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.

Read more

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.

Read more

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.

Read more

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.

Read more

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.

Read more

Fair Work Framework 2016


Why is respect at work important?

Respect at work enhances individual health, safety and wellbeing. Dignified treatment can protect workers from workplace related illness and injury and create an environment free from bullying and harassment. Workplaces that recognise individuals as individuals with their own interests significantly impact self-esteem while giving value to the contribution that individuals make. Respect at work is a two-way process between employers and workers and is valued for recognising the reciprocity of the employment relationship111.

From the organisational perspective, respect not only avoids the negative impacts (and potential liabilities) arising from some forms of disrespectful behaviour, more constructively, it can improve standards of communication and social exchange. Where workers believe that their contribution is recognised and valued, trust relationships are developed and the potential for worker involvement is enhanced.

Work is an important part of social life and the relations learned and reinforced in the workplace can spill over into other social spheres, creating more respectful and cohesive societies. More practically, fewer work-related illnesses and injuries impose fewer demands on the NHS and the welfare system. Respectful workplace relations can also improve conflict resolution, thus reducing the cost of public intervention to resolve and remedy disputes between employers and workers.

Evidence on respect at work

Respect at work comprises respect for the person, in terms of health, safety and wellbeing; respectful treatment in interpersonal relations; respect for family life, in terms of work-life balance; an appreciation of rights in relation to conflict resolution and due process; and respect for a person's value and contribution.

Focusing on health, safety and wellbeing, levels of self-reported workplace injury and sickness absence have been in decline over the last two decades (the latter falling from 39.5 million working days lost in 2000-2002 to 37.3 million in 2014-15)112. Levels of stress-related illness caused or made worse by work, however, have increased from 13.3 million in 2011 to 15 million in 2014. Stress-related illness is the most common self-reported illness of those currently in work. The incidence of stress-related absence is rising for particular occupational groups113. In recent years, Labour Force Survey data has consistently shown that stress-related absence is higher among women (590 cases for men and 920 cases for women per 100,000 people employed in 2011-2015)114.

Stress-related absence is more prevalent in public sector occupations in health and social care, education and public administration. Some data suggests that the public sector presents the highest level of psychosocial risk of dealing with difficult customers115. Other data explains high levels of stress in the public sector in terms of workload pressures, interpersonal relationships, changes including a reduction in resource and a lack of managerial support. Over 35% of new cases of work-related stress relate to 'factors intrinsic to the job' with just over 25% related to 'interpersonal relationships' and 10% to 'changes at work'116.

Looking more closely at interpersonal relations, UK data from 2010 suggests that 30.8% of workers reported some form of adverse social behaviour (verbal abuse, threats or humiliating behaviour, physical violence, bullying or harassment) at work in the previous 12 months)117. There has been more than a doubling of concerns around bullying at work from 20% in 2008 to 46% in 2014118. Over a longer period (2000-2012), workers' fear of unfair treatment at work have risen strikingly, linked potentially with the intensification of work effort119.

Research suggests that 80% of UK managers report at least knowing of bullying occurring in their workplace120 and line managers and peer colleagues are most likely to be accused of bullying behaviour121. Public sector workers are frequently cited as the most vulnerable to bullying in the workplace122.

Bullying and harassment in the workplace damages employers as well as workers. CIPD estimate its cost to UK employers as upward of £2 billion per year through 'sickness absence, staff turnover, reduced productivity for the victims and their colleagues as well as the cost of potential litigation'123. For the individual, the cost typically includes absence from work but may also include poorer mental health, particularly for workers who feel unable to defend themselves from the bullying behaviour124.

Trust is considered an important determinant of positive worker behaviours with 'trust in each other' covering a multiplicity of relationships125. While more workers believe that trust between workers and senior management is weak than strong, 80% report having trust in their line managers126. Yet, data suggests that reciprocity is absent given task discretion has remained at the same level since 2001127.

Turning to respect for personal and family life and to debates on work-life balance, this is often viewed in relation to the availability of flexible hours, home working or part-time work in which 49%, 44% and 40% respectively of eligible workers engage. UK surveys shows that most workers (75%) are aware of their right to request flexible working with the parents of young children comprising the largest group (82%)128.

The UK has one of the highest incidences in Europe of women working part-time and research shows that the majority of women who work part-time do so to reconcile work commitments with caring responsibilities for children or incapacitated adults, highlighting the role of women as primary carers129. Women were more likely to request a change to their working arrangements including when they work, the number of days that they work or to reduce their hours130. Even though there has been an increase in flexible working requests by men, ONS labour market statistics show that women are significantly more likely (44% compared to 14%) to work part-time131.

