What can employers do beyond real living wage accreditation?
If you’re a Living Wage employer, you may be wondering what more you can do to support your employees. Living Wage accreditation is just one of a number of components of the Welsh Government’s wider ‘Fair Work’ agenda. You may already have heard of ‘Fair Work’ – but what exactly is it?
It’s a key part of the Welsh Government’s economic agenda, and is included in things like the Welsh Government’s Economic Contract with businesses.
According to the Fair Work Wales report commissioned to look into this topic, the specific definition of fair work is:
‘where workers are fairly rewarded, heard and represented, secure and able to progress in a healthy, inclusive environment where rights are respected.’
Within this definition, the report also spoke about six key characteristics or pillars (the promotion of equality and inclusion is integral to all six characteristics):
how to implement fair work
The Welsh Government’s guide to fair work lists examples of specific actions which organisations can take related to each of the six pillars.
Below, we elaborate detailed aspects within the six characteristics to indicate what good practice looks like in relation to fair work employment.
The Real Living Wage provides the minimum wage floor for all working hours. The employer has achieved or is working towards accreditation as a Living Wage Employer.
Rates of pay and other terms and conditions are appropriate, commensurate with skill etc. Work is evaluated fairly, including revaluing of work generally performed by women.
Relevant collective agreements are adhered to. Negotiated rates or industry, sector or occupational standards are followed where applicable.
Enhanced contractual rates above statutory minima are paid where possible (e.g. sick pay, maternity pay, paternity pay, holiday pay).
There is transparency in pay calculation (including bonus, holiday pay, sick pay etc) and in the method of pay determination.
Employer demonstrates non-discriminatory pay systems and that pay and reward are equitable as between different groups (e.g. through transparent gender and ethnicity pay audits) and that there is an action plan to deliver this.
There is transparency in pay distribution including reporting ratio of senior pay to the median of their workers’ pay, and an action plan to address pay gaps.
Benefit schemes which take account of the needs of lower paid workers.
Employee voice and collective representation
Having arrangements in place for employee voice and collective representation is of itself a substantive characteristic of fair work and also provides a process which helps ensure fairness in the other areas. Thus recognition of a trade union for collective bargaining is both a route to, and a key indicator of, fair work.
Arrangements are in place for employees to be involved in how their work is carried
out and have the opportunity to express their views and be heard on matters directly affecting them.
Employees are made aware of their legal rights relating to union membership, union activity and recognition of a union for collective bargaining on their behalf. Provision is made for trade unions to access workers to enable them to make informed decisions as to these rights.
Employees know how to raise concerns about their employment and to have these listened to and addressed.
Employees are informed of how to contact a trade union and notified of their right to be accompanied by union official (or fellow worker) in grievance and disciplinary hearings whether or not a union is recognised at the workplace.
A trade union is recognised for collective bargaining or exceptionally, if not possible, other arrangements are in place for effective representation of employees’ collective views and participation.
Arrangements are in place to ensure under-represented groups, including those with protected characteristics, are heard.
Worker interests are represented on the main company board.
Managers meet regularly with union representatives (or other employee representatives) to engage in meaningful consultation on issues affecting workers.
Employees are made aware of their right to request an information and consultation body (where the undertaking employs 50 or more) and how to trigger this.
Security and flexibility
(a) Income, hours and working time security
Adequate notice is provided of work schedules, variation in hours or working time (with compensation for lack of this).
No misrepresentation of employment status (e.g. false self-employment); no inappropriate use of umbrella companies or exploitative ‘zero hours’ contracts.
Guaranteed minimum hours per week as default position, with the option for the individual to accept or not.
Workers are provided with information and options in terms of contractual status; employer accepts obligation to offer a specified regular hours contract or a minimum/maximum hours contract to those on non-guaranteed hours after three months.
Availability of working hours and patterns to facilitate inclusion (e.g. of disabled workers), and to accommodate the reality of workers’ lives.
Worker-centred flexibility is not ‘traded’ against reward or progression.
(b) Job/work security
Adoption of best practice policy and procedures for discipline/dismissal, redundancy and redeployment and their effective implementation - since the existence of policies and procedures does not of itself guarantee fair practice.
Employees are informed of company plans and developments which may affect them;
employer consults regularly and in good time on such matters with trade union and
Provision of reskilling and training for change (whether technological, organisational or societal, including greater use of Welsh language); access to externally recognised accredited (transferable) skills courses.
Opportunity for access, growth and progression
Opportunities are open to all to access work; for fulfilment and growth; to develop and progress; to acquire and use skills.
Inclusive development opportunities exist which are sensitive to diverse needs.
No disadvantage is experienced in terms of opportunities for progression/career paths rising from particular contractual status or personal characteristics. Occupational segregation is addressed.
Workers have access to training for current job, for progression and for organisational
change; there is re-skilling of older and lower qualified workers.
High quality apprenticeships are offered.
Safe, healthy and inclusive working environment
Health and safety policy and measures are in place and regularly reviewed; risk
assessments are undertaken.
Work and job design and working environment are conducive to safety, physical and mental well-being and inclusion (for example adjustment to accommodate disabled workers).
Worker health and safety representatives are present and regularly consulted.
Working time and patterns are conducive to well-being (e.g. no excessive hours,
adequate rest breaks, minimisation of high intensity work).
All individuals are valued and treated with dignity and respect.
Welsh language use is respected, encouraged and facilitated.
There is a supportive approach to managing physical and mental ill-health.
Responsibility is taken for preventing discrimination, bullying, harassment and other forms of ill-treatment.
Appropriate policies and procedures (e.g. grievance; dignity at work, ‘whistleblowing’ etc.) are implemented by suitably trained and supported managers.
Legal rights are respected and given substantive effect
The employer attaches importance to legal rights and their application within the workplace, not relying on external enforcement; taking pro-active steps to make rights meaningful in practice.
Giving substantive effect to rights means an employer does not seek to circumvent legal rights (e.g. avoiding statutory rights and benefits accorded to ‘employees’ or ‘workers’ through use of false ‘self-employment’; dismissing workers and then reemploying after a gap to prevent access to those statutory protections requiring a period of qualifying service).
Examples/indicators of pro-active steps to give substantive effect to legal rights and duties include:
Developing and implementing action plans to promote equality and diversity (going beyond ‘not discriminating’). Transparency in information provision e.g. workforce data suitably disaggregated by gender, ethnicity, disability etc. with attention to how these identities can interact. Involving workers through their representatives in planning, auditing and monitoring implementation and outcomes.
Developing from publishing a ‘modern slavery statement’ (required of large employers by Modern Slavery Act (MSA) s54) to setting down and taking actions to ensure compliance in supply chains and accepting joint responsibility for tackling infringement.
Facilitating and offering flexible arrangements in all jobs rather than waiting for an individual to exercise the statutory right to request flexibility.
Ensuring the quality and capacity of line management in the consistent application of appropriate good practice policies and procedures to give effect to the intent of employment rights.
Providing all workers on day one (and annually) with an easy-to-comprehend statement of their contractual status, terms and conditions of appointment and employment rights; information on how to seek advice and redress if necessary, including how to contact a trade union.