National Partnership for Culture: Workshop 2 – culture and fair work information paper

Information paper for the meeting of the National Partnership for Culture on culture and fair work held in April 2021.

This is an abridged version of the information paper produced for the National Partnership for Culture, Culture and Fair Work workshop on 29 April 2021.

If you would like the full version of the report, please email:

The purpose of this paper is to support discussions on the key issues facing the culture sector around fair work, particularly in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, and to support the development of proposals which will tackle those issues.

The key questions for discussion at the workshop will be:

  • what is working well across the sector?
  • What needs to change?
  • What actions will have the greatest impact for the cultural workforce and sector recovery?

Attendees will have the opportunity to work in small groups to discuss and capture their top issues and proposals for action. The outputs from the session will be developed to form advice to Scottish Ministers on priority areas for action.

Potential responses to the current policy framework for action on fair work

The Fair Work Action Plan (February 2019) commits to mainstreaming fair work within Ministerial portfolios across the Scottish Government and working with sponsorship teams to embed fair work within all public bodies.

Effective voice

The Fair Work Framework defines effective voice as much more than just having a channel of communication available within workplaces. Effective voice requires a safe environment where dialogue and challenge are dealt with constructively and where workers’ views are sought out, listened to and can make a difference.

The ability to speak, individually or collectively, and to be listened to, is closely linked to the development of respectful and reciprocal workplace relationships. Acknowledging the legitimacy of employee voice reflects the interests of employees, individually and collectively, in everything that an organisation does.

Proposals for improving effective voice in the culture sector:

  • more extensive union recognition and collective bargaining at workplace and sector level could address areas where worker voice is absent in Scottish workplaces.
  • demonstrate the effectiveness of voice channels and their influence.
  • adopt behaviours, practices and a culture that support effective voice and embed this across the sector.


Opportunity, defined by the Fair Work Framework, allows people to access and progress in work and employment and is a crucial dimension of fair work. Meeting legal obligations by ensuring equal access to work and equal opportunities in work sets a minimum floor for fair work.

This protects workers in those groups subject to specific legal protections on the grounds of sex, sexual orientation, race and ethnicity, age and disability. Fair opportunity is more than just the chance to access work. Attitudes, behaviours, policies and practices within organisations signal and reflect the value placed on fair opportunity.

Proposals for improving opportunity in the culture sector:

  • investigate and interrogate the workforce profile in the culture sector, identifying where any barriers to opportunity arise and address these creatively.
  • better understand the links between cultural economy business models and exclusionary work and employment practices, and how these links have been affected by COVID-19.
  • consider making diversity of boards a condition of funding.
  • improve recruitment diversity by introducing appropriate remuneration for board members of national culture and heritage public bodies.
  • undertake equalities profiling in the provision of training and development activities and in career progression procedures and outcomes.
  • promote and encourage the culture sector to invest in and utilise the skills and knowledge of unions (and other workplace representatives) around equality and learning.
  • strengthen engagement with diverse and local communities.


Security is often the key issue identified across the culture sector in relation to Fair Work.

The Fair Work Framework states that security of employment, work and income are important foundations of a successful life. Predictability of working time is often a component of secure working arrangements. While no one has complete security and stability of employment, income and work, security remains an important aspect of fair work.

Context and competitive conditions impact significantly on prospects for security, but fair work is not work where the burden of insecurity and risk rests primarily on workers. For example, it is estimated that creative industry workers work an average of 15 hours unpaid per week.

Proposals for security in the culture sector:

  • ensure and support widespread awareness and understanding of employment rights.
  • contractual stability should be a core employer objective. Forms of flexible working where the burden of risk falls disproportionately on workers (including most zero hours contracts) are not fair work.
  • move to longer-term funding cycles to ensure more security.
  • Scottish Government and UK Government should evaluate their existing funding models and grant procedures to ensure greater stability and job security - that includes new partnerships and examining the potential of Scottish Government powers such as Scottish National Investment Bank, devolved tax and legislative powers that will generate a collective responsibility to supporting culture in the long term.
  • funding streams should be made more accessible to all individuals and organisations across the sector by making the funding landscape easier to navigate and application processes easier to understand.
  • strengthen enforcement by national grant-making bodies e.g. by requiring fair work adherence by end of 2021, with clear communications concerning the consequences of non-compliance. All workers should be paid at least the Living Wage as calculated by the Living Wage Foundation. As part of the Scottish Government’s Fair Work Action Plan, the Culture Strategy has committed to making the culture and heritage sector part of Scotland as a Fair Work Nation by 2025.
  • identify potential next steps towards a Citizens Basic Income (CBI) pilot in Scotland.
  • pay transparency and defensibility should be a core objective across the sector.


The Fair Work Framework states that fulfilling work that gets the best out of people helps to more fully realise the investment society makes in education, learning and training. Workers benefit from engaging in fulfilling work in terms of using and developing their skills; having some control over their work and scope to make a difference; taking part in appropriately challenging work and taking up opportunities for personal growth and career advancement.

Proposals for improving fulfilment in the culture sector:

  • invest in training, learning and skills development for current and future jobs.
  • where available, utilise the skills and expertise of union learning representatives and the resources available through Scottish Union Learning.
  • identify clear and transparent career pathways and opportunities, as well as opportunities for personal development, should be encouraged across the culture sector.
  • recognise the role of the educational system in providing adequate and equitable access to culture in order to promote the value of cultural and creative learning from the early years onwards; embed creative and digital skills development; support learning through local culture and heritage resources; support language learning; and foster interest in artistic/creative careers.


The Fair Work Framework highlights that Fair Work is work in which people are respected and treated respectfully, whatever their role and status. Respect involves recognising others as dignified human beings and recognising their standing and personal worth. Respect at work is a two-way process between employers and workers and is valued for recognising the reciprocity of the employment relationship.

Proposals for improving respect in the culture sector:

  • be explicit about respect as a value and a guide to practice across the culture sector.
  • agree clear expectations of behaviour, conduct and treatment and encourage the involvement of the sector to improve respectful behaviours.
  • gain a better understanding of the presence of these principles in organisational codes of conduct across the sector.

Next steps

The workshop discussion will focus on key issues around fair work for the culture sector and priority actions for tackling those issues. A high level summary of the session will be shared with participants for comment after the event.

Key outputs will also be shared with Culture Counts and Built Environment forum Scotland members to gauge broader sector opinion on any draft proposals for action.

The final output from the session will then be used by the NPC to provide advice to Scottish Ministers on priorities for culture and fair work.


NPC Secretariat

30 March 2021

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