Covid-19 support funds for businesses should be contingent on them offering better employee benefits in order to combat endemic low pay and precarious work, a think tank has said.
Research from IPPR Scotland found many jobs are not providing workers “enough to make a decent life for themselves and their families”.
It said women and minorities are particularly badly served by the labour market.
The group is calling on the Scottish Government to implement wide reforms to ensure everyone has a “living income” – enough money to lead a good life.
Recovery from the coronavirus pandemic should be linked to these efforts, according to the researchers.
“The sectors hardest hit by Covid-19 are also some of Scotland’s lower paid sectors, and it is likely that they will need ongoing support and reform to rebuild following the pandemic,” IPPR said.
“To drive up job quality, this ongoing investment should be made contingent on agreeing new Fair Work Agreements – similar to New Zealand’s fair pay agreements – that set minimum standards for quality jobs across a range of sectors.”
The IPPR study found women are 44% more likely to experience low pay than men, while black and ethnic minority workers are 38% more likely than white workers.
Just one in three young people have a union or employee association at work and seven in 10 workers in routine work are still in routine jobs a decade later.
One in five workers surveyed for the report – titled Delivering a Fair Work Recovery in Scotland – typically receive two weeks’ notice or less of their working rota.
The report recommends the abolition of upfront childcare costs for those in receipt of universal credit.
The benefit currently only reimburses 85% of childcare costs in arrears.
The report also suggests extending education maintenance allowance to young people in modern apprenticeships and promoting in-work learning through an enhanced individual training account worth at least £1,000 a year.
Fair work levies on businesses that fail to deliver on a fair work criteria should also be used, with tax rebates for those who do.
Rachel Statham, IPPR Scotland senior research fellow, said: “Fair work should provide a living income – but too many people in Scotland don’t have the pay, hours or working conditions they need to build a decent life for themselves and their families.
“Women, black and ethnic minority workers and young people are at greatest risk of being locked out of fair work.
“That’s why, as we look towards recovery from the Covid crisis, we must now step up efforts to make Scotland a fair-work nation.
“As a first step, Scottish government should come together with employers and unions to drive up pay, hours and conditions in those sectors hardest hit through the crisis, like hospitality, retail and social care.”
Mubin Haq, chief executive of Standard Life Foundation, said: “Fair pay should be the norm in Scotland. Too many remain stuck on low pay and face poor conditions. We must properly reward those workers we all rely on.
“This requires action across a range of sectors from retail to social care. The aspiration is there – the recommendations in this report outline how we can turn those into action, creating a fairer Scotland for everyone.”
A Scottish Government spokesman said: “Fair work including improving diversity in the workplace is at the heart of our economic recovery and we believe nobody should be working in an insecure, unstable job that doesn’t pay the real living wage.
“Good progress has been made on the real living wage in Scotland, with the number of accredited living wage employers up from 14 in 2014 to over 2,000 in 2021.
“Over 47,000 workers have seen an uplift in their pay to at least the real living wage.”
He added: “Our new national living hours accreditation scheme for Scotland recognises that the number and frequency of work hours are critical to tackling in-work poverty.
“Together with the Poverty Alliance and Living Wage Scotland, this new scheme will help alleviate in-work poverty and create more secure, sustainable and satisfying jobs.”