Just and fair conditions at work – Welsh Government assessment
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 the 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. The gender pay gap has decreased since 2016. However, there have not yet been sustained improvements in other outcomes: low-paid work is rising, the disability pay gap persists, and there is evidence of bullying and harassment in the workplace.
- The gender pay gap in median hourly earnings of full-time employees has decreased since 2016.
- Data on the ethnicity pay gap from 2018 to 2019 shows that employees from ethnic minority groups earn, on average, around 7.5% less per hour than White British employees. However, the overall ethnicity pay gap in England and Wales has narrowed to its smallest level since 2012.
- Average earnings are lower for disabled people than for non-disabled people. For the year ending September 2020, there was a disability employment gap of 32.1% in Wales.
- 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 was paid below £9.30 per hour (a ‘Real Living Wage’ figure based on people’s everyday expenses), 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.
- The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has affected working conditions in Wales, 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 its guidance to ‘Keep Wales safe at work’ during the COVID-19 pandemic, but it initially 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 commitment to refresh the Economic Contract to support businesses to drive forward fair work, but it is too early to assess the impact of commitments in the ‘Programme for government 2021 to 2026’.
- Although the Public Sector Equality Duty, as well as the specific duties under the Equality Act 2010, has potential to drive forward fair work principles in Wales, the duty has not had the planned impact.
Read more about the UK and Welsh Governments’ actions on just and fair conditions at work.