Fair work and pay

Employment law is reserved to the UK Government but we are doing all we can with the powers available to us to promote fair working practices.

Fair work action plan

We published a Fair Work Action Plan in February 2019.

This sets out a range of measures to support employers to embed fairer working practices, including a benchmarking tool to assess current practice.

Other commitments include a refreshed Scottish Business Pledge more clearly aligned to Fair Work principles, a new learning network, and an international Fair Work Summit.

Fair work in practice

Delivering Fair Work during the coronavirus pandemic

In March 2020, the Cabinet Secretary for Economy, Fair Work and Culture and the then STUC General Secretary, Grahame Smith issued a joint statement outlining the shared commitment to fair work practices in Scotland. The statement called on employers, trades unions and workers to work together to throughout the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak and ensure workers are treated fairly. 

The statement was refreshed in July 2020 to reflect the significant challenges in the economic recovery, and bring in wider representation from business organisations, local government and the third sector.

Fair Work First guidance

We published Fair Work First guidance, on 29 January 2021, which supports employers and public sector partners to implement Fair Work First.  

Fair Work employer support tool

We launched our Fair Work tool for employers on 29 January 2021, which enables organisations to self-assess their working practices against the dimensions of Fair Work.

Fair Work Agreement

The Fair Work Agreement was signed in November 2018 by the Cabinet Secretary for Finance, Economy and Fair Work and the recognised Civil Service Trade Unions. It illustrates the commitment to embedding Fair Work into local employment policy and practice in the Civil Service sector.

All public bodies in Scotland are encouraged to work with their trade union partners to adopt the terms of the agreement.

The agreement aligns with the Fair Work Convention’s Framework and promotes work that offers:

  • respect
  • opportunity
  • fulfilment
  • security
  • effective voice

Workplace Equality Fund and Women Returners Programme

Equality groups whose work has been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic can apply for funding to continue their work to promote workplace equality. 

Applications are currently open for the Workplace Equality Fund and Women Returners Programme for 2020 to 2021.

Projects should deliver short and sharp interventions supporting employers to improve their diversity and inclusion strategies and support women back into the labour market.

Find out how to apply at the Employability in Scotland website:

 If you have difficulty accessing the information and forms from these links, please email wefwrp@gov.scot

Gender pay gap action plan

We published a gender pay gap action plan in March 2019.

Its aim is to bring together a cross-government approach to tackle the causes of gendered inequality in the labour market. 

The plan will address inequalities faced by women, particularly disabled women, minority ethnic women, women from poorer socioeconomic backgrounds, and women with caring responsibilities. 

It sets out a range of actions that we want to take over the coming years to further reduce the gender pay gap for employees in Scotland.

Real Living Wage

We actively champion the real Living Wage which helps to ensure peoples' basic pay meets the cost of living.

There are now just under 1500 Living Wage accredited employers in Scotland. This has helped ensure that, at 80.6%, Scotland has the highest rate of workers in the UK earning the real Living Wage.

In November 2017 we announced plans to work with the Poverty Alliance to build on this success and create a 'Living Wage Nation'. This includes:

  • at least 25,000 more people to receive the Living Wage by 2021
  • launch of a regional accreditation scheme to create the UK's first Living Wage towns, cities and regions
  • an increase in the proportion of accredited organisations in low-paid sectors, such as hospitality and tourism

The real Living Wage rate, which is reviewed every year, was £9.00 per hour as of November 2018.

In addition, we:

Research evidence highlights that paying the real Living Wage benefits both employees and employers alike.

It demonstrates a commitment by employers to their staff, and in return employers have experienced benefits including increased productivity, reduce absenteeism and improved staff morale.

Zero hours contracts

In government, we don't directly employ anyone on zero hours contracts.

We've also introduced procurement guidance to ensure that companies bidding for public sector contracts don't use zero hours contracts. And we're encouraging businesses to commit to not using exploitative contracts through the Scottish Business Pledge.

Scottish Business Pledge

We are encouraging employers to commit to using fair work practices, such as paying the Living Wage, by signing up to the Scottish Business Pledge.

In February 2018 we announced a review of the Pledge, focused on attracting greater business buy-in and impact. In response to feedback from that review, we refreshed the structure of the Business Pledge to ensure alignment with the Fair Work Framework and relevance to Fair Work First.

Support for trade unions

In 2018 to 2019 we are promoting better working practices by providing:

  • £2.262 million to support workforce development through Scottish Union Learning
  • £250,000 for the Trade Union Fair Work and Modernisation Fund
  • £100,000 towards the STUC's Fair Work: Leadership and Equality Programme

Fair Work Convention

We set up the independent Fair Work Convention in 2015 to advise us on issues relating to fair work.

It published a fair work framework in 2016, setting out what it means by fair work, why it is important, who can play a part in making Scotland a world leading nation in fair work and how this might be achieved.