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.

7. Making Fair Work the norm

The Scottish Government will continue to use all the levers available to us to make Fair Work the norm by promoting and embedding Fair Work within every Ministerial portfolio and across the economy. This includes a particular focus on key sectors where working practices and workplace equality needs to be strengthened. Our actions outlined here indicate the sectoral approach that will be taken through Fair Work Agreements to drive adoption of fair working practices.

Supporting this approach, the Scottish Government has embraced the internationally recognised Community Wealth Building model of economic development designed to tackle long standing systemic challenges facing local economies as a key practical means by which we can achieve our wellbeing economy objectives outlined in the National Strategy for Economic Transformation. By the end of this Parliamentary session, through the development of Community Wealth Building legislation, we will explore how Fair Work can be advanced as part of the workforce pillar, through local anchor charters, protecting and delivering fair work opportunities across Scotland.

The Scottish Government promotes a range of policy interventions to deliver a labour market that supports Scotland’s vision for a wellbeing economy: an economy that is fairer, wealthier and greener. This includes through our new Wellbeing Economy Toolkit, which seeks to support local councils and their key stakeholders in developing a wellbeing economy approach locally.

A diverse workforce is good for business and good for society,[62] but evidence shows that not everyone has the same opportunity to access and thrive in the labour market.

Research has shown that companies in the top-quartile for ethnic/cultural diversity on executive teams were 33% more likely to have industry-leading profitability.[63]

Closing the gender gap in employment could be worth more than £17bn to the Scottish economy.[64]

Effective voice is a critical dimension of Fair Work, underpinning all other fair Work dimensions. Accordingly, we recognise the importance of collective bargaining, social dialogue, and effective voice in improving terms and conditions, worker wellbeing and developing progressive and fair work places. NSET continues our commitment to working with key partners across industry, including employers, workers, and trade unions to improve terms and conditions and further worker voice.

Sectoral approaches

Below outlines work being taken forward to drive the Fair Work agenda across the economy. This includes sectors already undertaking activity to advance Fair Work, or where Fair Work Convention inquiries are happening. Specific actions and further detail on each of these will be found in Annex B and C.

National Care Service

The Scottish Government has a long-standing commitment to ensuring those working in the social care sector experience fair work practices. Work through the Fair Work in Social Care Group has now developed a set of recommendations for minimum standards for terms and conditions reflecting Fair Work principles. This extends to the development of local standards that employees should expect that support effective voice. This work being taken forward in collaboration with key stakeholders.

The National Care Service (NCS) will include fair work within its guiding principles and by establishing the NCS as an exemplar of fair work. Through the National Care Service we will continue to improve terms and conditions for social care workers and personal assistants, through the introduction of sectoral bargaining for the entire sector, recognising that social care workers employed within local government already benefit from sectoral bargaining arrangements and from the commitment to adhere to fair work principles.

As we build the National Care Service, we will listen to the voices of the real experts: people with lived experience who use community health and social care, their unpaid carers, and the workers who provide it. We will listen to their needs and act on what they tell us. Fair Work is one of the principles in the NCS Bill, and all five dimensions of Fair Work will be at the heart of the NCS; and Fair Work principles will be applied across the whole sector.

However, the Scottish Government are not waiting for the NCS to be established before we take action and have continued to progress a number of key projects – supported by the work of the Fair Work in Social Care Group – to progress the recommendations of the Fair Work Convention’s social care inquiry and the fair work principles that will lead to better pay, terms and conditions, and more rewarding roles, for the adult social care workforce, which is primarily made up of women.

Our policy objectives in this area focus on delivering improvements to pay, terms and conditions, delivering effective voice – including through sectoral bargaining, supporting workforce, embedding ethical commissioning and Continuous Professional Development.

As we move away from a reactive response to Covid-19, we will consider the long-term, sustainable offers in place at both a national and local level to drive a supportive and enabling culture for people working in health, social care and social work across wellbeing, leadership and equalities. Our ongoing response will be informed by a new strategy that has been collaboratively developed, building on the ambitions set out the Workforce Strategy and provides direction and focus to support the workforce. Ultimately the strategy seeks to drive a significant cultural transformation across workforces.


The Scottish Government remains fully committed to driving cultural change within NHS Scotland to nourish a diverse and inclusive workforce that is adaptive and involved in decisions, where equality and fairness are supported, and staff feel valued and empowered. We understand that fostering an inclusive culture in the NHS and supporting individuals from all backgrounds is the cornerstone to improving everyone’s experience within NHS Scotland and to delivering the best care for the people of Scotland.

