Fair Work Oversight Group minutes: November 2023

Minutes of the second meeting of the group on 30 November 2023.

Attendees and apologies

  • Neil Gray MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Wellbeing Economy, Fair Work and Energy, Chair
  • Anna Ritchie Allan, Executive Director, Close the Gap
  • Andrew Carter, Human Resources Director, NHS Borders
  • Bill Scott, Inclusion Scotland (virtual)
  • David Taylor, ACAS (virtual)
  • Ed Gordon, COSLA Official
  • Emma Congreve, Senior Knowledge Exchange Fellow, Fraser of Allander Institute
  • Helen Martin, Head of Fair Work Convention Secretariat
  • Professor Ima Jackson, Social Policy and Infrastructure Development, Glasgow Caledonia University (virtual)
  • Cllr Katie Hagmann, Resources Spokesperson, COSLA
  • Jatin Haria, Coalition for Racial Equality and Rights (virtual)
  • Lee Ann Panglea, Head of Scotland and Northern Ireland, CIPD
  • Linda Somerville, Deputy General Secretary, STUC [substituting Dave Moxham]
  • Professor Patricia Findlay, Co-Chair, Fair Work Convention
  • Stephanie Griffin - Equality and Human Rights Commission


  • Charandeep Singh, Deputy Chief Executive, Scottish Chamber of Commerce
  • Clare Reid, Director of Policy & Public Affairs, Prosper

Items and actions

Agenda item 1: welcome

Mr Gray welcomed everyone to the second meeting of the FWOG, stating his ongoing thanks to Members for committing time to the group which makes an important contribution to the Fair Work (FW) agenda.

He reminded members of the questions raised at the first meeting of the group on 03 August, in relation to: reporting on progress on actions; on further development of the Evidence plan; the focus on equality groups and intersectionality; as well as the extent to which our approach focuses on employers. The agenda for this meeting is built around responding to those asks.

Mr Gray stressed that the Scottish Government is clear that while it takes an intersectional approach, it also continues to focus specific issues in relation to different equality groups. He set out the contents of the Agenda, stressing that the Evidence Plan is key in ensuring we get our approach to evaluation and further analysis right, and that he would welcome feedback on the plan before Scottish Government commits it to publication.

In addition, Mr Gray was clear that while there is no place for complacency, it is also important to continue to acknowledge up front the progress that has already been made. He mentioned that he had recently undertaken visits in support of Real Living Wage Week, alongside most of his ministerial colleagues, to see the impact that element of Fair Work is having for workers across Scotland. He also said he had been able to speak at the Annual Scottish Black Talent Summit last month, which brought together a range of stakeholders to focus rightly on the recruitment and retention of people from racialised minorities.

Mr Gray also went through housekeeping and apologised in advance for having to leave the meeting early, stating that Lewis Hedge (LH) would take over Chairing the meeting after his departure.

Agenda item 2: minutes and update on action points from last meeting

As there were no comments on the Minutes these were accepted and agreed by the Group.

In terms of Action Points from the last meeting Mr Gray referred to the Action Log, paper 2.3, that had been shared prior to the meeting.

Mr Gray set out that he is keen to update the National Strategy for Economic Transformation (NSET), and that this group is well placed to be engaged in this. The Fair Work Action Plan (FWAP) is part of these discussions and continues to stay relevant for maximising impact of NSET. Officials will be in touch to set out opportunities where the FWOG can engage around this.

Agenda item 3: presentation of the Fair Work Evidence Plan (Kevin Brady (KB))

KB provided an overview of progress with the Evidence Plan, and emerging content.  This followed on from a brief discussion at the 1st FWOG meeting on 3 August. Members had received a copy of the draft Evidence Plan and the summary slide pack in advance of the meeting.  KB expressed his gratitude for comments received, and asked that any further comments were received by Friday 4th December.

The Evidence plan, itself a commitment in the FWAP, focuses on the commitments in FWAP. The approach to evaluation is looking at high progress indicators, MI data, and narrative reporting. There will be analysis by protected characteristics, taking an intersectional approach where possible. The Theory of change in the Plan demonstrates how different areas link to each other.

Data developments and further steps between 2024-26 includes developments from the Office of National Statistics (ONS) on the Transformed Labour Force Survey (TLSF), which aims to get further detailed breakdowns of data, with first estimates available from March 2024. The Scottish Government will also use other sources of evidence, including stakeholder engagement, other research, the Fair Work Conventions’ (FWC) reports. It will review existing evidence and identify areas of further research, as well as develop evidence on outcomes for people supported to prepare for, access and sustain Fair Work. Scottish Government will also look at what other countries do to reduce the Disability Employment Gap (DEG), which the FWC, among others, is clear is a particular issue.

The Scottish Government committed to publish the Evidence plan late 2023, but KB was clear that it didn’t want to publish without getting input from people at this table. Officials are however still hoping to publish by end of year. Mr Gray was clear that the Evidence plan is key, and it’s important we can monitor progress and be held accountable.

