Just and fair conditions at work – Welsh Government assessment

Progress assessment

Limited progress

There have been legal or policy changes to improve human rights protections but very limited evidence of sustained improvements in the enjoyment of human rights on this issue

Employment is mainly a reserved issue, which limits the action that Welsh Government can take. The Welsh Government has taken some policy and legal steps to deliver fair work in Wales, demonstrating an intention to use its devolved powers and levers to promote and encourage just and fair working conditions. However, there have not yet been sustained improvements in outcomes: low-paid work is on the increase, ethnicity and disability pay gaps persist, and there is evidence of bullying and harassment in the workplace. 

  • The gender pay gap in median hourly earnings of full-time employees is lower in Wales than in the UK as a whole, and has decreased since 2016. New data on the ethnicity pay gap shows that employees from ethnic minority groups earn, on average, around 7.5% less per hour than white British employees. Average earnings are also lower for disabled people than for non-disabled people.
  • There is evidence that the percentage of people in low paid work in Wales is increasing – in 2019, more than one in five employees in Wales were paid below the real living wage, rising to more than one third of employees in some Welsh constituencies.
  • There is evidence of unfair treatment, bullying and harassment in workplaces in Wales – for example, 26% of people in Wales have experienced unwanted sexual behaviour at work, and seven out of 10 mothers have had a negative or possibly discriminatory experience during pregnancy or maternity leave, or on returning from maternity leave.
  • In Wales, as elsewhere in Britain, the coronavirus pandemic has affected working conditions, particularly for certain protected characteristic groups. Concerns have been raised that those working in health and social care (predominantly women and ethnic minority workers) have been put at risk through the inadequate provision of Personal Protective Equipment.
  • The Welsh Government published guidance to Keep Wales safe at work during the pandemic, but it did not initially adopt the social model of disability and paid little attention to equality and human rights principles, with the revised guidance not fully addressing these concerns.
  • The Welsh Government has taken some positive steps to progress policy and laws to deliver fair work in Wales, including the introduction of the Economic Contract, requiring businesses seeking investment to demonstrate their commitment to fair work – further work is required to maximise the potential of this opportunity.
  • Although the Public Sector Equality Duty – in particular, the procurement specific duty – has potential to drive forward fair work principles in Wales, the duty has not led to the transformative change that was planned.
  • A review of the Public Sector Equality Duty in Wales has been paused due to the pandemic.

Read more about the UK and Welsh Governments’ actions on just and fair conditions at work

The assessment was made based on the evidence available up to 15/09/2020