To achieve this ambition, we have a number of work streams currently underway, including; the development of anti-racist training resources, promoting the NHS National Ethnic Minority Forum, development of a menopause and menstrual health workplace policy for NHS Scotland as an example of best practice, and the development of a reasonable adjustment passport.

Early learning and childcare (ELC)

ELC provision and its workforce is key in supporting parents and carers access the labour market and is a structural requirement in sustaining economic growth. The workforce is 96 per cent female[65] and by ensuring the successful implementation of the real Living Wage for workers in provider settings delivering the funded entitlement can help to reduce the gender pay gap in Scotland.

Affordable childcare has an impact on a woman’s ability to participate fully in the labour market and we are committed to achieving the outcomes set out in our recently published strategy for evaluating the impact of the early learning and childcare (ELC) expansion programme to 1140 hours Early learning and childcare expansion programme: evaluation strategy – gov.scot (www.gov.scot) which includes ensuring provision is Sufficiently flexible to meet parents’ needs and that Parents’ opportunities to take up or sustain work, training, or study increase.

Fair Work is a key aspect of Funding Follows the Child, our policy framework for delivering funded ELC. All childcare providers delivering funded ELC are required to demonstrate their commitment to Fair Work Practices. Our funding agreement with local government for the ELC expansion enables local authorities to set sustainable rates for funded ELC that support payment of the real Living Wage to all workers delivering funded ELC.

We will work with partners to monitor progress with delivery of our commitments on payment of the real Living Wage and broader Fair Work practices to all those delivering funded ELC via a new Living Wage and Fair Work Implementation Group. Longer-term we are committed to exploring collective bargaining within the sector, with implementation of real Living Wage being the first step.

We are also working with partners to develop a new Strategic Framework for Scotland’s Childcare Profession. This will include actions to build on the good practice we have seen across the childcare sector to diversify the workforce in the context of the 1,140 hours workforce expansion in recent years. This includes work to increase the number of men, people from racialised minorities and disabled people in the childcare workforce. We will continue to consider an approach to treat investment in childcare and social care as economic infrastructure.


Our new retail strategy Getting The Change Right – A Retail Strategy for Scotland sets out how, through the new Industry Leadership Group, we will deliver a Fair Work Agreement that retailers can sign up to and demonstrate their commitment to Fair Work principles. In doing so, employers will be taking action to shrink the gender pay gap in the retail sector (of which 60.7% of the workforce are women)[66] tackle ethnicity and disability pay gaps, reduce child poverty by enhancing support for parents and carers with children, and create a more diverse and inclusive workplace. These Fair Work practices, at the core of the strategy, will benefit retail businesses by making them more attractive to workers, and more resilient, productive and profitable.


Scotland has our outstanding cultural assets, globally-renownedd creative industries and has established a world class events industry with an international reputation for excellence. Events and culture are welcomed and recognised as a vibrant and integral part of the economic, social and cultural fabric of the nation – already directly demonstrating how they deliver wellbeing for individuals and communities and promote Scotland’s values as an inclusive and welcoming society, both domestically and overseas. The Scottish Government will continue to promote the creation of quality, well-paid jobs in the events sector. Fair Work is one of the topics expected to be considered as part of engagement with the events sector during the national events strategy review. The outcome of this review will set the long term vision for the events sector over the next 10 years, ensuring Scotland remains “The Perfect Stage” for events.


The Scottish Government knows that public transport is a key enabler for everyone to live a life of freedom and equal opportunity. Going Further: Scotland’s Accessible Travel Framework (2016), aims to improve the door-to-door journeys that disabled people make whilst working to remove the barriers which prevent them travelling.

The ten-year Framework has been shaped by disabled people and the organisations that represent them, working with Transport Scotland and transport sector representatives in a process which has ensured that the experiences and voices of disabled people are heard. The Framework is built around one vision (All disabled people can travel with the same freedom, choice, dignity and opportunity as other citizens), four outcomes and 48 actions that were collectively agreed by disabled people’s organisations, transport providers and government. We continue to work closely with partners on their priorities in order to deliver outcomes under the Framework and to improve journeys for all disabled travellers across all modes of transport.

As set out in the first National Transport Strategy Delivery Plan, we will use Fair Work First to apply fair work criteria to grants, other funding and contracts to support economic recovery and renewal. In addition, the framework agreement between Ministers and Scottish Rail Holdings Ltd stipulates that Scottish Rail Holdings will comply with the Fair Work Convention’s Fair Work Framework, as well as the Fair Work First criteria. The grant agreement between Scottish Rail Holding Ltd and ScotRail Trains Ltd also stipulates that ScotRail Trains Ltd will also comply with both the Framework and Fair Work First criteria.

