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Guidance and information on what fair work is.

First published:
19 December 2022
Last updated:


This guide is designed to provide information to individuals and organisations to improve their understanding of fair work, their awareness of the benefits of fair work, and provides illustrative examples of steps that organisations can take to promote fair work.

Throughout this guide, the term 'organisation' is used as a general term to describe entities and businesses in the private, public and third sectors who employ or otherwise engage workers to deliver, produce or trade goods and services. This includes businesses that are totally or significantly owned by their workers such as worker co-operatives. 


This guide aims to assist understanding of:

  • what fair work means in practice
  • why promoting fair work is beneficial for organisations, workers, and wider well-being
  • how organisations can continue on their fair work journey

What is fair work

Fair work is the presence of observable conditions at work which means workers are fairly rewarded, heard and represented, secure and able to progress in a healthy, inclusive working environment where rights are respected. 

Fair work enables a working environment which is attentive to the well-being of workers. The actions deployed by an organisation in their pursuit of fair work will depend on the specific circumstances of that organisation. Some actions may not be appropriate or feasible for all organisations, it is for each organisation to determine which actions are.

Here are some practical examples of what fair work could look like in a working environment:

  • Enabling workers to meet their basic living costs and deliver wider benefits such as sick pay and pensions.
  • Offering workers the opportunity and choice to be represented collectively, ensuring workers are informed about proposed decisions that may affect them, and providing workers with the means to participate in and influence those decisions.
  • Providing work and income security, including in relation to hours and earnings and affording workers the opportunity to work flexibly to secure a good work-life balance.
  • Delivering inclusive opportunities to obtain work, to acquire and develop skills and learning, and to progress in work.
  • Ensuring work is carried out within a safe and healthy environment, where bullying, harassment and all forms of discrimination are tackled.
  • Guaranteeing that rights and obligations are recognised and adhered to at all times.

Why promoting fair work is beneficial

The world of work is a major part of our lives and lifecycles.  Whether we are in work or not, we all depend upon work which provides the goods and services that are essential to our wellbeing.

The conditions in which work is undertaken matter for us all because fair work enables workers to meet their own and their family’s needs, provides a sense of fulfilment, and empowers workers to contribute, develop and grow.

The case for fair work has a moral imperative because treating workers with dignity and respect is simply the right thing to do.  But the case for fair work extends beyond being only a moral or ethical pursuit.

There is an economic and business imperative to fair work because it can contribute to increased workforce commitment and morale, lower rates of absenteeism, more effective recruitment, lower staff-turnover, and improved productivity and other aspects of performance.

There is also a wellbeing imperative to fair work because evidence suggests work which is not informed by fair work principles has a negative impact on physical and mental health and wellbeing more broadly. In collaboration with the Welsh Government, Public Health Wales has produced materials and resources on the relationship between fair work and health and wellbeing.

The Welsh Government is seeking to make progress towards a fully integrated well-being economy which encompasses many ideas and actions aimed at advancing well-being. The Economic Resilience and Reconstruction Mission outlines the wellbeing economy approach and fair work is an important strand in that and in our Economic Contract, a tool we use to frame our relationships with business.

There are further, specific benefits of fair work which include but are not limited to:

Recruitment and retention

Providing fair work may make it easier to recruit and retain workers, with the added benefit of reducing costs of staff turnover.

Workforce development, engagement, and productivity

Ensuring workers are heard and represented can help organisations to capture ideas, creativity, and innovation.  Workers who are treated with dignity and respect may be more inclined to invest in their skills and learning.  An engaged and valued workforce is likely to be better motivated, have a better understanding of organisational objectives and be more productive as a result. 

Workforce physical and mental health

Fair work supports physical and mental health and wider well-being.  Working conditions attuned to worker well-being can lead to lower rates of workforce stress and periods of sickness absence. 

Organisational reputation

Embedding fair work within an organisation can improve the image of the organisation and the way in which it is viewed by customers, clients, end-users, and others.  Fair work can also help the organisation to reap the benefits of a more equal, diverse, and inclusive workforce, and the increased skill and talent pool that provides.

How organisations can progress their fair work journey

Every organisation will have its own fair work challenges and opportunities; some of these will be common themes across several organisations, others will be more unique to the particular organisation in question, its workforce, and the circumstances in which it is operating.

In addition, every organisation will be at a different point on its fair work journey but all organisations, regardless of their starting point can continuously improve. This guide is designed to help organisations at every stage of their journey.

Below are some examples of potential actions that could be considered by an organisation in their pursuit of fair work. These are illustrative, non-exhaustive examples which may not be appropriate for all organisations. It is for each organisation to determine which actions are appropriate to pursue fair work, depending on their individual circumstances.

Fair reward

  • The organisation has a wage floor which means it pays all workers an hourly rate that is at least equivalent to the Real Living Wage (RLW), has attained RLW accreditation or the organisation has actively committed to working toward paying all workers at least the RLW.
  • The organisation provides wider benefits such as annual leave, sick pay and pensions that are higher than statutory minimum requirements. 

Employee voice and collective representation

  • The organisation allows or will agree to allow physical and digital access to trade unions so that they can meet with workers, discuss unionisation, and recruit members. 
  • The organisation recognises a trade union(s) and has a collective bargaining agreement in place.
  • The organisation has effective arrangements in place to ensure individual and collective employee voice is heard and has established safe, effective, and trusted channels which enable workers to have their say, raise issues, and participate in shaping the decisions that affect them. 

Security and flexibility

  • The organisation does not unilaterally impose non-guaranteed (zero hours) contracts upon workers and workers are given sufficient notice of shift patterns and any changes. 
  • The organisation, where possible, uses flexibility in job-design, working hours and remote working to promote inclusion and better work-life balance.
  • The organisation has obtained Living Hours accreditation and empowers workers with choices in relation to flexible and/or remote ways of working. 

Opportunity for access, growth and progression

  • The organisation ensures that good quality and relevant learning and development is accessible to all workers, and workers are encouraged and supported to take up learning and development opportunities. 
  • The organisation supports workers with wider opportunities for growth, such as facilitating access to volunteering opportunities.
  • The organisation takes an inclusive approach to recruitment and workforce development – such as applying the social model of disability and removing barriers to participation and progression. 

Safe, healthy and inclusive working environment

  • The organisation collects data to track and improve its workforce equality, diversity and inclusion.  The organisation commits to actions aimed at addressing under-representation across the protected characteristics at all levels of the organisation and to narrowing gender, ethnicity and disability pay gaps. 
  • The organisation has effective processes in place to tackle workplace bullying, harassment, and discrimination.
  • The organisation has effective health and safety measures, and these are communicated and regularly reviewed in consultation with workers and trade union representatives.

Rights are respected

  • The organisation abides by all statutory obligations to its workers, does not seek to circumvent them and ensures its workers have access to information about their rights. 
  • The organisation has put steps in place to eradicate unlawful and unethical practices from its supply chains and is a signatory to the Welsh Government’s Ethical Code.