Opportunities for flexible working can be beneficial to workers and employers. Workers with flexible working opportunities report high levels of satisfaction. Employers benefit through the willingness of a higher proportion of 'flexible' workers (10%) to give extra time to their work than their full-time counterparts (6%)132. Of those who regularly work from home, 18% report in excess of 48 hours per week while 19 of part-time workers report 35-40 hours133.

Disagreement and conflict is an inevitable part of workplace life and all organisations need to engage in conflict resolution. Available data indicates that the extent of disciplinary action in individual disputes has remained constant since 2004 with 41% of managers reporting applying at least one form of disciplinary action134. Grievance disputes have decreased from 38% of workers in 2004 to 29% in 2011 although this drop could be attributed to greater anxiety among workers about raising a grievance during difficult economic times when alternative employment opportunities are scarcer. However, most firms report that they do not rate their line managers as competent in dealing with conflict135 yet training line managers in mediation skills appears to result in fewer formal disciplinary and grievance cases.

Respect for and valuing of workers' contribution can impact positively on their commitment, effort and wellbeing and can also support a high performance culture. A review of over 70 scientific studies reports that where workers feel valued they show higher levels of commitment to the organisation, greater job satisfaction, lower levels of sick leave and turnover, and lower levels of psychological strain which reduces their symptoms of burnout, anxiety and depression136.

What people told us

Workers and unions raised a range of concerns over a lack of respect for individuals and how this impacted on health and wellbeing:

  • Concerns were raised over increasing work pressures, targets and sanctions that were, in some instances, contributing to a climate of fear rather than a climate of respect, and which were damaging to health and wellbeing.
  • We heard of examples of good practice in supporting work-life balance but also of the many challenges people with caring responsibilities face in combining work and family life and care responsibilities in particular.
  • It was acknowledged that leaders and managers are the key influences on a respectful organisational climate.
  • A disconnect was reported between statements about respect made by senior leaders in organisations and how individuals experience these on the ground. It was reported that middle management were, in some cases, reinterpreting and diluting organisational level commitment to a respect agenda, with increasing pressures on middle management impacting on their security, to which they respond by transferring pressure downwards.

In other instances, workers reported experiencing a culture of command and control or 'us and them' which militated against mutual respect.

In influencing interpersonal relations at work, stakeholders pointed out that:

  • Having explicit policies on respect and clear standards for behaviour and conduct was important, especially in signalling the organisation's commitment, but that the existence of a respect policy was not enough. Policies needed to be implemented correctly and consistently to make a difference to workers' experience.
  • Inconsistency of treatment undermines trust and satisfaction, but being seen to do the right thing builds and extends trust and satisfaction.
  • Customers were sometimes a source of disrespect to workers and should be more aware of how their expectations and behaviours impact on respect work intensity and pressure.

Many organisations want to do the right thing but don't know how to go about it. While a vast amount of information and advice was available (for example, through ACAS), many employers and workers were not aware of this.

  • It was also acknowledged that conflict will arise in every workplace and that resolving this constructively was difficult.
  • Some employers and other stakeholders highlighted that implementing mass redundancies is difficult to achieve respectfully.
  • While there are sources of support in conflict and redundancy situations (such as PACE), these were not always accessed, or accessed quickly enough.
  • There were serious concerns about the lack of external support available when things went wrong at work, particularly given the huge fall in employment tribunal claims (by around 80%) since the introduction of fees. Not only were fees beyond the reach of many workers, but people are further discouraged to pursue a claim given that only 50% of tribunal awards are paid in full to the claimant even where they are successful.

An important point about value and contribution was made strongly by some workers, particularly in the care sector:

  • The value of workers should not be equated with the level of their pay. Rather, jobs should be considered valuable where they provide an important service to individuals and to society.
  • Workers in low paid jobs resented how their jobs were perceived by customers and society and argued that this detracted from how well respected they felt.

