Fair Work action plan: becoming a leading Fair Work nation by 2025

A refreshed action plan setting out actions to promote fair and inclusive workplaces across Scotland. This incorporates actions on tackling the gender pay gap, the disability employment gap, and our anti-racist employment strategy, driving fair work practices for all.

5. Our ask of employers and support available

The actions in this chapter set out the Scottish Government’s ask of employers across the economy and highlight the support available to help everyone to play their part in making Scotland a leading Fair Work Nation. The actions rely on collaboration with stakeholders including trade unions, business, and the public and third sectors.

Fair Work is an investment in everyone, for everyone. We are committed to ensuring that employers and workers alike are supported in their efforts to provide and access fair work. For employers, this means having the necessary support, resources and mechanisms in place to promote and embed fair work practices through workplace policies and procedures, and remove barriers for each and every worker at all stages of their employment journey. By bringing equality into sharper focus, it will support employers who are looking to engage and take action on this agenda.

In ‘Can Good Work Solve the Productivity Puzzle’ – a report published by Carnegie UK and the RSA (2020) indicates that higher-quality work, like higher pay, can serve as a spur to greater work satisfaction and motivation, thus leading to higher levels of workplace productivity. Also that more productive, higher-performing firms are more likely to invest in enhanced worker security, opportunity, training and engagement.

And, in a meta-analysis of over 339 independent research studies, a report by the London School of Economics Centre for Economic Performance on employee wellbeing, productivity and business performance, found a significant, strong positive correlation between employees’ satisfaction with their company, wellbeing at work and employee productivity.

We know that many employers in Scotland are already adopting fair work practices, and becoming a leading Fair Work Nation is impossible without support and effort from every employer. In response to our 2021 Fair Work Nation consultation, many employers provided examples of how they or their sector deliver Fair Work, and the positive impact this has on them and their workforce. Employers are keen to take up the mantle of Fair Work, and we have cause for optimism on progress so far.

Case study:

ACS Clothing Solutions – the UK’s leading circular fashion hub

ACS has developed a socially accountable dimension to its business that transforms local social challenges to business opportunities: “We have multiple examples of fair work practices and have many accreditations including paying above the real Living Wage and are awaiting B-Corp Certification.

Michael Cusack, ACS Head of Sustainability, said: “We are committed to ensuring that disadvantaged groups, including disabled people, see the company as an employer of choice. This policy, at the core of our attempts to replace workers that left after the UK left the European Union,[58] has not only provided a core of hard-working, loyal, and talented employees but has positively changed the organisation’s culture.

“There have been some challenges, however, the overall experience has been so positive that we actively encourage other employers to rethink how they attract and hire staff to ensure that they are making best use of Scotland’s most important resource – its people.

“We recruit from the local community including, ex-offenders, young people and home-workers, and we are a proud Disability Confident Leader. We have achieved gender equality, with the average salary of our female staff being slightly higher than males. We also provide apprenticeships and internships including a Refugee Internship Programme.

“As a consequence of embracing fair work practices we have become a more profitable, efficient and responsive business. With staff at ACS being more involved and informed it appears to be linked to higher levels of business financial performance and productivity, reduced staff turnover and absenteeism, and enhanced employee organisational commitment.

“We are proud to be recognised as an emerging social innovator and attracting positive external acclamation. ACS is also entering new markets finding that embracing Fair Work is a competitive advantage”.

There are, of course, significant factors continuing to shape our economy and society and posing challenges for employers, notably: the Covid-19 pandemic and recovery which brought significant changes to how, when and where we work; EU Exit; addressing climate change; changing demographics and increased automation and other technological change. All of these affect, workers, workplaces and the labour market we want to support employers to overcome the barriers to adopting fair work practices.


Discrimination, racism, disablism, sexism, and other cultural behaviours that prevent people experiencing Fair Work are still prevalent. Workplace sexual harassment occurs when a worker, often a woman, is subjected to unwanted conduct of a sexual nature and incorporates a spectrum of behaviours that prevents access to resources, opportunities and progression in work and makes them more likely to live in poverty and experience financial insecurity.[59] 60 per cent of women have experienced sexism at work, college or university when trying to progress a career in STEM, with 34 per cent experiencing microaggressions.[60]

Case study: Equally Safe at Work[61]

The Scottish Government is providing funding to Close the Gap to support selected local authorities, NHS boards, and third sector organisations (the ‘Gender Beacon Collaborative’) to achieve Equally Safe at Work Accreditation. This is an innovative employer accreditation scheme which aims to advance gender equality in the workplace and prevent violence against women and girls by requiring organisations to fulfil criteria across themes such as leadership, data, violence against women, and workplace culture. Close the Gap is also supporting selected businesses to identify and address the root causes of their gender pay gaps, complementing the Scottish Business Pledge. There are four bronze accredited local authorities, and another nine are working towards development and bronze. Four NHS boards and five third sector organisations are also working towards development tier accreditation.

There is a wide range of quality advice and support for employers and businesses from different sources including Enterprise and Skills agencies, third sector organisations, and local and national government to help improve performance on Fair Work. Clear and effective support for employers was highlighted as a key enabler of fair work in our consultation. This included support for different sizes of organisation – particularly small organisations, and those employing people who are often excluded from work because of a disability or mental health issue and need expertise and person-centred approaches to enable them to participate.

