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


Why is opportunity at work important?

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 work and employment and is a crucial dimension of fair work. Fair opportunity is much more than meeting legal obligations. It is also much more than the chance to access work - what happens once in the workplace is also crucially important. Fair opportunity means not just getting a job, but also being able to progress in that job on terms that are fair33.

For individuals, opportunity that provides fair and equal access to work and to career progression improves their life chances and creates opportunities for social mobility. Irrelevant barriers to access and participation are removed so that employers and workers can focus on merit, performance and contribution.

For employers, fair opportunity leads to diverse organisations where all talents from all sections of society are valued, developed and utilised. Organisations can benefit from the richness of talent and diversity of ideas that this creates. Organisations may also benefit from improved recruitment, retention and reputation. Providing fair opportunity requires attention to recruitment and selection procedures, internship arrangements, training and development approaches and promotion and progression procedures and practices.

For society, fair opportunity breaks down labour market and related inequality, reduces the costs of inefficient resource allocation and helps creates a more equitable, inclusive and cohesive society.

Evidence on opportunity at work

Scotland has a relatively high employment rate (73.1% in the year to September 2015)34, on a par with the rest of the UK35 and above the European average36. Despite the strong employment rate, the chances of being in paid employment vary significantly depending on where you live and who you are. There are significant geographic variations in employmentM37 and employment rates also vary by age, gender, ethnicity and disability status.

Young people aged 16 to 24 have a low employment rate compared to workers over the age of 25 (55.4% in the year to September 2015)38, ahead of the UK youth employment rate of 52.9% and ahead of the EU average (32.4%; figure for 2014)39. Low levels of youth employment predate the 2008 recession. Despite the recent year-on-year growth in youth employment in Scotland, and in the UK as a whole, the pre-recession rate of 62.7% for Scotland has not yet been achieved40. Lower employment opportunities for young people can have long-lasting and significant effects on their future employment and future earnings41.

Access to employment varies significantly by gender. For women in Scotland, the employment rate in 2015 was 69.9%42, compared with 76.4%43 for men, and this is also subject to regional variation44. Women are roughly four times more likely to be in part-time work than men - 38.8% of women compared to 9.9% of men45, corresponding roughly with the EU average for both46. While working part-time may be a positive choice for some women, it can have significant disadvantages in terms of access to training and career development opportunities. Women are less likely to be in self-employment than men, and where they are, they are also almost twice as likely as men to be working part-time47.

Having children affects the likelihood of women being in employment. While for men, having children increases that likelihood of being in work compared to men without children, the opposite picture is the case for women and this is particularly pronounced for lone mothers and for mothers of young children48.

The employment rate of BME workers is 13 percentage points lower than for their white counterparts in Scotland in 2014. The gap is higher (around 20%) for BME women than men (around 8%)49. BME unemployment rates are also higher - 13.2% compared to 6.9% for other workers50. There are variations within ethnic minority groups. From the 2011 census data, those identifying as African were most likely to be unemployed, followed by Caribbean or Black people and Gypsy/Travellers (15%, 11% and 9% respectively). Gypsy/Travellers were twice as likely to be self-employed compared to the general population of Scotland, 24% compared with 12%51.

Disabled people are much less likely than non-disabled people to be in work. In 2014 only 41.6% of disabled people in Scotland were in employment52. The unemployment rate for disabled people increased more than for non-disabled people after 2008 and by 2013 disabled people were nearly twice as likely as non-disabled people to be unemployed53.

Access to training that leads to employment is not equally accessible to all: for example, women make up only 20% of manufacturing Modern Apprenticeships in Scotland and women are more likely to undertake lower level Modern Apprenticeships that have poorer labour market outcomes and lower pay54. Women are concentrated in specific sectors, including early years care, education, social care and hairdressing, compared to men who are clustered into engineering, construction and plumbing55. BME and disabled workers also appear to have low levels of access to Modern Apprenticeships56.

Social class remains an important influence on access to work and attainment in work in Scotland, yet because socio-economic status is not a protected characteristic in equalities legislation, this issue is less commonly a priority issue for by employers, although there are some notable exceptions57.

Access to employment opportunities and the likelihood of being in work varies by age, race and ethnicity, ability, location and gender - and the combination of these. Individuals may have multiple disadvantages in their access to opportunities for work - and in the quality of those opportunities.

There is evidence to suggest that union equality and learning representatives are in a unique position to access and support disadvantaged workers. Equality representatives have a positive impact on employer equality practice and could do more with statutory rights to time off to undertake their duties58. Union learning representatives are well recognised for accessing, engaging and supporting opportunity for non-traditional learners59.

What people told us

The people and organisations who communicated with the Convention identified barriers faced by individuals in accessing work, progressing in work and staying in work over their life course. Pre-recruitment barriers included:

  • How employment opportunities (often insecure) interacted with the benefits system and benefits entitlements - and how benefits conditionality and the sanction process restricts the ability of individuals to look for fair work over any job.
  • Lower incentives for employers to offer fair employment in the context of benefits sanctions that compel people to take any job.
  • More limited job quantity and poorer job quality in areas of high unemployment and deprivation.
  • The cost and the accessibility of childcare, particularly for those working non-standard hours or on contracts where working opportunities are arranged at short notice.
  • Limited availability of medium and long-term support for individuals with multiple disadvantages and who are far from the labour market.
  • A lack of availability of local placements for Modern Apprentices in remote and rural parts of the country.

