Fairer Scotland action plan: progress report 2019

Progress made on the Fairer Scotland action plan published in 2016.

Employment, including youth employment

Promoting fair, inclusive and flexible employment is a key way in which the Scottish Government can support people into work, tackle low pay, and help lift people out of poverty.  We recognise there are people in Scotland who can struggle to find and retain employment or find the hours they need.  We want to do as much as we can to ensure that as many people as possible benefit from working.  That is why we are taking strong action to help people work and earn more, including promoting payment of the real Living Wage through our work to build a Living Wage nation and delivering support through our devolved employability service, Fair Start Scotland.

Scotland’s employment rate remains high (74.4%) compared with historical records and our unemployment rate remains low (4.0%)[10].  However, we recognise that those facing the greatest barriers to employment will still require more individualised support which is better integrated with other services.  This is why we have pledged to tackle these barriers, including by reducing the disability employment gap by at least half by 2038.  In addition, our £22 million investment in a new Parental Employment Support Programme will be based on a successful keyworker model which will help parents to enter employment and to progress through a career.  In order to maximise the impact of our massive investment in Early Learning and Childcare (ELC), £4 million of this investment is specifically targeted at better aligning employability services with the expansion of funded ELC.  This investment will help parents whose children are benefiting from the funded hours to improve their skills, advance their career and take advantage of new opportunities within the ELC workforce.

Our Fair Work Action Plan, published in February, sets out a range of measures to support employers to embed fairer working practices, including a benchmarking tool and online support to assess current practice.  Scotland’s Fair Work approach, underpinned by the Fair Work Convention’s Framework, recognises that fair work benefits individual workers, the business, the economy and wider society.  The Framework sets out what employees can expect in terms of fair work, and the fair and inclusive workplace practice and culture that employers should adopt.  The launch of the refreshed Scottish Business Pledge[11] on 10 October ensures closer alignment to the Fair Work Framework and makes the relevance to Fair Work First clear.

Through Fair Work First we will attach criteria to more contracts, grants and other funding awarded by the Scottish Government and the wider public sector.  Specifically, we will ask employers to commit to paying the Living Wage, no inappropriate use of zero hours contracts, action to tackle the gender pay gap, investment in skills and training, and genuine workforce engagement, such as trade union recognition. 

Young people are key to our future economic success so, having already met the commitment set out in Developing the Young Workforce to reduce youth unemployment by 40% four years ahead of schedule, we will continue to do as much as we can to prepare them for the world of work and open up job opportunities for all.

Fairer work

FSAP 43. We will do more to help people in Scotland work flexibly
FSAP 44. We will improve employment services for disabled people
FSAP 45. By the end of 2016, we will launch a pilot ‘Returners’ project to help bring experienced women back into the workplace after a career break
FSAP 46. We will tackle discrimination on pregnancy and maternity leave in the workplace
FSAP 47. We will help those older people who want to keep working after they have reached state pension age
Life Chances 9. Lobby the UK Government about exploitative zero hour contracts
StC 2. Encourage pay ratio disclosure as a way of tackling pay inequality
StC 4. Make family flexible working more explicit within the Business Pledge, and consider whether approaches such as the Timewise programme could promote flexible working in Scotland
StC 13. Do more to tackle occupational segregation

The Parental Employability Support Fund developed over the last 12 months will provide in-work support for low income parents from the six priority groups identified in the Tackling Child Poverty Delivery Plan to build skills, progress through their careers and earn more.  It will also support parents currently unemployed, who are ineligible or not ready for current employability support programmes to move towards work. 

To tackle workplace pregnancy and maternity discrimination, we have worked with a range of partners to create and promote best practice guidelines, hosted a series of employer training events on maternity and the rights and responsibilities, and responded to a number of UK Government consultations, including around extending redundancy protection for women and new parents (April 2019) and good work plan proposals to support families (October 2019). 

We highlighted the importance of challenging occupational segregation in our careers strategy published in autumn 2019, and with education partners and the workforce alike are developing an equality action plan for publication in 2020 to help address gender segregation.