We undertook research into how transport infrastructure investment impacts on the gender pay gap in transport appraisal; and updated and published The Scottish Transport Appraisal Guidance (STAG) Manager’s Guide in January 2022. Additional issues such as how transport infrastructure investment impacts on the ethnicity pay gap and intersectionality were raised and appropriate guidance on Equality Impact Assessments was included. The provision of further advice on the Gender Pay Gap will be investigated when updating the STAG ‘Technical Database’.

We are also undertaking research on women and girls’ safety on public transport. We know from the evidence that safety concerns impact on how women and girls use public transport and this has implications for accessing work. This is a particular issue for women and girls engaged in shift work or who work industries that operate during unsociable hours when the availability of public transport is reduced or not available. The analysis from this research will be published before the end of 2022, with work to address the research recommendations taken forward in 2023.

Education and skills

Our vision is that Scotland’s education workforce, at all levels, reflects and supports the diversity of modern Scotland, thereby enriching the education experience for the whole school community.

To support this vision, we established in 2018 the Diversity in the Teaching Profession and Education Workforce sub group, one of four work-streams working towards addressing racial inequality and anti-racism in the education system as part of the wider Race Equality and Anti-Racism in Education Programme. The group seeks to take forward the recommendations of Rowena Arshad’s report ‘Teaching in a Diverse Scotland: Increasing and Retaining Minority Ethnic Teachers.

The Gender Equality Taskforce in Education and Learning was established in February 2020 to fulfil one of the recommendations made by the First Minister’s National Advisory Council for Women and Girls to identify measures to address the lack of gender equality which remains evident in education and learning settings. The taskforce will advise on potential changes in practice and actions to support a gender-competent experience of education and training for all girls and women.


The underrepresentation of women in the manufacturing sector is a historical issue, and occupational segregation still exists. Scottish Government together with partner organisations and industry, are undertaking a range of equality work designed to break down traditional barriers to work and occupational segregation for people with protected characteristics, including women.

6.7 per cent of the women working in the manufacturing sector had children aged 16 or younger, which is less than half of the average for all women in employment in Scotland (15.4 per cent). This low number, and the fact that 91.2 per cent of workers in manufacturing work full-time, would suggest that manufacturing is not an occupation which lends itself to flexible, part-time work, which women may need.[67]

We have established the short-life working group on Equalities and Wellbeing in the Manufacturing Sector. The primary purpose of this working group is to engage and collaborate with key stakeholders to inform and support the delivery of actions that will support three priority areas – Leadership, Mental Health and Flexibility – and so encourage greater equality and wellbeing in the manufacturing sector.

The working group will produce a recommendations report for Scottish Government to consider. Emerging conclusions focus on how we can best support the sector in order to allow it to adopt agreed diversity KPI’s, report on ethnicity pay gaps and inclusion and diversity statistics, and identify whether this reporting has the scope to become a mandatory requirement. The report also makes several recommendations urging the adoption of flexible working practice and how uptake can be supported by Scottish Government and enterprise agencies.


In April 2022 the Fair Work Convention published their Fair Work in the Construction sector inquiry report, providing an important and insightful scrutiny of the industry and that the sector has long-standing equality issues, with high-levels of horizontal segregation and a low level of access to family friendly or flexible working. The report highlights the issues and methods by which we can support and develop the industry in collaboration with the Construction Leadership Forum. The Inquiry makes 26 recommendations in total, with many of the recommendations relating directly to procurement policy, the Construction Leadership Forum or other work within the construction industry. The Scottish Government is committed to addressing the recommendations and have recently launched Construction Accord for the sector in Scotland, underlining the principles of Fair Work and driving forward its practices and tackling the specific Fair Work context the construction sector operates in.


Scotland’s Full Fibre Charter will help drive inclusive economic growth and secure investment in future-proofed full fibre infrastructure for Scotland. Through pledges to support and develop Scotland’s workforce, signatories commit to support fair working practices and inclusion in the workforce.

The Scottish Tech Ecosystem Review

Scottish technology ecosystem: review – gov.scot (www.gov.scot) supports initiatives to broaden the talent pipeline, including actions to raise awareness of gender bias with parents, families and teachers at all stages of the education process by working with the Improving Gender Balance and Equalities team at Education Scotland. The Digital Skills Pipeline is supporting those furthest from the job market via projects funded through the £1m Ecosystem Fund that has supported women and minorities; for example, a 10-week programme, delivered by Female Founder Squad, to encourage more women into tech and help them create start-ups; both online and offline access to our national Tech Scaler network to improve accessibility and to ensure people with different working patterns and caring responsibilities are able to participate.


Email: FWDisabledPeople@gov.scot

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