Fair Work Convention

Fair Work Convention Scotland, Effective Voice

Effective Voice

Effective voice is much more than just having a channel of communication available within organisations - though this is important.

Effective voice requires a safe environment where dialogue and challenge are dealt with constructively and where employee views are sought out, listened to and can make a difference.

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Fair Work Convention Scotland, Opportunity


It is a reasonable aspiration to want work that is fair - and for fair work to be available to everyone. Fair opportunity allows people to access and progress in work and employment and is a crucial dimension of fair work

Meeting legal obligations in terms of ensuring equal access to work and equal opportunities in work sets a minimum floor for fair work.

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Fair Work Convention Scotland, Security


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 is an important aspect of fair work.

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Fair Work Convention Scotland, Fulfilment


For many people, work is a fulfilling part of their life. For others, work tasks, working conditions and the work environment make work unfulfilling.

Access to work that is as fulfilling as it is capable of being is an important aspiration of the Fair Work agenda. People have different views of what type of work is fulfilling for them.

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Fair Work Convention Scotland, Respect


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.

At its most basic, respect involves ensuring the health, safety and well-being of others.

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Fair Work Framework 2016

Cross cutting themes

As the Convention carried out its work over the last year, we identified a number of recurring themes which cut across the five dimensions of fair work.

The changing workplace

The Convention had reached the conclusion early in our discussions that we should focus on the 'workplace' but it became clear that for many, the workplace is not one physical place. Examples came particularly from the care sector where staff are working in the homes of their clients, but equally applied to delivery drivers or workers in maintenance teams who are 'on the road' all their working day. These individuals have no central workplace to meet other colleagues or interact regularly with their employer face-to-face. This led us to define the workplace more broadly but also to recognise that this brings particular challenges, both for workers and employers, and that employers have a duty to recognise this and find ways to support and engage with more remote or distanced workers.

Multiple disadvantage

Some groups are disadvantaged in more than one or all of the dimensions including women, those with a disability, those with low educational attainment, young people, older people and BME workers. In addition to being disadvantaged in more than one dimension, some, such as young people, were disproportionately negatively affected.

Work, caring and aging

Many women in particular raised the impact of unpaid labour on the opportunity to work and to progress in work. More broadly, the interrelationships between work and the welfare system, particularly in relation to benefits sanctions, was raised as problematic for some workers facing casualised work opportunities.

Age and aging were frequently raised across the fair work dimensions. What people regard as 'fair' changed at different stages of life. In addition to the issues young people face, challenges relating to work, pensions and health arise in later age. Work has become more intense for many workers and employers need to be able to adjust roles to match the physical capacities of older workers.

External factors such as caring responsibilities can make accessing good quality work difficult. While one might expect smaller organisations to find it particularly burdensome to adjust to requests for flexibility to cope with the needs of carers, we heard positive reports of their rising to this challenge and heard that some large organisations struggle to be flexible in adjusting to these needs.

For those with disrupted lives, this needs to be addressed first, joining up health and employability support for the small group of people who are very far from the labour market.

Customers, consumers and producers

Fair work cannot be taken out of the context of society as a whole. Whilst the Convention focused on the workplace, consumer choice and behaviour has an impact on fair work. Expectations of low cost, fast delivery and access to services around the clock drive particular business and organisational models, but consumers can exert a strong influence on employers by signalling their rejection of unfair practices through their purchasing decisions.

Large and small employers

As mentioned in the example of employees with caring responsibilities above, organisational size does not determine whether fair work is easier or more difficult to deliver. Neither is sector a determining factor. Whilst we heard of some particular challenges in some sectors, we also heard of good practice. This is encouraging in suggesting that there should be no inherent barriers for any organisation, regardless of size or sector, in seeking to improve fair work practices.

Business models

Business models have an impact on fair work. Worker-owned businesses often deliver positively across all the dimensions of fair work and many have fared better than others even during economic crisis. Conversely, low value business models in the private sector and funding constraints in the public and third sectors can work against fair work.

Virtuous and vicious circles

From what individuals and organisations told us, the connections between the dimensions of fair work were apparent, both in terms of the virtuous circle of those organisations who delivered good work practices across the dimensions (and the 'size of the prize' for these organisations is increased) and the vicious circle for those workers who had no voice, less labour market power and opportunity and therefore were less likely to be able to access the other dimensions of fair work. Positive examples of creating a virtuous circle include, for example paying at least the Living Wage to encourage more women back into labour market, level the playing field between different demographic groups and between organisations and help with pay equity.