How to deliver respect at work

  • Respecting others is everybody's business. A culture of respect requires that behaviours, attitudes and practices that support health, safety and wellbeing are consistently understood and applied. Set and actively promote standards and engage with trade unions and/or worker safety representatives to develop joint training that supports a respectful culture for workers at all levels in your organisation. A consistently applied and understood culture of health, safety and wellbeing will enhance workers' lives and may also deliver better performance.
  • Be explicit about respect as an organisational value and practice and start a dialogue around respect as it is experienced in your own organisation. Are people respected in your organisation for their personal value and for their contribution? What is the evidence to support your answer? One simple way of enhancing respect is to ask people whether they feel respected at work, be open with the results by sharing these and act on what that information reveals. Respect should not be a function of status or position and all workers, regardless of grade or pay, are worthy of respect.
  • Develop clear expectations of behaviour, conduct and treatment and encourage the involvement of everyone to improve respectful behaviours. Policies and procedures on specific respect issues such as bullying and harassment (which go beyond existing legal requirements for protected categories of worker) need to be communicated and understood by everyone. These also need to be seen to be working consistently on a day-to-day basis. Consider the adoption of a respect charter to give practical guidance as to what is and isn't respectful behaviour.
  • Respect for worker's personal and family life requires access to practices that allow the balancing of work and family life. Work-life balance arrangements need to be flexible over all stages of working life. Expectations can change over time and changes need to be communicated and understood. Engagement and listening to workers' ideas is important in designing approaches to work-life balance that can deliver for both workers and employers and may produce more effective arrangements than a 'one size fits all' approach.
  • Re-framing conflict can enhance respect in an organisation - think about differing views as potentially productive and creative. Differences of views are not by their nature destructive - constructive conflict is about examining different opinions and options and can be productive within a respectful culture. Ensure that internal procedures exist to manage conflict in a constructive way that supports good interpersonal relationships. Too often differences of opinion that could be constructively addressed are allowed to degenerate with longer- term impacts on personal relationships in the workplace. Promoting transparency, honesty and trust are important pillars that prevent alternative viewpoints from leading to conflict and division.

Loretto Care is a subsidiary of Loretto Housing Association, part of The Wheatley Group, which is Scotland's leading housing, care and property management provider. Their vision is "making homes and lives better". Loretto Care provides care and support services to around 2,000 people across Scotland, employing over 500 staff. Loretto considers their staff to be their most valued resource and aims to be an employer of choice in the care sector. This includes providing competitive salaries at Living Wage or above and offering permanent contracts and good work-life balance to support their provision of high quality service. Staff are fully involved in organisational decision making and effective two-way communication between staff and senior managers, in all areas of the business, is crucial for delivering their strategies and positive outcomes for all. Management believe that their Investors in People Gold Award recognises the excellence of the systems they rely on to attract, support, manage, train and retain staff, which result in a 92% employee retention rate. The organisation regularly evaluates and benchmarks progress and performance against other care providers. "Our care and support staff work with people when they may be most vulnerable, and our workforce reflects strong social values, diversity and gender balance. We recognise everyone is different, each of us is unique and we like that. We have a long commitment to ensuring their staff, have a happy, healthy, safe workplace". Initially involved in Scotland Health at Work (SHAW), the organisation have gone on to achieve a Bronze and Silver Mental Health Commendation and a Gold Healthy Working Lives Award. A three-year health, safety and wellbeing strategy was co-produced with employees and the Healthy Working Lives Group proactively implementing this at a local level, promoting and encouraging participation and involvement in their own health and wellbeing. There is currently a 94% participation rate within the workforce. Loretto say "Social care is life changing work, and our staff go the extra mile for the people we support. They are truly our biggest asset and investment - we do as much as we possibly can to recruit the right people and then retain them within the organisation, support individuals' development and make their career in care a positive, healthy happy one".

The Michelin tyre plant in Dundee employs approximately 900 people producing up to 1,000 tyres per hour, 24 hours a day and seven days a week. Constructive relations between the company and Unite the Union underpins a culture of mutual respect which supports the factory in operating self-directed work teams without management supervision outside office hours Monday to Friday. This means mutual trust, good relationships and behaviour are key. The factory started Employee Engagement Surveys to identify issues and work to improve people's experience at work and relationships with the company, and were surprised and concerned by low ratings on the statement "people are treated with respect". Despite efforts to address this, the survey a year later hadn't generated expected improvements, leading the company to conclude that it did not fully understand people's experience or expectations. Workshops involving teams and their managers address the question 'what does respect mean to you?'. All 900 people completed this process and the results were used to develop a 'Charter of Respect', compiled by a transverse team including Union reps. With this work and other actions Michelin Dundee have improved the rating on whether people are treated with respect by 8%.

Fair Work Framework 2016

Return to 'Contents' section // go to next section

Go to top of page