Fair Work Ministerial Working Group minutes: February 2020

Minutes from the meeting of the group on 5 February 2020.

Attendees and apologies


  • Mr Hepburn, Minister for Business, Fair Work and Skills

Attending Ministers:

  • Ms Campbell, Cabinet Secretary for Communities and Local Government
  • Ms McKelvie, Minister for Older People and Equalities
  • Ms Haughey, Minister for Mental Health
  • Ms Denham, Minister for Community Safety

Items and actions

Welcome and introductions

Mr Hepburn welcomed attendees to the third meeting of the group and apologies were noted. Mr Hepburn noted the cross portfolio strategic focus of the working group, emphasising that this is a  cross-government agenda.

Minutes from last meeting

The minutes from Meeting 2 were accepted as accurate, however Ms Haughey noted that they should be amended to state that she raised concerns that the Fairer Scotland for Disabled People Action Plan had no mention of learning disabilities, not ‘Keys to Life’ as stated. The spelling of Ms Haughey’s name should also be corrected.

Actions from previous meeting were fulfilled, and Mr Hepburn informed the group that the cross party roundtable to build consensus on Fair Work Nation 2025 had taken place on 20 June 2019, with attendees from the Greens and Conservatives.

Consideration of achievements and progress on actions

Mr Hepburn introduced Paper 3, which lays out actions undertaken thus far. Mr Hepburn highlighted progress made but notes there is still more to go across portfolios. 

Mr Hepburn invited Officials to provide an overview of the paper. Officials noted there has been mixed progress over the high level statistics such as the real living wage and the gender pay gap, however Scotland is still doing better than UK, albeit with more work to do. Headline actions included – Fair Work First phase 1 roll out, with a key element being Scottish Enterprise grants applying 3 of 5 Fair Work First criteria. Initial evidence suggested that this hasn’t led to drop off in delivery, with Ministers noting that this has led to more funding applicants paying the real living wage which is a positive step.

Officials also highlighted Fair Work First progress in procurement, where there has been significant engagement and Fair Work guidance now featuring in tender evaluations. The £400 million electronic monitoring contract was also a test bed for applying the Fair Work First Criteria. 

There were also updates on the Benchmarking Tool for employers to measure themselves against the criteria, and this is due to be rolled out through the Single Entry Portal next year. 

The planned fair work and wellbeing joint summit is planned for the lead up to COP, where there may be links to Just Transitions and the wellbeing economy.

Priority groups have been identified where there is scope to increase capacity for employers to deliver fair work in adult social care, early learning and childcare, hospitality and construction.

Construction is of particular focus, as the Fair Work Convention’s independent enquiry into the sector is due to begin shortly.

On embedding Fair Work across Scottish Government, 8 Directorates have been identified to be part of the first tranche developing Directorate Fair Work Action Plans.

There has been progress around the take up of paying the Real Living Wage, however there is a need to see numbers on the number of employees who are paid at least the Real Living Wage, not just the number of Real Living Wage employers. Dundee and Glenrothes have become the UK’s first city and town recognised under the Making Living Wage Places campaign.

On actions on the gender pay gap, the Workplace Equality Fund was launched in October 2019, with £800,000 worth of projects (23 in total) running until the end of August 2020. Family friendly working projects have been supported in this. There will be an evaluation on the effectiveness of the Workplace Equality Fund in the coming months.

There was also an update on progress of the Disability Employment Action Plan.  Progress over the year has included the SG publishing a recruitment and retention plan, and a  career strategy to be published in the coming weeks. The two year-long Health and Work Support pilot is currently being undertaken, with learning from this to be taken forward to help shape future policy options. Officials have been engaging with transport colleagues on improving accessibility of transport and how this impacts employment of those with disabilities. Officials are continuing to work with Fair Work colleagues on Fair Work First to ensure race and disability is included within the criteria. Exploring options around a work experience pilot like ‘Access to Work’ with DYW Regional Groups to remove barriers so that young people can participate in work experience opportunities.

Mr Hepburn thanked officials for a full update. Ms Campbell noted there should be linkage, and adequate engagement with how this feeds in with construction sector. She notes the significant gender pay gap issues in this sector. 

Ms Campbell also stated that there is more work to do in hospitality sector, and childcare needs of the workforce in this sector must be taken into account. 

Ministers queried what the international summit will look like in terms of economic wellbeing. Mr Hepburn noted engagement with Iceland and New Zealand around wellbeing, and given the clear crossover between Fair Work and wellbeing, it is sensible to join up. 

Ms Campbell asked for clarification on the criteria for Living Wage Places accreditation. Officials confirmed it is for a group of employers to come together to move forward in agreement. Ms Campbell highlighted how this links with Mr Matheson’s portfolio interest in town centre regeneration. 

