Fair Work Oversight Group minutes: August 2023

Minutes of the first meeting of the group on 3 August 2023.

Attendees and apologies

  • Neil Gray MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Wellbeing Economy, Fair Work and Energy, Chair
  • Anna Ritchie Allan, Close the Gap
  • Andrew Carter, NHS Borders
  • Charandeep Singh, Scottish Chamber of Commerce
  • Clare Reid, Scottish Council for Development and Industry (SCDI)
  • Dave Moxham, STUC
  • David Lonsdale, Scottish Retail Consortium
  • Emma Congreve, Fraser of Allander Institute
  • Heather Fisken, Inclusion Scotland
  • Helen Martin, Fair Work Convention Secretariat
  • Professor Ima Jackson, Glasgow Caledonia University (virtual)
  • Jatin Haria, Coalition for Racial Equality and Rights
  • Cllr Katie Hagmann, COSLA
  • Lee Ann Panglea, CIPD
  • Simon Cameron, COSLA
  • Terry Duffy, ACAS (virtual)
  • Wendy Osmond (Communications Support Worker - virtual)


  • Stephanie Griffin, Equality and Human Rights Commission 
  • Representative from Non-Departmental Public Bodies Chief Executives’ Forum
  • Professor Patricia Findlay, Fair Work Convention

Items and actions

Welcome and introductions – Cabinet Secretary

The Cabinet Secretary welcomed everyone to the meeting and apologies were noted as above. 

The group were reminded that the Scottish Government published the refreshed Fair Work Action Plan in December 2022, which included a commitment to establishing the oversight group to provide a support, advisory and challenge function with regards to delivery.

The Cabinet Secretary then invited members to introduce themselves and provide a brief overview of their connection and interest to Fair Work. A roundtable of introductions and roles, as noted in the attendees, took place. 

Terms of Reference – Cabinet Secretary

The Cabinet Secretary introduced the first agenda item, to discuss the Terms of Reference (ToR), and provided a brief overview on the purpose of the group. He then invited any comments of points of clarification from the group.

The following suggestions were made:

  • to ensure there is linkage with the New Deal for Business Wellbeing Economy Subgroup, and to ensure this was reflected in the ToR
  • to include a commitment to provide progress updates on a 3-monthly basis
  • simplify the language of the groups purpose and remit to make it more relatable to stakeholders. The more simplified wording in the action plan was suggested and agreed: “This group will advise on activity to support delivery, providing a challenge function and considering progress on the actions within the plan.”
  • to include membership in the ToR

The Cabinet Secretary noted that the New Deal for Business Group has a forthcoming delivery plan, and that it would be sensible to ensure there were linkages. Officials were asked to consider how this can be formalised in the ToR. Kathie Robertson advised that following the first full annual update the Scottish Government would consider with the Oversight Group, the feasibility of providing provide 3-monthly updates to the group, and the Cabinet Secretary agreed in principle to such an approach, pending resource capacity. It was also agreed that membership will be included, acknowledging that it may be flexible to support deputisation.

The Cabinet Secretary asked if members were happy to agree ToR on basis of the feedback the provided, and the group agreed.

Update on Fair Work Action Plan and Anti-Racist Employment Strategy (ARES) progress – Kathie Robertson

Kathie Robertson delivered a presentation providing a high level update on actions within the Fair Work Action plan, which includes those from the new Anti-Racist Employment Strategy. 
The presentation provided an overview of: 

  • the strategic context in which Fair Work sits, including the National Performance Framework, and the National Strategy for Economic Transformation. 
  • Fair Work achievements so far
  • updates on actions under each theme

It was also noted that there are an additional 30+ actions published in the action plan annexes which set out actions being taken forward across government and led outwith Fair Work policy. Members were advised that if they have a particular interest in any of these actions or wished more information, then they should feel free to get in touch. 

Kathie closed by confirming that the Scottish Government will provide a more substantive update report in advance of the next meeting, and this will feed in to the annual report to parliament on progress against the actions in the Fair Work Action Plan.

The Cabinet Secretary thanked Kathie for the presentation and opened the floor for discussion.


Members impressed the importance of intersectionality and embedding thinking on the different experiences of inequality between different equality groups and people within those groups e.g. those with learning difficulties have different experiences from people with other disabilities, and the differing experiences between disabled and non-disabled women, and that the Scottish Government need to ensure intersectionality is embedded in the actual delivery of actions. 

Officials responded that the Scottish Government recognises that discreet actions may be required to tackle specific issues, and the action plan takes account of this. Officials also added that they are conscious that one size does not fit all in all occasions, and appreciated the need for different measurement indicators for different groups with protected characteristics, as part of measuring progress. 

Officials also clarified that they are looking to review and refresh the Fair Work First criterion around creating diverse and inclusive workplaces to ensure that it accurately reflects our policy intentions with regards to addressing workplace inequality, and that particular groups were not unintentionally excluded. 

Officials noted that they would welcome further discussion on implementing an intersectional approach.

Employer support

There was general support for the action around supporting employers to access resources to adopt Fair Work practices. It was noted that overall there were a large number of actions being proposed and a suggestion for the group to consider a potential hierarchy of priority actions.

The Cabinet Secretary noted that he was conscious of the need to take employers with us and make the case for Fair Work. He added that he was happy to be a part of discussions with employers and employer groups to ensure  both understand and support the Fair Work agenda. He also added that collective feedback from the group with regards to a hierarchy of actions would be helpful.

