Fair Work Ministerial Working Group minutes: June 2019

Minutes from the meeting of the Scottish Government group on 13 June 2019.

Attendees and apologies


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

Attending Ministers:

  • Ms McKelvie, Minister for Older People and Equalities
  • Mr Wheelhouse, Minister for Energy, Connectivity and the Islands
  • Mr Lochhead, Minister for Further Education, Higher Education and Science
  • Ms Haughey, Minister for Mental Health
  • Ms Denham, Minister for Community Safety
  • Mr MacPherson, Minister for Europe, Migration and International Development
  • Ms Gougeon, Minister for Rural Affairs and the Natural Environment

Items and actions

Welcome and introductions

Mr Hepburn welcomed attendees to the second meeting of the group and informed them that the remit of the group will now include oversight of the Fair Work Action Plan, the Gender Pay Gap Action Plan and the Disability Employment Action Plan, A Fairer Scotland for Disabled People: Employment Action Plan, which all fall under the Labour Market Strategy.

Minutes from last meeting

Minutes were accepted as accurate. 

Terms of reference

Revised terms of reference to include wider action plans as noted at point 1 were accepted. 

Cross Scottish Government Mainstreaming

Mr Hepburn introduced paper 4 which provided an overview of some of the work that has commenced to mainstream actions across government portfolios. 

He stressed the need for Scottish Government to lead by example and made clear that a cross government effort is necessary for it to succeed. The group are tasked to ensure actions are mainstreamed across all government portfolios and the Minister highlighted the work being progressed by Fair Work policy to develop directorate level fair work action plans. 

Ms McKelvie stated the need to ensure that equality considerations are embedded in HR and policy processes. Tools already available should be used, e.g. EQIA’s, PSED review. These tools are part of natural policy processes and if done well can be used to embed fair work.   

Ministers were informed that pilot bespoke EQIA training sessions have already been undertaken with a range of policy officials across portfolios and EQIA’s for the Scottish National Investment Bank and Flexible Workforce Development Fund have been used as best practice. 

Discussion around using procurement and other funding levers. Early adopter activity on the Fair Work First approach is being undertaken by Scottish Enterprise, by attaching fair work criteria to RSA grants. Fair Work First also being applied to a large public sector facilities management contract and smaller grants.

Mr Wheelhouse suggested that contracts relating to the two ferry vessels in the SG’s ownership could be considered for Fair Work First. However, he highlighted  potential difficulties in applying living wage criteria to third party ferry contractors which were often needed for emergency cover to provide a lifeline service for the islands. This matter could be considered in Transport Bill.

Ms Haughey raised concern that the Disabled People Action Plan strategy, A Fairer Scotland for Disabled People: Employment Action Plan, had no mention of learning disabilities. Officials noted that although there is mention of learning disabilities and severe and enduring mental health issues in the introduction of the Action Plan, it was a conscious decision not to list specific conditions in the cations. The Plan is pan-disability and Employability officials had worked closely with those involved in the Keys To Life refresh as it was developed. The supported employment review will very specifically help us to agree what action needs to be taken to support more learning disabled people into employment. 

Public body mainstreaming

Mr Hepburn directed the group to Paper 5 which provided an overview of the types of activity underway to mainstream fair work across the public bodies under the control of Scottish Ministers. He reiterated the important role all Ministers have to play in their discussions with the public bodies they sponsor.

Ministers were informed that Ministerial strategic letters of guidance have been issued to the enterprise and skills agencies including an expectation for them to embed fair work in their organisational development policies and business practices. This is a way to ensure agencies are accountable.       

Mr Wheelhouse indicated that he would find it helpful to have a Fair Work brief for use when he meets with bodies and employers more generally. This should include general Fair Work facts and portfolio specific information, eg illustrating workforce issues, such as male/female ratios; level of disabled people employed; race employment.

Mr Wheelhouse discussed what can be done to support women in the economic downturn in for example, the oil and gas industry. There is a need to ensure fair work involvement. Mr Hepburn was happy to provide support and advice but tackling gender issues in any particular sector would be the responsibility of the relevant portfolio area. Mr Lochhead suggested looking to the positive work done to address gender issues in colleges. Data is available if required. 

Ms Denham pointed out the work she is taking forward in the legal sector including a conference where she challenged the law profession to improve diversity at all levels.  

It was noted that international comparisons would be useful to provide information on how other nations approach workplace gender inequality.

Portfolio stakeholder engagement 

Ministers were updated on the various engagements officials and ministers have undertaken. 

This included early discussions with external stakeholders about Fair Work First, including to gauge the response from the business community and establish how we can work collaboratively to maximise stakeholder engagement across portfolios. 

Business in the Community Scotland’s leadership group was highlighted as a useful forum for gaining view from several large employers. The general view of Fair Work First had been positively and members requested that the criteria is not too prescriptive.  

Mr Wheelhouse noted that it will be important for employers to understand the practical benefits of adopting fair work due to competitiveness in market. 

Officials met with Chartered Institute of Personnel & Development Scotland and identified opportunities to promote Fair Work/Fair Work First to their members (HR specialists) at their Annual Conference and Student Conference.

Mr Hepburn met with representatives from John Lewis and Partners (JLP) to discuss the Scottish Government Fair Work agenda, and to hear about fair working practices being adopted  by JLP. 

Update on key actions

Ms McKelvie updated on progress with the PSED review, noting that the formal review will commence late summer. EHRC are keen for bodies to do more than compliance. This work will align with Human Rights Taskforce being led by Ms Sommerville. 

Progress on increase in women on public boards was noted. Has had impact on International Development sector, companies taking notice. 

Due to limited time remaining it was agreed for a fuller update on progress on each of the actions to be provided at the next group meeting. 

Fair Work cross party roundtable

Mr Hepburn reminded the group that a cross party roundtable will take place on 20 June.  Its purpose is to build consensus around the vision for Scotland to be a leading Fair Work Nation by 2025. 

It would also be an opportunity to encourage MSP’s, as employers, to adopt fair work practices and to support them to promote fair work to employers within their constituencies.

He indicated that invitations were issued on 5 June to the leaders of other parties, and that attendees are still being finalised. 


Discussed changed context of City Deals. UK moving toward inclusive growth. 


  • circulate information on how other nations approach workplace gender inequality
  • a fuller update on progress on each of the actions to be provided at the next group meeting
  • dates of all future meetings to be arranged and circulated to members
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