Barriers during the recruitment process included:

  • The use of informal methods of selection and recruitment that lack transparency and disadvantage certain groups in accessing employment opportunities.
  • Equality of process does not always lead to equality of outcome for people who require additional support even to get close to the labour market and to jobs.

Once in work, individuals and organisations identified key challenges in relation to work and progression in work that limited fair opportunity, including:

  • Flouting legal protections for pregnant women and women on maternity leave and a lack of sympathetic treatment of women who have miscarried.
  • Pay inequality for women, BME and disabled workers. ACAS reported that equal pay generates a significant number of the queries. Adoption of the Living Wage was seen by third sector organisations and some employers as a policy that helped reduce gaps between different demographic groups and support pay equity. Salary transparency was also seen as a means of supporting pay equity.
  • Concern was also raised by business organisations about the numbers of women in senior positions and the low numbers of women on Boards of Directors.
  • For individuals with disrupted lives, such as those who are homeless or fleeing an abusive relationship, it was particularly challenging for them to maintain their jobs, particularly where the work itself was unpredictable such as under zero-hour contract arrangements. There was concern that for individuals in need of emergency support services, these had to be accessed once their situation had already deteriorated and affected their housing and employment circumstances.
  • There was recognition of the limited access to training and development opportunities for part-time and fixed term contract workers. This was particularly problematic where training was linked to progression in the organisation. These inequities disproportionately affected women and young people who are more likely to be in part-time work or on fixed term contracts.
  • Individuals and organisations reported concerns over the lack of understanding and flexibility by employers in accommodating disabled workers and those with health problems. Furthermore, the drive to have multi-skilled workers in some sectors was discussed as a barrier to supporting those with disabilities.
  • Concern was raised about the support from employers and support for employers in accommodating their aging workforces and workers with ill-health, which can lead to older workers feeling pressured to exit employment earlier than they want to. Greater adaptability of work tasks and roles to support older workers to remain in employment were advocated, as was more innovative thinking about how to deal with emerging issues around an aging workforce.
  • Difficulties were reported in providing and accessing training and development opportunities in ways that are geographically accessible.

How to deliver opportunity at work

  • Investigate and interrogate the workforce profile in your organisation and sector, identify where any barriers to opportunity arise and address these creatively. Use staff data to identify whether there are systematic gaps or under-representation of particular demographic groups that can't be explained in a non-discriminatory way. Focus specifically on any barriers to pportunity that arise at different stages of the recruitment and selection process. Involve all workers in driving fair opportunity, drawing on the capacity and capability of union equality representatives where these exist, to drive fair opportunity at workplace level, for example through flexibility and adjustment in recruitment and selection in response to those with distinctive needs. Show evidence of a genuine value being placed on equality of opportunity and diversity.
  • Adopt a life stage approach that helps workers at all ages maximise their contribution. Employers should acknowledge and be responsive to the changes people experience during their life. For example, worker capacities vary over the life course and parenthood and other caring responsibilities will also impact on workers at different points in their career. The design of employment, organisational and work policies that respond flexibly to such variations in capacity and circumstance is crucial to ensuring fair opportunity. This may include retraining, redeployment and the provision of specialist health and wellbeing policies.
  • Engage with diverse and local communities. No organisation or company exists in a vacuum; they are part of and draw from wider communities. Engaging with diverse and local communities can improve the quality of information available to employers, help foster mutual understanding and support fair opportunity. Positive and inclusive community engagement can tap into new sources of diversity and can also help to motivate and engage existing workers.
  • Use buddying and mentoring to support new workers and workers with distinctive needs. Acknowledge the diverse needs of your existing and future workers. Not all workers start from the same place and some will need more encouragement and support than others, particularly in the period following entry to employment. Buddying and mentoring support programmes and systems should be the norm for new workers and for others who require additional support.
  • Undertake equalities profiling in the provision of training and development activities and in career progression procedures and outcomes. Ask existing workers about whether there are equalities issues in progression and specifically identify the experience of workers in groups under-represented in the workforce. Use equalities profiles to prioritise investment in internal progression opportunities and worker development that can drive outcomes consistent with fair opportunity. Where relevant, work jointly with union learning representatives to ensure equal access to training, development and career progression.
  • Invest in and utilise the skills and knowledge of union equality, learning and other workplace representatives. These specialist workplace reps have unique access to workers, can establish supportive and non-threatening relationships and can work with management to identify barriers to opportunity.

Opportunity in practice

JMJ is a family-owned and run business, established in 1989, located in the Borders. Following an unsuccessful application from the Employability and Skills Service (ESS) for employment for a young person, the company offered a short-term work placement to provide work experience but with no guarantee of a job, while ESS provided support with work clothing and tools. The work placement offered practical experience and insight as well as support in acquiring soft skills. After two weeks on a work trial, this young person was offered and accepted their first job with continued support being provided by the company. As the business owner, noted: "The important factor for success in working with young people from difficult backgrounds is the ability to communicate well with them. As a small business the personal approach works, taking an interest in them, respecting them and showing faith in them. Small things like sitting with them at lunch time and including them in any wider social activities. Being aware of their background and the issues they may have outwith the workplace and being willing to not give up on them at the first hurdle. From an employers' perspective it is important to have the opportunity to be able to access funding in order to recruit some of the most difficult and vulnerable young people, as this allows you to build up their skills and knowledge over the period. When I was approached to consider a work trial for this young person before committing to employing, I thought if don't give them a chance who will?".

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