3.14. The UK Government
Engaging with the UK Government to enhance workers' rights.
What we have achieved
The Taylor Review of Modern Working Practices (2017) made a number of recommendations that it considered necessary to accommodate the reality of people's working relationships within the modern economy, particularly with the emergence of new technology, the development of new business models and different forms of 'gig economy' working. The UK Government's response, the Good Work Plan (December 2018), accepted most of the Taylor Review recommendations.
While we welcomed the UK Government's agreement that the employment framework should be improved, we believe the Good Work Plan does not go far enough to address the inequality those in precarious work experience. We have had regular constructive dialogue with the UK Government and have responded to a number of consultations, including the proposal to create a Single Enforcement Body; measures to address one-sided flexibility; proposals to support working parents and on parental leave and pay. Most recently, we have encouraged the UK Government to incorporate Fair Work practices into the procurement strategies of Contracts for Difference; the main mechanism for supporting low-carbon electricity generation.
Throughout the Covid-19 emergency, Scottish Ministers have emphasised the importance of Fair Work and pressed the UK Government on a number of issues, including to ensure its Job Retention Scheme is available for as long as needed. We have shared our concerns about those workers who cannot benefit from the scheme and impressed on the UK Government the need for a flexible scheme which does not impact disproportionately on new workers or unintentionally undermines labour market churn. We have asked the UK Government to review the cut-off date of 30 October for entry to the scheme to enable people who have taken up new jobs since then to access support. It is also important that similar arrangements are put in place for the self-employed and that the UK Government supports the supply chain affected by closures and Covid restrictions.
We have joined with the Welsh Government and the Northern Ireland Executive to urge the Chancellor to continue support for the Self-Employed Income Support Scheme as we progress to emerge from lockdown. Recognising the significant impact this pandemic is having on self-employed people, we have called on the Chancellor to review the groups excluded from the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme, and to review the entry criteria to open up support to those who have so far been excluded. The scheme remains poorly targeted, and offers no relief for people who have become self-employed more recently. We have also called upon the UK Government to review the entry criteria, as with the Job Retention Scheme, to open up this support to self-employed people who have so far been excluded. This could be done by broadening eligibility for the scheme while tying payments more closely to actual income loss.
The Cabinet Secretary for Social Security wrote to the UK Government raising concerns that Statutory Sick Pay is not sufficiently responsive to the impacts of Covid-19. Specifically, she asked the UK Government to take measures to make SSP more responsive; including extending SSP to all workers irrespective of earnings levels during the current situation; and increase the money paid under SSP to match the real Living Wage. Ministers have also been clear that day-one SSP entitlement and the Covid-19 rebate scheme must remain in place.
We have introduced a Self-isolation Support Grant to help those people who are advised to self-isolate to do so without experiencing financial hardship. In doing so, we engaged with HMRC and DWP to co-ordinate delivery through Scottish local authorities to facilitate the effective flow of information.
Also, in response to the actions within the Gender Pay Gap Action Plan, the Minister for Business, Fair Work and Skills wrote to the UK Government in April 2019 proposing changes be made to the relevant Equality legislation for strengthening the framework for tackling gender pay gap related issues. Further detail around this can be found in the Gender Pay Gap Action Plan Annual Report.
The Scottish Government also responded to the UK Government consultation on extending redundancy protection for pregnant women and new mothers and welcomed the response outlining commitment to introduce legislation to this effect.
Our future priorities
We expect the UK Government to publish its Employment Bill in 2021 and to include commitments from the Good Work Plan and others announced in the December 2019 Queen's Speech. We will continue to engage with the UK Government to confirm these commitments will be delivered and that the views of Scottish workers, employers and other stakeholders are heard and acted upon.
Moreover, we will continue to promote our Fair Work priorities with the UK Government, making clear, that the Scottish Government opposes regression on employment rights post-Brexit. Furthermore, we will continue to press for the devolution of full employment powers as the best way for the Scottish Government to drive up high labour market standards for workers and increase business productivity across Scotland.