Scottish public purchasers must consider ‘fair work’ principles in tenders

Paul Snell is managing editor at Supply Management
7 October 2015

Public sector buyers in Scotland must now consider how suppliers are applying fair work practices when they go out to tender.

The Scottish Government has published statutory guidance for public procurement on how to ask contractors to demonstrate they are treating employees fairly in areas such as equality, human rights, health and safety and collective agreements.

Fair work principles may include supporting the living wage, no “unnecessary” use of zero hours contracts, trade union recognition, commitment to apprenticeships and flexible working.

But it is not mandatory for purchasers to include specific questions about fair working in their tender, nor will suppliers have to comply to be able to bid for work. The guidance emphasises all tenders must be treated equally, and the approach may vary depending on the size and scope of the contract.

Keith Brown, Scottish Government infrastructure secretary, said: “The commitment to making Scotland a fairer place to work is a key tenet of this government, and our new statutory guidance for public sector procurements sees us nail our colours to the mast.

“Employers must now recognise that they cannot adopt exploitative practices in relation to their workers and expect to be rewarded with lucrative contracts in the public sector. If you want to do business with the public sector in Scotland, you have to be a responsible employer and value your workers.”

The guidance applies to goods and services contracts worth more than £50,000, and works deals worth more than £2,000,000. It also contains a sample question buyers could include, asking how the supplier will commit to fair work practices in the contract.

It also confirmed the Scottish Government sought clarification from the European Commission on how to apply the living wage in procurement processes. The EC said making payment of the living wage a mandatory requirement in contracts would be a breach of procurement law and payment of the living wage can only be taken as one indicator of a commitment to fair work principles.

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