The Gender Pay Gap Action Plan, launched in March this year, outlines a series of actions we will take to address gender stereotyping and labour market inequalities in support of our commitment to reduce the gender pay gap by 2021.  Our actions include: the expansion of the Workplace Equality Fund in 2019-20 to £800,000 for 23 new projects to improve workplace practices, such as providing support for women during the menopause and for victims of domestic abuse; a new careers strategy to provide advice and guidance to help challenge stereotypes; and funding a feasibility study for a ‘What Works Centre for Flexible Work’ to design, test and embed new approaches to increasing the availability of flexible working – in particular for low income parents.  The Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings data published on 29 October 2019 showed that the median gender pay gap for all employees in Scotland has decreased from 15.0% in 2018 to 14.3% in 2019.  The median gender pay gap for full-time employees in Scotland increased from 5.6% to 7.1% in 2019 which is still below the UK (8.9%)[12].

In order to highlight the benefits to women and businesses of improving gender equality in the workplace, the Scottish Government has revised the diversity and gender balance aspect of the Scottish Business Pledge, has undertaken an Equal Pay Audit to identify ways to reduce the gender pay gap, and is promoting gender equality more generally in a range of educational and employment settings as part of its work to deliver against the Fairer Scotland Action Plan actions.  We also continue to promote flexibility for unpaid carers in the workplace – the majority of which are women – through Carer Positive.

In recognition of the importance of flexible working the Scottish Government funds, and is an active partner in, the Family Friendly Working Scotland partnership through which we work with a number of third sector organisations to support and promote the development of family-friendly working across Scotland.  Funding of £159,000 in 2019-20 will support the development and growth of the ‘Happy to Talk Flexible Working’ campaign and delivery of Scotland’s first employer ‘Flexible Festival’ to highlight the demand and benefit of flexible working for employers and workers. 

Our Fairer Scotland for Older People: A Framework for Action[13] sets out our commitment to enabling older people to continue working and remain in employment for as long as they wish, increasing their financial security.  Since the publication of the framework we have funded the Festival of Ageing in May 2019 to celebrate older people in society and the role they play by remaining in the workforce, and are developing work to tackle ageism more generally and to recognise that more older women are now in the workplace.

The Minister for Business, Fair Work and Skills response in October 2019 to the UK Government’s consultation ‘Good work plan: establishing a new single enforcement body for employment rights’ stressed that security of employment, work and income are important foundations of a successful life and that contractual stability should be a core employer objective.  He also made clear that flexible working which places disproportionate risk on workers is not fair work.  We will continue to call on the UK Government to make work fairer for all.

A Fairer Scotland for Disabled People: Employment Action Plan[14] outlines the way in which the Scottish Government will support the commitment to at least halve Scotland’s disability employment gap by 2038.  In August 2019 we published our first Recruitment and Retention Plan for Disabled People[15], which sets out the Scottish Government’s approach to becoming a leading employer of disabled people. 

Scotland’s devolved employability service, Fair Start Scotland (FSS), is also critical to meeting this ambition, offering pre- and in-work support to those who face barriers to finding employment, including disabled people and those at risk of becoming long-term unemployed.  Participation is voluntary and by the end of September 2019, the service provided support to more than 16,000 people, with over 4,000 people entering employment[16].  The Scottish Government recently published the first FSS annual report and an evaluation report of the first year of operation.  This showed that of over 1,000 FSS participants surveyed, 92% of people who have used the service felt they were treated with dignity and respect, and 80% felt they had a choice about the type of support they received, with 78% of these respondents feeling the support offered improved their quality of life and wellbeing.

Living Wage

FSAP 42. We will do more to promote the Living Wage 
Life Chances 10. Lobby the UK Government on the need for the National Living Wage to apply to all those over 18 years old
StC 1. Build on Living Wage Accreditation – a focus on larger employers, and on incentives, would be useful

The Scottish Government has been vocal in its concerns about the UK Government’s approach to pay: the National Living Wage[17] is not a real Living Wage[18].  The Scottish Government recognises the National Living Wage does not support young people under 25, nor will it fully compensate workers for reductions to welfare.  In the Scottish Government’s response to the Low Pay Commission Consultation in 2017, we reiterated our position that the National Living Wage should apply to all workers over the age of 18, and sought assurance that measures would be put in place to mitigate this.  We will continue to push for the full devolvement of employment powers to Scotland.

We continue to encourage more employers to become Living Wage Accredited and pay their workers at least the real Living Wage.  The number of Scottish accredited real Living Wage employers continues to grow: with just over 1,600 accredited Living Wage employers, there is proportionately five times more in Scotland than in the rest of the UK.  An increase in accreditation figures has been achieved through employer accreditation of all sizes with particular focus on the hospitality sector, with 200 individual uplifts in the hospitality sector already this financial year.

