One in 10 Scottish workers in unstable work

One in 10 employees in Scotland (over 200,000 people) have said their work does not give them a stable or predictable income.

Research from think tank IPPR Scotland's report found one in five workers were faced with a notice of two weeks or less for their rota, with two-fifths on a lower rate of pay pre-pandemic than they were in 2010.

Working women in Scotland were 44% more likely than men to experience low pay, and BAME workers were 38% more likely than white workers to be low paid, exacerbating existing inequalities in the workplace. 

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The state of UK workers’ rights has been brought into question following reports of rising fire and rehire strategies during coronavirus, the prevalence of in-work poverty and the fight for a right to flexible work.

An upcoming employment bill, proposed by the UK government in 2019, is set to tackle some of the challenges of inflexible and insecure work, yet it has been delayed by the pandemic.

Until the bill is brought forward or policymakers set out further change, IPPR Scotland urged employers to build on relationships they created during coronavirus and continue to collaborate closely with employees, unions and government to find the most effective solutions.

Speaking to HR magazine Rachel Statham, senior research fellow at IPPR Scotland, said: "Employers don't need to wait to deliver fair work. By paying the real living wage, offering living hours, investing in skills and making sure their staff have a voice in their business, they can make important contributions to a fair work economy, and likely improve productivity in doing so.”

To lower the barriers that lock people out of fair work, Statham recommended employers make jobs flexible by default and offer guaranteed interviews to disabled applicants.

CIPD Scotland has supported the report's recommendations for improving fair work and Lee Ann Panglea, head of CIPD Scotland and NI, said HR professionals have a critical role to play in this.

Panglea told HR magazine: “Our profession has crucial role to play in this [improving job quality]. Good people practice is central to achieving inclusive growth and improving job quality and productivity for all employees and employers.

"From more flexible working arrangements and health and wellbeing interventions, to improvements in job design or upskilling, HR professionals can drive the fair work agenda throughout Scotland’s workplaces." 

Widespread change will however need government action, Statham argued.

The report also urged the Scottish government to consider developing sectoral ‘fair work agreements’ to help with the change.

These agreements would have minimum terms and conditions around pay, hours and wider measures of job quality sector by sector and be required by the government ahead of investment in the renewal of these sectors post-pandemic.

Grants, loans and local tax should also be used to incentivise fair work as the current voluntary approach has been ineffective.

Statham added: “To see the step change across our economy that we need to see, and to build a Scotland with justice hard-wired in, we need government action to deliver a recovery with fair work as the norm not the exception."