Employment and Mental Health Short Life Working group meeting minutes: 23 June 2021

Minutes from the group's meeting on 23 June 2021.

Attendees and apologies

Attendees and apologies

  • Angela Davidson, SG Directorate for Mental Health  (Chair)
  • Julie Anderson, SG Directorate for Mental Health
  • Morag Williamson, SG Directorate for Mental Health
  • Stewart Reid, SG Directorate for Mental Health
  • Graham Bush, SG Directorate for Population Health
  • Amy Stuart, SG Directorate for Fair Work, Employability and Skills
  • Bridget Sly, SG Directorate for Fair Work, Employability and Skills
  • Boswell Mhonda, SG Directorate for Fair Work, Employability and Skills
  • Ruaridh Hughes, SG Directorate for Fair Work, Employability and Skills
  • Anne Armstrong, SG Directorate for Mental Health, Professional Advisor
  • Suzanne Hutchison, SG Directorate for Mental Health
  • Linda Somerville, STUC
  • Susan Love, Federation of Small Businesses
  • Patty Lozano-Casal, See Me Scotland
  • Lee Knifton, Mental Health Foundation
  • Alistair Gregory, Scottish Enterprise
  • Sarah Jones, Health & Safety Executive
  • Sam Jennings, Skills Development Scotland
  • Kevin Wilson-Smith, Public Health Scotland
  • Lynne McCaughey, This is Me
  • Fiona Benton, SAMH
  • Shirley Windsor, Public Health Scotland
  • Wendy McDougall, See Me Scotland


  • Gregor Scotland, Confederation of British Industry
  • Catherine Totten, SG Directorate for Mental Health, Professional Advisor
  • Louise Wright, COSLA

Items and actions

Welcome and introductions

AD welcomed everyone to the second meeting of the Employment And Mental Health - Short Life Working Group (SLWG) and introduced new members of the group, who included: Fiona Benton, Shirley Windsor, Wendy McDougall and Suzanne Hutchison.

Minutes of last meeting

AD invited all members of the SLWG to review and agree the minutes of the last meeting. The minutes were accepted as an accurate record of the meeting.

SR provided a summary of progress against actions arising from the first meeting:

Scottish Government to ensure that the work of the SLWG is linked to wider policy work on mental health, employment etc. and clearly sets out the connections


  • Scottish Government to ensure that the work of the SLWG is linked to wider policy work on Mental Health, employment etc. and clearly sets out the connections

  • progress update: action ongoing

  • details: the SG team has been engaging with a range of policy colleagues across the Mental Health and Social Care Directorate to establish links and will continue to do so to ensure connections are well understood


  • all members to share links on relevant practice and research and Scottish Government to collate this

  • rogress update: action completed

  • details: following the first meeting, members of the SLWG shared a range of research and practice which was collated and presented in paper one


  • Scottish Government to follow up with individual members and produce a set of possible workstreams to be agreed within the group

  • progress update: action ongoing

  • details: following discussions with many of the group members, a number of proposed workstreams were set out in paper two, further dicussions with group members are still to be held

Overview of clear your head and the future of the wellbeing website

AD introduced this item noting that, whilst the primary focus of the work of the SLWG is on supporting employers to support their staff, it was also important to recognise the wider range of support available to individuals to promote positive mental health and wellbeing. To help contextualise the work that the SG has been doing, and plans to do, to promote self-help resources, AD invited LS to provide an overview of the work of the wellbeing team within the prevention and wellbeing unit. 

LS provided an overview of the clear your head campaign and website, explaining that it was launched in April 2020 to promote and support positive mental health and wellbeing during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic by providing advice, support and signposting to other services. LS highlighted that updates had been made throughout the campaign to reflect changing cirucumstances as COVID-19 restrictions changed. Many members of the SLWG indicated an awareness of the clear your head campaign. 

The short mind matters video was then shared with the SLWG to provide an outline of the planned development of a new wellbeing website. LS emphasised that mind matters was still very much a working title and that the website was at early stages of development.

Following LS’s presentation, AD invited views on the mind matters video from members of the group. It was noted that there is already a huge amount of material and resources available to support wellbeing and that there is a risk it could become fragmented and confusing for those seeking support. The need to ensure individuals understood the difference between clear your head and mind matters was highlighted. AD emphasised the importance of being able to signpost to trustworthy resources and noted that the aim would be for mind matters to eventually replace clear your head, with consideration being given to developing this as a front facing portal that could then signpost users to other resources. 

There was a discussion around how to ensure there is a specific focus for employers on both these sites with the suggestion that it may be helpful to invite representation from occupational health or psychological services to support employers to understand the wider, non-clinical aspects of mental health and wellbeing support they can provide. It was noted that employers often tend to focus more heavily on the clinical support and services they can offer employees, rather than support for general wellbeng and that employees can often feel stigmatised as a result of the focus on clinical interventions. Representation from occupational health or psychological services was proposed as a way of balancing the focus for employers.

