are to meet our shared 2025 vision we must escalate and focus our collective effort on a pathway that will have the greatest impact.
We have made good progress within a relatively short period and in the face of significant uncertainty due to Brexit and Covid-19. Be assured, the Scottish Government is resolute in our commitment to making Fair Work the norm for workers across Scotland and to achieve more inclusive and sustainable growth. In doing so, we must keep Fair Work at the forefront of our thinking across government and the economy, using Fair Work principles to enhance and protect the rights of workers and support economic recovery and renewal. We will also endeavour to improve diversity and inclusion in the workplace, giving particular attention to addressing the barriers women, minority ethnic and disabled people face in accessing and sustaining work.
I am pleased to have the endorsement of the Ministerial Working Group for Fair Work, Gender Pay Gap and Employment for Disabled People for this Report and their recognition of both the progress we have made so far and the job still to do. It is only with a truly cross-government approach and ongoing collaboration with our partners and stakeholders that we will be able to create the culture shift that will make Scotland a leading Fair Work Nation by 2025.
Jamie Hepburn MSP
Minister for Business, Fair Work and Skills