Making Living Wage Places launched at the beginning of the year to recognise the efforts of places that are paying and promoting the real Living Wage.  In the last year, Scotland has seen Dundee become the first city in the UK to be recognised as a Living Wage Place City, and Glenrothes became the first Living Wage Place Town. 

2019-20 is the second year of our three year plan to build a Living Wage Nation which helps employers in traditionally low paid sectors and locations realise the benefits of paying the real Living Wage.  Using the Living Wage Nation, we are working with partners to boost the wages of an additional 25,000 people to receive at least the real Living Wage, and 7,705 workers have already seen their wages increase since 2017.

Young people’s employment

FSAP 36. We will take action to reduce youth unemployment by 40% by 2021
FSAP 37. We will significantly increase the numbers of young people getting industry experience while still at school to help them kick-start a successful career in their chosen field
Life Chances 2. Continue work to improve data collection and sharing to track post school participation in learning, training and work for young people and make better use of that information to improve service delivery and develop Scottish Government policy
Life Chances 3. Do more to enhance the effectiveness of the work of the Developing the Young Workforce regional groups in building systematic engagement between local employers and schools and colleges on local and regional skills shortages
Life Chances 4. Do more to value non-academic learning routes, post-school
Life Chances 5. The Scottish Government should, through the 15-24 Learner Journey Review, ensure our FE and HE systems have more flex built in so young people can shift between routes
Life Chances 6. Employers need to think about ‘job design’ and recruitment processes that are free from bias and that match requirements for the job with the skill level needed to make applications
Life Chances 7. All post-school internships should be advertised and every post-school intern should get paid
Life Chances 8. Raise concerns with DWP about the quality of support offered to young people in Jobcentre Plus
StC 11. Reduce the number of government-supported employment programmes targeting this group of young people and simplify the landscape, to provide a clearer, sharper focus
StC 12. Ensure that the new approach to employer engagement in education is having an impact on improving skills for work of young people

In response to the recommendations made in our review of the learner journey for 15-24 year olds, we began work with Skills Development Scotland earlier this year to create an online learner account which supports young people in mapping their learner journey.  Alongside this, we have also been working with stakeholders to create a vision for post-15 education that promotes all pathways and sets a series of expectations for each part of the system. 

We will shortly be publishing a Careers Strategy to set the vision for a high standard of lifelong careers information, advice and guidance services which are accessible to all. This has been drafted in collaboration with the sector through a strategy steering group with representation from across careers services.

This is further supported by funding of £25 million in 2019-20 for Educational Maintenance Allowances which help young people aged 16 to 19 from low income families stay on in non-advanced post-16 education, either in school, a college course, or on a Learning Agreement for those not enrolled at school or college.

We are continuing to support local authorities and partners to deliver against the ‘Opportunities for All’ commitment for 16-19 year olds in a number of ways, including through improvements to post-16 transitions to employment.  This year, through Inspiring Scotland’s Our Future Now programme[19], we have committed £1.9 million to provide opportunities and support to young vulnerable people who face significant barriers, helping them make successful transitions from school into employment, education or training.  We have also allocated £1 million, delivered by a young person’s consortium made up of representatives from Barnardo’s, Action For Children, and The Prince’s Trust, to help care experienced young people into employment.  This programme provides placements for up to 13 weeks through partnering individuals with employers in the private sector. 

We also introduced Phase 1 of the new No-One Left Behind Employability Funding Stream in April 2019, which has enabled us to work closely with local authorities under a partnership agreement.  Funding of around £7 million in 2019-20 is helping provide tailored support to some young people who have left school to help them prepare for employment, training or education.  Furthermore, through initiatives such as the Employability Fund and the Community Job Scotland Programme, we are encouraging training providers to pay at least the National Living Wage, provide more apprenticeship opportunities, and continue work towards meeting our commitment to increase apprenticeship starts to 30,000 by 2020.

The Fair Work Action Plan, published in February 2019, commits the Scottish Government as an employer to not utilise unpaid internships, aligning us with recommendations from the Fair Work Convention. 

Evidence[20][21] shows that the current conditionality and sanctions regime of Jobcentre Plus is ineffective in supporting people into work.  This is true for all service users and is not unique to young people.  We have, and will continue to, call for a full review and complete overhaul of the benefits system.  We are asking for more social security powers to be devolved to the Scottish Government so that we can better support people not currently working into employment and help lift them out of poverty while also improving their health and wellbeing.


Email: sjsu@gov.scot

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