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Fair Work in Practice - UNISON Case Study: Respect

Scottish Union Learning has been working closely with unions across Scottish Apprenticeships to develop apprenticeship standards and frameworks, to progress apprenticeship opportunities with employers and to support Apprentices in their workplaces.

This is the second in a series of five apprenticeship case studies from a range of unions working in different sectors. Each case study will focus on a specific Fair Work dimension in practice, although the Fair Work dimensions do not stand in isolation from each other.


"Fair Work is work in which people are respected and treated respectfully, whatever their role and status." Fair Work Framework 2016

UNISON: A Local Authority Case Study

by Kevin Duguid, UNISON

As part of Fair Work, it is essential that people are respected and treated respectfully, whatever their role and status within the workplace is – and this includes apprentices.

Mutual respect is an important aspect of everyday social exchanges and is a crucial element of relationships in the workplace, where a large proportion of our life is spent.

Mutual respect means recognising the views, status, individualism and contribution of others, and when workers and workplaces have this culture embedded there are multiple benefits to both individuals and their employers, such as self-esteem, well-being, improved performance and trust, to name but a few.

As many apprentices will be encountering a workplace for the first time, it is important that they understand how they are expected to behave within that environment, and that employers encourage and nurture respect through leading by example in their treatment of their workforce.

Work can play a huge part in the social life of apprentices and their life-skills learning journey, with friendships formed and positive respectful behaviours learned, impacting both working life and life outwith work.

UNISON works nationally and locally through our branches, engaging with and negotiating organisational procedures, providing learning opportunities and encouraging positive behaviours that embed respect and the other Fair Work dimensions in the workplace for apprentices and all staff.

In South Lanarkshire Council, our local UNISON Branch has worked hard to engage with the employer positively around the rights and fair treatment of apprentices and encouraging learning which goes beyond the Apprentice Frameworks.

Apprentices in South Lanarkshire have the same policies and procedures applied to them as permanent staff and through negotiation, it was agreed they would be paid the Living Wage as a minimum wage, which is significantly greater than the National Minimum Wage rate.

It was also understood that as, predominantly, younger people coming into a workplace for the first time and meeting people from a variety of backgrounds, a range of life-skills would benefit many of them on their journey, enhancing and reinforcing the need to be treated and treat others with dignity and respect.

South Lanarkshire Council recognised the value in investing in the extra learning and development time, and worked in partnership with UNISON to deliver courses on Dealing with Conflict, Social Media Do’s & Don’ts and Equality and Diversity, which all served to instil positive behaviours around interaction with others, and helped develop a culture of respect.

The apprentices were also afforded the same vocational learning opportunities that their permanent colleagues had to update their skills and practice, ensuring they felt a valued part of the workforce.

No employer or work situation is ever perfect but taking a few of the steps that are outlined above can go a long way to embedding not just respect, but all of the Fair Work principles within organisations.