The Fair Work Framework was published in March by the independent Fair Work Convention, which is designed to guide practice and improve various aspects of working life for employees in Scotland. Business leader Linda Urquhart and former STUC President Anne Douglas have been appointed to co-chair the Convention which aims to ensure there are more good quality, well-paid jobs at all levels throughout the public, private and third sectors. Since employment law is reserved to the UK Government, the Framework only goes as far as providing guidance, rather than imposing new legal obligations on employers.
The Framework is designed to provide a practical blueprint for implementing fair work. It acknowledges that every workplace is different and there is no ‘one size fits all’ approach that can be taken and implemented. The Convention asked stakeholders what fair work meant to them, which has resulted in creation of the ‘Fair Work Dimensions’ which are: effective voice; opportunity; security; fulfilment and respect. The Framework fleshes out each of these dimensions with steps employers can take to implement each dimension.
- Effective voice gives individuals a channel of communication within the workplace, helps to resolve conflict, and allows employees to engage and participate constructively in organisations. Being able to speak and be listened to, the Framework states is closely linked to the development of respectful and reciprocal workplace relationships. Recommendations include ensuring that all processes give scope for individuals and groups to air their views, and more extensive union recognition.
- Opportunity allows for progress and is said to be a crucial dimension of fair work, protecting groups subject to specific legal protections as a minimum. The Framework stresses that there is more to opportunity than this – attitudes, behaviours, policies and practices must all be challenged. Ways in which opportunity can improve include identifying barriers within organisations that prevent opportunity, engaging with diverse and local communities, and using buddying and mentoring to support new workers and those with distinctive needs.
- Security of employment, work and income are another key aspect of fair work. The burden of insecurity and risk should not rest primarily on workers. Examples of improving security include building stability into contractual arrangements, having collective agreements for pay and conditions and paying the Living Wage (as established by the Living Wage Foundation, currently at £8.25 per hour outside London). It is also identified that zero hour contracts are more often than not unfair.
- Fulfilment is identified as a key requirement for employees to get the most out of their jobs and for their own self-belief. By utilising and developing their skills and being given scope to make a difference, workers are more likely to be engaged, committed and healthy according to the Framework. Improving fulfilment can take place by building the dimension into job design, creating a culture where people can make a difference, and setting realistic levels of expectation.
- Respect is intrinsic within work, regardless of an individual’s role or status. Respect must come from both employers and employees and it must be mutual. The Framework makes clear that respect goes far beyond its commonly narrow interpretations of preventing bullying and harassment: it should include dignified treatment, social support and developing trusting relationships. Clear expectations of behaviour and conduct should be set to improve respectful behaviour.
For more information, visit the Fair Work Convention website at http://www.fairworkconvention.scot/ to view the Framework in full.
Co-authored by Thomas Gates.