AD welcomed the range of perspectives from members of the group and provided reassurance that feedback would be taken on board as content for clear your head and mind matters is developed.


  • SG to follow up with Public Health Scotland the suggestion of inviting representation from occupational health or psychological services onto the group

Overview of existing support: paper one

SR introduced paper one: overview of existing support, thanking members of the group for identifying and sharing the range of existing resources and support for employers following the first meeting. A discussion about the wide range of support available and how to support employers to navigate and understand this followed SR’s input. It was noted that there is a vast range of other support and resources available, beyond what was shared with the SLWG, but that there is a need to be clear about employers’ needs and what is most relevant to them, highlighting that not all materials would be strictly relevant for the SLWG. 

A range of the work already undertaken to scope out support for employers was highlighted, including:

  • work undertaken by the sub-group of the Health and Safety Executive which aimed to categorise the range of resources into a spectrum of support that employers may be looking for, making it simpler for employers to navigate and access. SJ agreed to share this work with the SLWG once complete
  • a UK-wide literature review undertaken by the British Pyschological Society and conducted with a wide range of partners on work and wellbeing
  • work being undertaken by unite to prevent suicide activity with a focus on supporting men’s wellbeing in the workplace through opening up conversation on mental health and wellbeing

A discussion about the potential benefits of framing this work along the lines of employee assistance programme model took place. Whilst it was felt by some that this model would be understood by commerce and employers, some felt that this model may be too sophisticated for smaller employers and that it perhaps focused too heavily on those requiring interventionist support rather than encouraging employers to support a mentally healthy workforce. The need to strike the right balance between both of these was highlighted by several member of the group as being important. It was also noted that often there are high costs attached to delivering an employee assistance programme which many small employers may be unable to resource.

The need to be aware of and understand the different needs of employers was highlighted as an important issue. It was agreed that a ‘one size fits all’ approach would not work and that the SLWG should be mindful of the wide range of circumstances, perspectives and approaches that employers have. The need to strike the right balance between the range of support employers are signposted towards was noted as it was felt this can often be weighted towards clinical support, rather than prevention. It was also noted that SG has an important role in setting the direction and expectations for employers and there was a suggestion that establishing a set of principles, rather than developing a single framework or model, that employers could adopt and then implement in a way that worked best for them might be a more effective approach. SJ highlighted examples where she had seen this approach working well.

Several members of the group noted the range of different training resources and tools available to support mental health in the workplace, including the mental health first aiders programme and the mental health at work programme. It was suggested that a review of the available programmes would be helpful to better understand the impact of these, with a view to establishing a consensus of the best programmes and potentially promoting these through Public Health Scotland. It was, however, noted that buying in training and resources did not always meet the needs of the organisation or their employees and that training programmes should be seen as part of a wider offer. 

Key challenges and potential actions: paper two

JA introduced paper two: key challenges and potential actions, noting that the purpose of the paper was to summarise the range of issues that had been identified at the first meeting and in follow up dicussions with individual members of the SLWG. A provided an overview of these issues and set out a range of proposed actions to address these, noting that these had been consolidated into three proposed worktreams:

  • workstream one: consolidation, quality assurance and signposting of support for employers
  • workstream two: exemplification, promotion and sharing of practice
  • workstream three: support for mental health under new working models/hybrid working

Members of the SLWG were invited to offer their views on the content of the paper. In particular, they were asked to identify which actions highlighted in the paper were key priorities and to consider if the proposed workstreams set out in the paper were the right ones. There was a general consensus that the identified workstreams were the right ones with members of the group being broadly supportive of the overall approach being proposed. However, it was agreed that the timeline for delivery seemed very ambitious and it was suggested by a number of members of the group that the timeline may need to be extended. It was also noted that it was likely that this work would lead to longer term joint pieces of work being established. AD emphasised that, whilst the work of the SLWG may lead on to longer-term pieces of work, the immediate focus needed to be on the delivery of the agreed actions set out in the paper.

It was noted that employers are already delivering some excellent practice and that this needed to be adequately captured within the workstreams, ensuring that what is working well is shared and celebrated. Research and evidence was also raised as an important aspect of this work and it was suggested that this should perhaps be considered as an additional workstream. JA reassured the group that research and evidence was an important element that would be embedded within each of the workstreams. A further suggestion was made that it might be helpful for each of the members to look at the priorities and highlight what they are already doing to enable any gaps to be identified. The need to be mindful of what might happen to some groups of employees once furlough ends was noted.

JA thanked PL-C and KW-S for volunteering to lead workstreams one and two and asked members of the group to consider which workstream they might have a particular interest in being involved in and supporting. JA asvised that SG would follow this up with individual members of the group following the meeting, with the aim to progress work on developing the workstreams over the summer.

Next meeting 

AD proposed that the group should meet again in August and that work would be progressed in between meetings, with SG continuing to follow up on discussions with individual members of the SLWG.


  • SG to make contact with individual members of the SLWG to follow up discussions and agree involvement in workstreams

  • SG to issue proposed dates for next meeting in August

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