SCOTLAND will miss its target of becoming a fairer economy with less inequality in the workplace by 2025 unless urgent action is taken, advisers to the Scottish Government have warned.

The Fair Work Convention, the independent body which advises ministers on how improvements to working life can help the country’s economy, has today published its manifesto which it wants political parties to look at in the run up to the Holyrood election in May.

The document calls for all parties to put fair work at the heart of their pledges to voters ahead of the ballot and proposes steps needed to meet the goal by the end of the next parliament. 

Measures it wants parties to support include:

  • Making fair work a condition of all public funding available and public contracts awarded to employers as a means of improving and embedding higher fair work standards
  • Using the powers of the Scottish Parliament to improve the safety net for workers with a specific focus on sick pay and unemployment support
  • Improving the experience of fair work for disabled workers, ethnic minority workers, women, younger workers, older workers and LGBT+ workers

In its Fair Work in Scotland report, published in December, the convention revealed even prior to the Covid-19 crisis, the use of zero hours contracts had increased over the 
previous five years. It also revealed disabled workers, ethnic minorities, women and young workers frequently experienced poorer working conditions and are often more heavily concentrated in precarious and low paid work.  

READ MORE: Here's what to expect from Rishi Sunak's Budget

The report also found that there was significant variation by sector, with evidence suggesting the pandemic was widening existing inequalities. 

The convention believes embedding fair work principles into the economy will help Scotland respond to the challenges caused by the pandemic as well as other issues around the ageing population, climate change, automation and Brexit.

Professor Patricia Findlay, co-chair of the Fair Work Convention, said: “The ongoing public health challenges and the economic and social impact of Covid-19 has laid bare much of the unfairness at the heart of our economy and the need for fair work, but it has also increased the challenges we face with many sectors now under a range of ongoing and new pressures. 

“In the wake of such unprecedented shocks, progress towards achieving fair work is ever more crucial but not guaranteed.” 

Grahame Smith, co-chair of the Fair Work Convention, said: “The extent of persistent inequality at the workplace is deeply concerning. The need for urgent action is clear and this is a critical time for our economy and for society.” 

Fair Work Minister Jamie Hepburn said: “We remain strongly committed to making Scotland a Fair Work Nation by 2025, where fair work drives a wellbeing economy built on sustainable and inclusive growth.

“Throughout the Covid crisis, we have maintained our focus on tackling the distinct labour market challenges faced by women, disabled workers, ethnic minorities and young people. We have with the trades unions and others issued our joint statement on Fair Work principles during the pandemic and have continued to lay the foundations for further implementing Fair Work First conditions in public grants and procurement.

READ MORE: Our green ports will be built on Scottish values and help to grow our exports

“The Scottish Government hugely values the support provided by the Fair Work Convention and we continue to engage with them as we develop our Fair Work approach, keeping it at the heart of our economic recovery and renewal.”

Scottish Labour economy and fair work spokeswoman Monica Lennon said: “Scottish Labour is committed to building a recovery with fairness for working people at its heart.
“That’s why in budget negotiations we have led the fight for £15 an hour for social care workers.”

Scottish LibDem fair work spokeswoman Katy Gordon said her party had long argued that the Government should be using its procurement powers to ensure fair wages and conditions throughout the supply chain.