Explanatory briefing: Social Partnership and Public Procurement (Wales) Act 2023

Summary of the core principles and provisions in the Social Partnership and Public Procurement (Wales) Act 2023.
Madelaine Phillips

30 May 2023


The Social Partnership and Public Procurement (Wales) Act (SPPP) provides a framework through which population wellbeing can be improved by enhancing public services through social partnership working, promoting fair work and socially responsible public procurement. It is also the first piece of legislation on procurement developed by the Welsh Government and recognises procurement's role as one of the most significant levers to making a difference to wellbeing in Wales. 

Many have highlighted, including the Wales TUC, that social partnership is a means of tackling inequality by “bringing workers into the policy-making fold so that their interests are not eclipsed by that of their much wealthier employers”. In its report ‘Fair work through social partnership’, the Bevan Foundation said this approach can be used to address numerous work-based issues through effective facilitation of collective bargaining.    

The Act is underpinned by four key principles and contains a number of provisions to support Wales’ social partnership approach, including the introduction of a Social Partnership Council. 

This briefing outlines these core principles and provisions, explaining how they intend to address wellbeing and inequalities.   


Social partnership is a well-established means of working, not only in Wales but across the world. Countries such as Denmark and the Netherlands have also introduced legislation which underpins their social partnership arrangements.  

The SPPP Bill was laid before the Senedd on June 7 2022, following a commitment in the programme for government to place social partnership on a statutory footing. This commitment was further endorsed by the Fair Work Commission in its 2019 report in which it recommended that its observations inform the legislation.  

However, social partnership is an established practice in Wales predating the Act, with legislation intending to strengthen and not replace it.  

Well-being of Future Generations Act

The SPPP Act complements the existing Socio-economic Duty and the Well-being of Future Generations (WFG) Act, the latter of which provides specified public bodies in Wales with a legally binding common purpose as outlined in its seven well-being goals

The SPPP Act closely interacts with this legislation and supplements its operation through the shared sustainable development ambition. In section 3 of the WFG Act, it outlines that each public body must carry out sustainable development, defined as “the process of improving the economic, social, environmental and cultural well-being of Wales by taking action in accordance with the sustainable development principle, aimed at achieving the well-being goals”. 

Key principles

The SPPP Act draws together four key principles.

  • Social partnership refers to a way of working which brings together employers and workers to discuss issues and develop solutions. The Welsh Government believes that social partnership can be used to implement solutions for challenges facing Wales and requires an environment that encourages participants to be open with each other. 

    Preceding the Act, a ‘Welsh way’ of conducting partnership working as the best means of finding solutions has been encouraged. This way of working is underpinned by the principles of meaningful and open collaboration. This is not to deny that every issue will achieve a solution by this way of working, but that the benefits can develop trusting relationships between employers and employees. 

    There are beneficial impacts of adopting a social partnership approach, including reducing inequalities and a creating a motivated workforce. It can also support behavioural change which could lead to improved outcomes for public services. 

  • The Welsh Government described procurement as “one of the most important levers we have to support the more equal, more sustainable and more prosperous Wales”.  

    Specifically, socially responsible procurement means purchasing goods, works and services in such a way that improves economic, social, environmental and cultural wellbeing. It uses the public purse to drive beneficial outcomes for the wider society.  

    The measures contained within the Act support the delivery of socially responsible procurement and includes contract management duties for major construction and outsourcing procurement.  

    The Welsh Government was assured that its decision to agree to the UK Government legislating on procurement procedures on behalf of Welsh Contracting Authorities in its Procurement Reform Bill would not hinder the Welsh Government’s ability to set its own policy priorities for procurement. There are several areas where the Act interacts with the Procurement Reform Bill such as in terminology and definitions, in the bodies covered by the Bills, and in establishing mechanisms for oversight and accountability. 

  • Fair work is defined within the Act as “a range of potential activities undertaken by employers in agreement with the workforce, which contribute to well-being and improved public service delivery”. 

    The Act also amends the well-being goal of “A Prosperous Wales” within the WFG Act, replacing ‘decent work’ with ‘fair work’. This action was recommended in the Fair Work Commission’s 2019 report. 

  • The Act defines sustainable development as “doing things now in a way that takes into account the impact on people living their lives in Wales in the future”. 

    The WFG Act also contains a definition which states that sustainable development is the process of improving wellbeing in Wales, aimed at achieving the well-being goals. The sustainable development principle requires those subject to the Act to act in a manner which seeks to ensure the needs of the present are met without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. 

Public bodies subject to the Act 

The in-scope public bodies are as follows: 

  • the Welsh Ministers 

  • a local authority 

  • a local health board 

  • the following NHS Trusts 

  • Public Health Wales 

  • Velindre 

  • a National Park authority for a National Park in Wales 

  • a Welsh fire and rescue authority 

  • the Natural Resources Body for Wales 

  • the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales  

  • the Arts Council of Wales 

  • the Sports Council for Wales 

  • the National Library of Wales 

  • the National Museum of Wales. 

Main provisions  

  • The establishment of a Social Partnership Council, chaired by the First Minister of Wales.   

  • A statutory duty on Welsh Ministers to consult social partners, employers and worker representatives through the Social Partnership Council when delivering on their well-being objectives under section 3(2)(b) of the WFG Act 2015. 

  • Amendment of section 4 of the WFG Act 2015 by replacing ‘decent work’ with ‘fair work’ within the existing “A prosperous Wales” goal. 

  • A statutory duty on certain public bodies to consider socially responsible public procurement when carrying out procurement, to set objectives in relation to well-being goals, and to publish a procurement strategy. The list of public bodies subject to the public procurement duties has been extended to include most of the bodies classed as Devolved Welsh Authorities, with the exception of those who carry out little procurement.  

  • Certain public bodies to carry out contract management duties to ensure that socially responsible outcomes are pursued through supply chains.  

  • Reporting duties to be imposed on the public bodies and Welsh Ministers in relation to the Social Partnership Duty and Procurement duty. 

  • Health Education Improvement Wales, Digital Health and Care Wales and the Welsh Ambulance Services NHS Trust to be added to the public bodies which fall under the scope of the Social Partnership Duty. 

  • All public bodies which are in scope of the Social Partnership Duty will be required to seek consensus or compromise with their recognised trade unions or (where there is no recognised trade union) other representatives of their staff, when setting their well-being objectives. 

  • The Bill also includes provisions to strengthen socially responsible procurement, including supply chain management.  

Further information 

The Act will come into force in 2024. For further information visit the Welsh Government website: