Employment and Mental Health Short Life Working group meeting minutes: 31 August 2021

Minutes from the group's meeting on 31 August 2021.

Attendees and apologies

Attendees and apologies

  • Angela Davidson, SG Directorate for Mental Health (Chair)
  • Julie Anderson, SG Directorate for Mental Health
  • Suzanne Hutchison, SG Directorate for Mental Health
  • Stewart Reid, SG Directorate for Mental Health
  • Graham Bush, SG Directorate for Population Health
  • Rosemary Whelan, SG Directorate for Fair Work, Employability and Skills
  • Boswell Mhonda, SG Directorate for Fair Work, Employability and Skills
  • Ruaridh Hayes, SG Directorate for Fair Work, Employability and Skills
  • Patty Lozano-Casal, See Me Scotland
  • Toni Guigliano, Mental Health Foundation
  • Alistair Gregory, Scottish Enterprise
  • Sarah Jones, Health & Safety Executive
  • Kevin Wilson-Smith, Public Health Scotland
  • Oxana MacGregor-Gunn, SAMH
  • Wendy McDougall, See Me Scotland


  • Gregor Scotland, Confederation of British Industry
  • Catherine Totten, SG Directorate for Mental Health, Professional Advisor
  • Sam Jennings, Skills Development Scotland
  • Susan Love, Federation of Small Businesses
  • Linda Somerville, Scottish Trade Unions Congress
  • Shirley Windsor, Public Health Scotland
  • Lynne McCaughey, This is Me Scotland

Items and actions

Welcome and introductions

AD welcomed everyone to the third meeting of the Employment and Mental Health - Short Life Working Group (SLWG) and introduced new members of the group, who included: Rosemary Whelan title and Oxana MacGregor-Gunn title.

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


  • progress update: action ongoing

  • details: Scottish Government to follow up on this suggestion with Kevin Wilson-Smith outside of the group meeting

  • post meeting update: we have now met with Suzanne Roos, consultant psychologist at NHS Scotland who will be invited to future group meetings


  • Scottish Government to make contact with individual members of the short life working group to follow up discussions and agree involvement in workstreams

  • progress update: action ongoing

  • details: it was noted that over the summer period there have been small numbers in the sub groups. Angela suggested it would be helpful for all members to be signed up to at least one workstream


  • Scottish Government to issue proposed dates for the next group meeting

  • progress update: action completed

The employer perspective

AD introduced Jackie Carlin, HR Manager at AG Barr, who gave a presentation of her organisation’s experience of mental health in the workplace. JC noted that there had been a steady increase in absences due to mental health reasons in recent years. JC outlined some of the work undertaken by AG Barr to support their employees’ mental health. This included:

  • line manager training
  • mental health awareness sessions
  • wellbeing plans
  • participation in initiatives including mental health awareness week and national stress at work day

Connect & learn sessions to support additional pressure points caused by working at home, including isolation and loneliness, were also introduced by the company at the start of the pandemic.

AD thanked JC for her presentation and asked about the reach of these interventions across the organisation. JC stated that connect and learn sessions had landed really well, particularly with those working from home. However, JC highlighted that there had been difficulties in reaching all staff due to the nature of some roles e.g. drivers and drivers’ assistants who work on a ‘job and finish’ basis, although action had been taken through AG Barr’s performance management system (clear review) which has the option for wellbeing check-in sessions as well as career development check-in sessions. Drivers and van mates were able to make use of this and JC noted their increasing demand for wellbeing check-ins.

PLC spoke of similar challenges faced by scotrail who had experienced challenges engaging train drivers and non-office based staff. Scotrail developed a pilot workplace equality fund where resources were tailored to these people using a person centred approach including the use of ‘z cards’ with signposting to appropriate resources and support.

SJ invited JC to review the PHASS sub-group’s draft framework for employers. The framework aims to signpost resources and materials for smaller companies and includes a specific set of questions that smaller employers may have when starting to create their own mental health at work policies. JC welcomed the opportunity to help with this.

Progress update from individual workstreams

AD invited SH to give an overview on progress across the workstreams. SH confirmed that three individual workstreams had been established since the second meeting of the SLWG in June and had each met once, noting that:

  • workstream one was being led by Shirley Windsor of Public Health Scotland and was looking at the range of resources currently available to employers, taking account of their varying needs and would consider how resources can be streamlined. As part of this, the workstream group would consider the kinds of questions employers are asking in relation to supporting mental health at work
  • workstream two was being led by Patty Lozano-Casal of See Me Scotland. This workstream group was reviewing exemplification, current practice and lived experience. They were keen to hear from employers on what was going well and what challenges they were facing, and from employees to understand what kind of mental health issues they were facing in respect of their own wellbeing
  • workstream three was being co-led by Toni Guigliano of the Mental Health Foundation, along with Scottish Government and was looking at new working models including updated guidance on home working and potential hybrid working models

AD then invited workstream leads to provide a short update on the progress within their individual workstreams. In SW’s absence, SH gave an update on progress of Workstream one noting that they had met once at the end of July where the group agreed to review the range of resources, pull these together and identify any gaps. It was noted that consideration would be given to the range of platforms/toolkits already in use and where a single resource could sit best. SH highlighted the work being undertaken by the PHASS group which was also looking at how to package resources for employers, with a focus on SMEs. SJ advised that a new draft framework has been produced and committed to sharing this with the group for comment. AD encouraged members to provide feedback to SJ and emphasised the importance of all members of the SLWG engaging with at least one of the workstreams.