Ms McKelvie raised that Public Sector Equality Duty review is now underway, so the group should expect to see some of this filter through their portfolios. She also notes that it will have been 50 years in May since the passing of the Equal Pay Act, so organisations such as Close the Gap may look to engage. The Fawcett Society will also be proposing a new bill on the right to know the pay of a male comparator in the workplace. Ms McKelvie emphasised that this matter is reserved, but there is tie in with Fair Work and Gender Pay Gap policy. 

Ms McKelvie noted that policy coherence will be a big feature next year, with the new Directorate for Human Rights, Equality and Inclusion, and EQIAs to be looked at across the board. The Duty review team will be linking closely with this. The National Advisory Council on Women and Girls will also be focusing on intersectionality and gender competence across all policy areas.

Ms McKelvie also raised complaints she has received regarding the lack of wheelchair accessibility on 1st class carriages in the new fleet of ScotRail trains, which have just been introduced. 

Mr Hepburn noted that the importance of accessible transport needs to be reflected in Disability Employment Action Plan.

Ms Haughey flagged the publication of the Fair Work Convention’s report into social care. She highlighted key workforce challenges, including recruitment issues. She also raised the ‘There’s More to Care than Caring’ campaign, aimed at recruiting frontline workers and encouraging people to consider career in adult social care, which Ms Haughey notes has a bigger workforce than the NHS. 

Ms Haughey noted the progress that had been made regarding implementing the Real Living Wage for adult social care workers. This has been supported by funding from the Scottish Government but there are still financial challenges within the sector. Officials flagged a ruling at the Supreme Court which had implications for overnight support and has led to the Scottish Government providing additional funding so that the Real Living Wage should also cover those shifts.

Ms Haughey notes that employers must offer flexibility to receive Carer Positive accreditation, which links in with the Fair Work and Gender Pay Gap Action Plans. She acknowledged the need to look at improving engagement with private sector and help employers to see the benefits of becoming Carer Positive. 

Mr Hepburn suggested the possibility of utilising Family Friendly Working Scotland to join up with the Carer Positive scheme. Officials noted we should ensure emphasis on adult caring responsibilities, not just child care.

Officials informed the group that activity going in rural policy which could support this, such as the Women in Agriculture task force, who recommend an equality charter should be created and mainstreamed throughout Scottish Government.

Ms McKelvie highlighted that within Social Security Scotland women out-earn men by 0.7%. Social Security Scotland also do not use Zero Hours Contracts and became an accredited Real Living Wage employer in September.

Consideration of draft annual report of the FW action plans

Mr Hepburn was content with the planned look and timescale of the annual report, however he would appreciate more reinforcement of the cross portfolio nature of this work. He suggested including blurbs for other relevant Ministers. 

Mr Hepburn also raised the possibility of scheduling a debate around report, likely after the Easter Recess. 

Ms Campbell noted the timing of this debate should be mindful of the publication of the child poverty report, as well as any other publications. 


Ms McKelvie informed the group of the access to sanitary products members bill, aimed at ensuring private businesses can provide access to sanitary products. This would be taken forward with guidance and toolkits for employers.

Ms McKelvie also noted where the older women’s health plan could tie in with fair and flexible workplaces. She cited the example of Barclay’s looking to roll out period and menopause policy globally, and that there is huge appetite for this more generally.

Mr Hepburn confirmed he is content with meeting twice per year, but would appreciate more regular updates on actions.


  • minutes from Meeting 2 should be amended to state that Ms Haughey raised concerns that the Fairer Scotland for Disabled People Action Plan had no mention of learning disabilities, not ‘Keys to Life’. The spelling of Ms Haughey’s name should also be corrected
  • Real Living Wage policy Officials to meet with Ms Campbell’s officials, with representatives from Poverty Alliance present, to discuss fair work and payment of the Real Living Wage in the construction sector, with focus on how this feeds into Housing to 2040
  • officials to engage with Mr Matheson and his Officials on Living Wage Places, due to Mr Matheson’s portfolio responsibilities in town centre regeneration
  • officials to look at joining up Family Friendly Working Scotland, Scottish Business Pledge and the Fair Work First criteria, with Carer Positive, where it makes sense to do so
  • engage with and update absent colleagues at Official level
  • annual report of the Fair Work Action Plans to emphasise the cross-portfolio nature of this work, and include blurbs of the relevant Ministers
  • debate time to for the Annual Report of the Fair Work Action Plans to be set aside, likely after the Easter Recess. It should be noted that this may coincide with the publication of the Child Poverty Report, so should be mindful of the timing of this and of other publications
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