Officials welcomed views from the group on prioritisation of focus on actions. The status of the Scottish Business Pledge was also queried, officials confirmed it is currently paused whilst it is being reviewed. 


Members highlighted the action around investigating extending conditionality to other levers, such as reliefs and licensing, as well as feedback they are hearing through their networks on the updated grant conditionality approach introduced on 1 July 2023, particularly around the evidence requirements and application to young workers. 

The Cabinet Secretary provided assurance that the Scottish Government is live to the need to understand the impact of conditionality on businesses, and will monitor this accordingly. He suggested that a note is circulated to members to clarify the planned approach.

Officials also clarified that the action to consider other levers is an investigatory action, and not a definitive position on if and how these can be used. 

It was highlighted that the Fair Work Convention is also doing a piece of research looking at potential levers. The Convention is looking at this within the specific context of the hospitality sector. Consideration is being given to how this can usefully incentivise and support employers in the sector, rather than setting a course for the government. 

The Cabinet Secretary confirmed that monitoring of the current conditionality approach will be ongoing, and that Ministers recognise concerns from stakeholders. He added that this is a test and learn phase, and monitoring will be important to ensure the approach is fair and proportionate. Members representing COSLA and SCDI noted that they would be keen to feed in to this and to engage with their networks.

Officials noted that the Scottish Government has had engagement with the enterprise and skills agencies on the evidence requirements and other concerns in relation to conditionality, and welcome further discussions.

Fair Work Evidence Plan – Kevin Brady

Kevin Brady delivered a presentation on the Fair Work Evidence Plan.

The presentation set out that the Evidence Plan was a commitment in the action plan, and that OCEA is looking to publish in late 2023, to set out how the Scottish Government will monitor progress towards becoming a leading Fair Work Nation by 2025. 

The plan will set out further work to:

  • monitor the fair work context and progress being made over time over to ensure our actions respond to change
  • draw lessons from other comparable economies on what is achievable and what has worked in different contexts
  • how we address data and wider evidence gaps in relation to a wide range of issues across the different dimensions of fair work
  • monitor and measure the impact of our current actions

The Cabinet Secretary thanked Kevin for his presentation, and suggested questions could be taken in writing after this meeting in the interests of time.

Discussion on potential subgroups – Cabinet Secretary

The Cabinet Secretary introduced the item on potential subgroups, and reiterated their purpose to support the work of the main oversight group, and inform its considerations. Where a remit exists elsewhere, related issues should be referred to that group rather than replicating existing work. He noted that the purpose is not looking to generate new activity. He then invited members thoughts on themes for discussion and membership.

Members discussed potentially convening a subgroup looking at employer engagement, to consider what barriers to Fair Work and equality are, and the role for employer-led organisations in ways they can support. An example suggested was the guidance for employers around positive action measures as per the Equality Action 2010. A need for more recognition of the third sector was noted, as these organisations are a significant employer and particularly of those from groups who experience additional barriers to the labour market.

A potential subgroup covering the gender pay gap specifically was also suggested as was a group on the Anti-Racist Employment Strategy. The Cabinet Secretary assured the group that it will be critically important to ensure there is an equality-focused lens on the work of the group, and noted that he was conscious of the resourcing requirements of multiple subgroups simultaneously in terms of being able to provide secretariat support. Members were reassured there is an opportunity for other areas of focus through subgroups in the future.

Members cautioned that the central function of the group as per the ToR is to provide an advisory oversight role, rather than taking forward new workstreams, and that it is important to focus on that role. It was noted that any established subgroups would need to be consistent with the overall objectives of the wider group, and not seek to alter these.

The need for ground rules for subgroups was also noted, as well as a need to maintain the mix of various perspectives that is reflected by the wider group. The Cabinet Secretary agreed with the consensus and that the Scottish Government will work up a potential subgroup in the space of employer engagement and support. He reiterated the need to ensure employers are at the heart of progressing Fair Work.

Any other business and closing remarks – Cabinet Secretary

Contact details for providing feedback were requested, which officials confirmed as the Fair Work Mailbox (FairWorkCommissioning@gov.scot) 

It was also confirmed that a note of the meeting will be circulated and published online.

Members asked if the provisional date of the next meeting (30th November 2023) could be reviewed as it falls on St Andrew’s Day, and members are likely to have other engagements. The Cabinet Secretary responded that the date would be held for now, however members should advise if it will be difficult for them to attend.


  • Officials to update ToR as per the above agreed feedback
  • following the publication of the first annual report, officials will consider with the Oversight Group if providing 3-monthly updates in future is feasible 
  • Officials to provide a more substantive update report in advance of the next meeting. This will feed in to annual reporting to parliament
  • all to provide collective feedback with regards to a potential hierarchy of actions
  • Officials to circulate a note on conditionality prior to the next meeting
  • Officials to amend the wording on the ‘other levers’ conditionality action in future meeting papers for clarification
  • all to consider how the FWOG interacts with other groups e.g. New Deal for Business and Strategic Tax Group
  • all to provide any questions on the Evidence Plan to Kevin Brady in writing
  • Officials to progress arrangements for a subgroup on employer support/action 3.1. on creating a central Fair Work resource
  • members should advise if 30 November date for next meeting is difficult
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