Scotland's Economy

Progress on fair work

April 23, 2018 by No Comments | Category Employment

Access to good quality jobs is one of the defining social, economic and political challenges of our times. Many of the political upheavals we are seeing are directly related to people’s fears that there won’t be opportunities for them in the workplace.

The recent fair work debate in the Scottish Parliament showed the majority of MSPs are progressive in their thinking about what work should be about in Scotland in the 21st century. While there may be different views on how it might be achieved, we agree that fair work is central to our country’s ambitions for economic success which is shared across our society.

We cannot build a future based on a race to the bottom in terms of how workers are treated. Our businesses and key sectors cannot capitalise on their competitive advantages without a workforce which has a stake in success. And we will miss huge opportunities if we do not harness the talents of our entire working age population, irrespective of gender, age, race or any other characteristic.

Scotland’s economy continues to show strength and we are seeing high employment and low unemployment figures. However, for many people in Scotland, their experience of work is not always positive and having a job does not mean escaping poverty.

In fact the reality is that for some people on low pay or precarious employment it can be impossible to plan for the future.

Brexit continues to be the biggest threat to our economy, investment and living standards in Scotland. The prospect of being taken out of the world’s biggest single market – which is around eight times larger than the UK market alone – will inevitably reduce opportunities.

That is why we continue to press the UK Government to commit to remaining in the European single market and customs union and ensure our young people continue to have the opportunities currently open to them.

Brexit also poses a wider threat, with the prospect that long-established and hard-won employment rights could be removed – the Scottish Government strongly opposes any such move, and will continue to champion progressive labour market policies and workers’ rights.

Scotland is already ahead of the curve when it comes to championing fairness in the workplace. We established a Fair Work Convention in 2015 which produced a Fair Work Framework for use by organisations looking to embed fair work in what they do. The Scottish Government itself was the first government in the UK to become an accredited Living Wage employer. And we are also the best performing of all four UK countries in terms of the proportion of the workforce paid at least the Living Wage.

I am delighted that there are now over 1,100 Scots-based Living Wage accredited employers and we have proportionately more than five times as many accredited Living Wage employers in Scotland as in the rest of the UK.

Over the last three years more than 460 businesses have committed to fair work through the Scottish Business Pledge. We want to build on that and will be conducting a short review of the Business Pledge, focused on attracting greater business buy-in and impact.

It’s crucial that we address any barriers to getting people into work. Our Workplace Equality Fund is helping employers deliver innovative solutions to overcome workplace inequality while work through enhanced Modern Apprenticeships and the New Independent Living Fund Scheme will help towards our commitment to reduce the disability employment gap by at least half.

Our Race Equality Action Plan will work with stakeholders to agree baselines, measures and targets for ethnic minority communities who face disadvantage in the labour market.

We are equally determined to reduce gender inequality and improve the position of women in the workplace. Scotland’s full-time gender pay gap is at 6.6% remaining below the UK-wide figure of 9.1%, and down from 16.7% in 1999 and 11.9% in 2007.

The direction of travel is encouraging but that the gender pay gap remains is unacceptable.

As a government we are driving forward efforts to reduce the pay gap across all sectors through transforming early learning and childcare, taking measures to challenge pregnancy and maternity discrimination and funding returners programmes that will help women get back into work after a career break. And we are encouraging greater transparency in reporting the gender pay gap in public bodies we have responsibility for, reading the threshold for them having to publish information to being where they have 20 employees or more, down from the 150 employee mark we had in place previously, and well below the statutory 250 number the UK Government has put in place.

In recognition of the critical role that trade unions play in the fair work agenda, and as our valued partners, last month we announced an extra £250,000 to promote better working practices through the Trade Union Fair Work and Modernisation Fund, and £100,000 towards the STUC’s Fair Work: Leadership and Equality Programme.

Extra funding to support trade unions will allow them to expand fair work practices in sectors where precarious work is prevalent, as well as deliver training for those from under-represented groups.

Importantly we will develop and publish a Fair Work Action Plan this year and will host a fair work congress so we can receive open and constructive input from the widest range of experts. I am hopeful that this process will draw on the enthusiasm and expertise of MSPs from across the fair work coalition within the Scottish Parliament.

Part of our action plan will include looking at public funding and how it can better support businesses that show fair work practices.

Each and every one of these actions is crucial to our efforts to ensure that every person, regardless of background, has the opportunity to access quality education, training and support into employment.”

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