Headline Action 3:

We will support employers to utilise the resources and support available to embed Fair Work in their organisations. We will work collaboratively to develop these resources to support and build capability among employers, employability providers and partners.

What we will do

3.1. By end 2023 we will work with partners to join up provision of advice and support for employers by establishing a central Fair Work resource, making it as simple and efficient as possible for employers to use. This would enhance and consolidate existing material to ensure employers have a clear route to access guidance, support and advice on Fair Work. It will involve:

  • Advice and tools to promote the benefits of Fair Work and workplace equality
  • Good practice case studies
  • Advice on networking and establishing peer support groups
  • Collaboration with existing trusted business support services and partners.
What this provides

Increased knowledge and skills among employers in implementing fair work practices as well as taking action on inequalities in the workplace.

Assisting in the creation of advice networks for employers to access peer support.

Intended outcomes

Fair work practices are implemented in a more informed way.

Improved business performance.

What we will do

3.2. Develop a communications strategy to highlight and promote the benefits of Fair Work and a diverse workplace to employers including:

  • adoption of payment of at least the real Living Wage;
  • effective voice channels, tackling the gender pay gap; and
  • recruiting, employing and supporting disabled people and workers from racialised minorities.

The strategy will be informed by sectoral and regional analysis and utilise a range of channels.

What this provides

Increased understanding of fair work practices and their economic benefits.

Stereotypes are challenged and increased understanding of the benefits of realising untapped potential by employing diverse workforces.

Intended outcomes

Employers more able to recruit the right people, with the right skills, at the right time.

More diverse workforces, which leads to increased productivity and, in turn, increased economic output for Scotland.

What we will do

3.3. Increase the number of people who have security of pay and contract by encouraging employers to seek real Living Wage and Living Hours accreditation. We will achieve this through our continuing support of Living Wage Scotland to achieve an additional 5,000 workers uplifted annually to the real Living wage through increases in employer accreditation.

What this provides

More employers paying the real Living Wage across Scotland.

More workers, particularly women and those on low pay, have security of hours and income.

Intended outcomes

Workers have increased incomes and improved wellbeing (allows workers to plan).

Improved work life balance due to predictability of hours.

Allows workers to engage in effective voice mechanisms without concerns about reduction of hours.

What we will do

3.4 By the end of 2025 we will review and disseminate learning and best practice on the conclusion of the 2024 Workplace Equality Fund.

What this provides

Increase in numbers of employers improving their equality and diversity policies.

Increase in number of people in priority groups recruited and retained.

Learning from fund is disseminated to more employers.

Intended outcomes

Employers more able to recruit the right people, with the right skills, at the right time.

More diverse workforces which leads to increased productivity.

A better informed approach can be taken on recruitment and retention and progression practices.

What we will do

3.5. We will develop and promote good practice guidance for employers to showcase successful application of positive action measures as per the Equality Act 2010 giving particular attention to sex, pregnancy, race, age and disability by end 2024.

What this provides

The guidance has been promoted, generating increased awareness of positive action measures and their applications to the different equalities groups.

Intended outcomes

Greater application of positive action measures across employers/more diverse workforce recruited.

What we will do

3.6 We will continue to promote existing and new advice and guidance on the benefits of flexible working to organisations across Scotland by working with public bodies to assess provision and highlight best practice throughout this parliamentary term. (by 2026)

What this provides

Continue to support organisations in Scotland to adapt flexible working practices that benefits employers and employees, especially female staff and workers over 50 years.

Intended outcomes

More employing organisations in Scotland will adopt flexible working practices experiencing benefits such as attracting diverse talent, reducing staff attrition, improving business reputation and creating a happier, more engaged workforce. More employees, especially those with care and health commitment, will enter, remain and progress in the workplace.

What we will do

3.7. Working with employers, equality stakeholders and training providers, develop and implement an intersectional and anti-racist training framework by 2025.

What this provides

Framework developed that includes intersectional perspective. Employers better able to assess their needs and access relevant and high quality anti-racist training.

Intended outcomes

Greater number of employers are accessing good quality training which means they are able to make positive changes to workplace practices and cultures, including taking account of intersectionality.

What we will do

3.8 We will work with employers and trade unions, in sectors where low pay and precarious work can be most prevalent, to develop sectoral Fair Work agreements that deliver improved employment outcomes such as payment of the real living wage, better security of work, and wider ‘Fair Work First’ standards.

What this provides

The number of workers in typically low paid sectors, such as women, people from racialised minorities and disabled workers have improved security of pay, contract and will start to experience the wider dimensions of fair work.

Intended outcomes

Higher standards of pay and conditions in typically low-paid and precarious sectors with the narrowing of the gender, disability and ethnicity pay gaps.

What we will do

3.9. We will work with employers, workers and trade unions to strengthen effective voice, through a range of appropriate channels. We will do this by supporting strong trade unions and, in line with our NPF employee voice indicator, will promote the benefits of collective bargaining (including sectoral agreements) and other forms of effective voice at individual and collective levels.

What this provides

The number of workers who have an effective voice in the workplace including through trade union membership are increased.

Intended outcomes

Increased collective bargaining coverage, higher standards of pay and conditions and increase employee engagement.


Email: FWDisabledPeople@gov.scot

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