  • SJ to send revised framework to SR who will circulate to wider group for comments and feedback

PLC gave an update on Workstream two, highlighting her recent engagement with Workstream one at which they had discussed that the focus of their work should be on the transition and recovery from coronavirus (COVID-19), ensuring specific needs are met rather than general wellbeing. PLC noted the need to include the voice of lived experience in this workstream particularly those directly impacted by COVID-19 including:

  • those in work and those struggling to gain employment
  • those over 50 who have struggled with recruitment
  • women who have been disproportionately affected by COVID-19

PLC noted that outputs would be driven by lived experience but also engagement with employers and would look at ‘promising practice’ rather than ‘good’ and ‘bad’ blanket statements around practice. PLC shared a timeline for the work noting that engagement with those with lived experience and employers would come first. This would be followed by looking at content for tools and resources and then promotion of resources and possible testing with employers to see what works.

AD welcomed TG to the group who gave a brief introduction. SH advised that members of workstream three had only recently met for the first time and thanked TG for agreeing to co-lead this workstream. It was noted that discussion had included consideration of what support and guidance was available in terms of new working models as well as where models are less open to flexibility. Tangible outputs from this workstream may include case studies, or potentially the development of new guidance if gaps are identified.

SH advised of the need to align this work closely with other workstreams. It was also highlighted during the workstream’s first meeting that not all sectors were affected equally and equality should be a consideration in any work. Similar to other workstreams the next steps would be to look at existing resources and examples of guidance, to identify gaps and to agree what was needed to address these. TG flagged up NESTA guidance as a key example.

It was agreed that an immediate priority for this workstream was to consider flexible working models, and workstream members would think about their own stakeholders’ needs and extend an invite to other organisations who specialise in this area. AD suggested that all group members consider this in a broader sense (eg what advice might be offered at a national level) and reach out to any partner organisations who may be interested in the work of the group.


  • all group members to give consideration to any other partner organisations and stakeholders who either have a strong interest in flexible working policy or who have specialist knowledge of flexible working models

AD invited questions and comments following the updates from each workstream. AD asked for members’ views on using the three R’s (Recruitment, Retention and Redundancy) as a potential framework, noting PLC’s reference to this earlier. OM-G noted that the “three Rs” would be easily memorised and are relevant to this work. The need to cater for employers who understand and ‘get’ mental health support, as well as reaching those who don’t recognise MH as an important agenda, was also raised. JA asked if the language of the ‘three Rs’ framework would be suitable to smaller businesses and self-employed individuals. The importance of creating a positive mental health culture and highlighting the benefits of promoting mental health in the workplace was noted but members also emphasised the need for this to be backed with strong HR policies.

AG noted the increased flexibilities organisations had introduced during the pandemic and raised concern that these may disappear post-pandemic. It was noted that for its own employees Scottish Enterprise had committed to continued flexibility, supported by HR policy, and that this is being built into return to work discussions. There would also be more focus on local arrangements to give employees flexibilities without formalising these, recognising the importance of this to people and their mental health. AD summed up by reflecting on the need to build on the momentum of what the pandemic has demonstrated in terms of options for flexible working. AD agreed and noted that the theme of flexibility would be critical for workstream three. LW advised that local councils had a structure and specific teams looking at the process of returning to offices and agreed to share details of this with the group.


  • LW to share return to office guidance from local authorities

AD asked the group to consider communication and marketing around the work that each workstream is delivering and how we best pitch this to businesses.


  • all group members to consider how their organisations can support communications and marketing around this work

Next steps

JA provided an overview on the next steps for the group, emphasising the importance of:

  • thinking about the short-term tangible outputs or products for this work 
  • aligning work across workstreams, to sense check what is being done and to identify gaps. Having SW as part of workstream one and two and SH/SR supporting work across all groups would help with this
  • considering resource implications. It was confirmed that there was some budget set aside to support this work, particularly where there were cost implications associated with the development of resources or content. Groups should highlight any potential needs to the secretariat
  • communication and engagement with employers and considering how any outputs would be received by end users

AD explained that the Minister for Wellbeing and Social Care was keen to use his profile to keep the spotlight on employment and mental health and members were asked to consider potential opportunities for the Minister to engage directly with employers in order to hear about examples of promising practice. AD asked all members once again to consider getting involved in at least one workstream, noting the collective benefits from a partnership effort on this work.


  • all members to consider potential involvement in at least one of the three workstreams

  • all members to consider opportunities for ministerial visits

Next meeting

AD advised that SR will issue a doodle poll on potential dates for next meeting, advising that this should take place in a couple of months to allow progression on workstreams between now and then.


  • SR to issue doodle poll to all members with potential dates of next meeting

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