A recurring and persistent theme in our consultation was leadership and good management. For an organisation to deliver fair work requires leadership throughout the organisation. Fair work requires everyone in an organisation to understand fair work and to have the capacity and capability to influence the workplace to ensure that it is delivered. We heard different perspectives on this. In some organisations, there was evidence of senior management commitment to fair work which did not translate to front line workers' experience. We also heard of line and HR managers who were committed to delivering fairer work but were constrained due to a lack of senior management commitment. Research suggests that 70% of people who exit an organisation voluntarily are opting to leave their line manager, rather than the organisation137. This points to the importance of managers at every level in influencing workers' day to day experience and setting the climate for fair work.

At every level unions must also show leadership in driving fair work. Developing Scotland's capability in leadership at all levels will be critical to success in delivering our vision, particularly insofar as managers and unions can be supported to engage people more, engage each other more, and develop constructive relations and dialogue.


Co-operation lies at the heart of fair work and is the process through which those with an interest in fair work can deliver real change. Although the implementation of the Framework will require real leadership in the workplace at the highest and at every level, the centrality of work in peoples' lives means that fair work is not just a workplace issue. The Fair Work Agenda impacts on areas as wide ranging as education, family life, community life, public policy, the media, civic society and the economy and requires a collaborative and integrated approach. This means that there are many 'players' in the fair work landscape including employers and workers; trade unions and employers' associations; government, policy makers and public agencies; regulators and professional bodies. These 'players' have different ways of driving fair work at their disposal. A key challenge will be in bringing together these 'players' and integrating activity around fair work, and the Convention has a continuing role to play in this regard.

Data limitations

In terms of data, some stakeholders raised concerns over limited data availability to assess aspects of fair work, particularly data that would allow for a reliable equalities assessment of fair work, highlighting in particular data on the experience of older and disabled workers. The Scottish Parliament's recent Energy, Economy and Tourism Committee Report138 on work, wages and wellbeing also raised concerns over gaps in labour market and workplace data in Scotland.

The importance of orientation and willingness to drive fair work

The dimensions outlined in the Fair Work Framework can be addressed separately but there is much more to be gained by thinking about the Framework dimensions holistically and investigating synergies between the dimensions and the cross-cutting themes in real business contexts. What is also crucially important is to recognise the importance of a commitment to, and willingness to deliver, fair work - to design, adopt and develop business models that put fair work at the centre of driving successful businesses.

Tribe Yoga (URBN Fitness Ltd) is an Edinburgh based health and wellness studio that opened in August 2015 and employs six people. The company provides a range of class-based exercises such as yoga, pilates and barre. Tribe became an instant success in Edinburgh, breaking even in its first month of operation, selling out its first week's classes prior to opening and generating £100,000 in turnover in its first four months of business.

Tribe attributes its success to providing fair and stable employment. Following engagement with the Innovating Works...improving work and workplaces initiative at the University of Strathclyde, the business founder decided to try fair and innovative work as a business model. He broke from the sector norm of only utilising self-employed teachers. Where Tribe's teachers provide more than five classes per week at the studio, the instructors were given the option to move from self-employment to employee status and all chose to do so, which, according to its founder, makes Tribe Yoga the only yoga studio in Scotland with more than two fully employed teachers. For teachers, the benefits include not just stable incomes and hours of work, but access to employee rights and to investment in training and development. All of Tribe Yoga's employees are paid at the Living Wage or higher. In addition, teachers benefit from ongoing supportive work relationships. As one employee noted: "It's quite lonely being a yoga teacher...you move from studio to studio with little team or client contact beyond your teaching hours. At Tribe I know most of my clients by name and have developed amazing friendships with my colleagues. I'm far happier being at Tribe, and I know it shows in my classes".

This approach has generated many business benefits. Employees are engaged, motivated and team-oriented. The teachers take on additional tasks between classes such as social media, events, marketing, reception work and sales efforts adding to and diversifying their skills. Additionally, it appears to have delivered benefits in terms of reduced sick leave and absenteeism. Most important, however, is a far stronger sense of ownership, where employees tackle client and operational challenges.

Other fair and innovative approaches absorbed from the Innovating Works...project impact on opportunity, fulfilment and respect at work. These include: a lattice style of team management rather than a hierarchy; employees designing and selecting their own uniforms; investment in certified training to upskill teachers; having a transparent approach to pay and profitability so that employees know how everyone is paid and how profitable the business is; free access to yoga classes at Tribe to support wellbeing and peer-to-peer learning; free attendance to yoga events in Scotland that Tribe is associated with; 'mates rates' providing lower cost yoga to friends; and weekly and monthly update meetings nicknamed as 'family gatherings'.

Tribe Yoga is currently in early discussions to open a second facility in Edinburgh and a third in Glasgow before the end of 2016. The company is currently applying for Living Wage accreditation and planning to sign the Scottish Business Pledge. Tribe Yoga highlights the potential of fair and innovative work to generate individual and business success, as well as a high quality service to customers. At this business, doing the right thing simply required a decision to do the right thing. As the business founder notes, "there are no downsides".

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