Fair Work Framework 2016
A Movement for Fair Work
An aspiration towards fair work was commonly held across the many stakeholders that we met. There was broad agreement on what fairness means and the values (individual and organisational) that support fairness, such as honesty, transparency and trust. Fairness was considered important for workers and employers at every stage from entry into employment until exit into retirement. No one with whom we spoke disagreed that fair work was an important priority for Scotland, and many of the people and organisations we spoke to supported an ambitious Fair Work Agenda.
It was also widely accepted across all stakeholder groups, including employers and their organisations, that fair work could deliver significant benefits, notably in relation to retention, motivation, productivity, profitability, health and wellbeing and national economic performance.
Delivering fair work is at the core of the activities of trade unions and we encountered many examples where workers' experience of fair work was a direct consequence of trade union organisation and action. Many examples were also highlighted to us of employers engaged in fair work across Scotland. For some, fair work was a business necessity due to the nature of the
business or to skill shortages and the need to attract talent. For others, fair work represented an ethical choice as well as a business choice - the right thing to do. This is also reflected in the New Policy Institute's recent analysis of employers who had adopted the Living Wage8. There are opportunities to learn from all of these organisations.
It was also recognised, however, that there are wide variations in practice in relation to fair work, and that the pattern and composition of 'unfair' work varied across sectors and industries. Stakeholders acknowledged that there are many challenges in improving practice and that there is no 'quick fix' to improve fairness. Economic and labour market realities can undermine fair work, particularly in some industries and/or where employers are not engaged with discussions of fairness, often as a consequence of low levels of union organisation.
Reaching out to those employers represents a major challenge for fair work, but there was broad agreement that emphasising the need for change (to avoid the individual and societal costs of unfair work) and the potential for fair work to drive business benefits had considerable potential.
We have argued that fair work is a journey, and it is important to be able to measure progress along that journey. Much of that measurement needs to be done at workplace or organisational level and, reflecting this, we have not explicitly suggested workplace-focused targets. We have, however, in setting out this Fair Work Framework, invited employers, workers and their
representatives to compare their own organisations to what fair work should look like and to take steps to address any issues arising. Beyond this, it will be important to set out a trajectory towards leading-edge practice in fair work as a guide for employers, workers and unions.
It is important to track progress at country level. Our first task in this document has been to articulate the basic principles and potential of fair work, specify its key dimensions and components and indicate the baseline measures relevant to fair work. Moving forward, it will be important to specify measures, targets and timings for Scotland. Of course, these targets can only be delivered with the co-operation and enthusiasm of everyone in the workplace. The role of broader stakeholder groups (including, for example, government, public agencies, public bodies, the education system and consumers) is to influence and lever fair work practices. We suggest some key mechanisms or levers overleaf.
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