Members of the group raised some questions, which included how to word medium term outcomes, and a request was raised to remove “are motivated” from the 3rd Medium Term outcome on grounds that it distracted from engagement with employers.

Further, a potential issue was raised [in the Teams Chat] regarding the focus on the ethnicity pay gap as an outcome measure, on grounds that under-representation of racialised minority workers in public sector organisations could result in representation among senior staff skewing estimates. This may already be considered in the plan, but officials will recognise this explicitly in the text.

Following KB’s emphasis on TLSF’s importance members wondered about any uncertainty around the impact of the TLFS in relation to FWAP measurements, and the role it’ll play in Scottish Government data development. In addition, members also pointed out their concerns that the language ONS use around e.g. learning disability/ difficulty can be problematic. KB advised that statisticians are engaging with the ONS regarding these issues, and will follow up further with them. 

Other questions raised included measurement of equalities and intersectionality not being fully incorporated or reflected in the Evidence plan. Mr Gray stressed that Scottish Government is clear that equalities should be visible within Fair Work overall and not diminished, and that this is should also be explicit in the Evidence plan.

It was also raised that there is a general lack of understanding of FW in the business community, for example within the Retail sector. Group members discussed that a lot of employers think they are good employers and doing good work, but they are not sure about terminology. Some employers also want to do better but don’t know what and how. Taking this into account would be an important part of delivering practical support regarding what employers need, and to engage with employers around what they want to do.

To what extent there is trade union recognition, as a measurement, in sectors like Hospitality, with many small employers, was also raised. This could also be the case in the Third Sector, and is hard to capture and measure. This means the Scottish Government need to understand and being live to structural issues in the economy as well.

Mr Gray stated his keenness to take more employers with the Scottish Government, demonstrate what FW looks like, but without brow beating, which would risk losing employers. He also mentioned that peer support is key, and that terminology can be tricky, and recognised that most employers want to do the right thing and are mostly well signed off to the outcomes Scottish Government is aiming to achieve. He highlighted that the Group would continue this discussion so that things are not missed, and to ensure that we continue also to focus on issues such as the Disability employment and Gender pay gaps.

Further social class was mentioned in relation to evidencing and measuring in relation to the FWAP actions, and KB advised that the Scottish Government is considering how to best do that.

In addition, members raised a query around whether there is evidence of workforce planning, for example in Local Government, and how FW could be incorporated into that. KB advised that that would be out with the scope of the Evidence paper, however something to potentially consider separately.

Mr Gray thanked KB for his presentation and clarifications, and thanked the group members who have sent in written comments. As a side issue, he also thanked Shauna Corr for persevering with the technological issues. Mr Gray then apologised and took his leave.

Agenda item 4: presentation of updates and progress on FWAP actions (Lewis Hedge (LH))

LH shared the slides which had been circulated prior to the meeting, stating that the update was based on the discussions from the last meeting. Scottish Government has mapped out each action to main equality group, intersectional links, and when employers are focused. Actions are also mapped against which Fair Work Dimensions are addressed. LH stressed that this is initial and not complete work, and will continue.

LH provided a few examples from the slide pack, showing the status of the actions. In relation to FW Conditionality, he explained that a BRIA (Business Regulatory Impact Assessment) would be undertaken, in addition to the BRIA undertaken on the FWAP as a whole.

A question was raised whether there is any early learning available around the FWAP actions 2.1 and 2.2 around FW conditionality and FW First. LH explained that the Scottish Government is phasing FW conditionality to deliver positive outcomes (Real living wage and effective voice conditionality in grants being the initial focus), but first also needs to understand what really works and what doesn’t. The Scottish Government will be evaluating FW First during 2024, and this group will be key to engage with around that. A query was also raised regarding whether pay gaps would be looked at through the work on FW First, and LH stated officials will look into that.

There was a discussion also about FWAP action 4:1, to establish a central FW resource tool for employers, including where it could sit and who would be behind it. LH explained that it would not necessarily be a tool, but a resource to show where relevant information is contained, and ensure it is aligned to other information and advice to ensure consistency and robustness.

Group members were clear that employers want a resource or tool, but not necessarily from the Scottish Government. Language is also important, and there would be greater impact if there was targeting. Given that employers are not only one similar thing, business leaders, employers, HR staff etc would need different kind of messages and support. Some employers also don’t have HR functions, others worry they’ll get it wrong, so the conversation would need to be different then as well. It may also be helpful for Communications to demonstrate what a FW employer look like in Scotland so this can be an aspiration for others as well.

LH recognised that queries around language and terminology were valid points which could easily be addressed, so that messaging around FW to different audiences was framed appropriately.

Members of the group mentioned that organisations are doing a lot of FW work already, e.g. in the NHS, but it may be using different terminology. It would be helpful with further strategic alignment also with other frameworks, e.g. Public Sector Equality Duty (PSED). Group members stated that it would make it easier for stakeholders to understand the FW landscape when things are related and linked up.

LH stated that officials will continue to work on linking FWAP not just to NSET, but also other ongoing work, for example around potential changes to the PSED.

There was a query regarding what marked ‘complete’ in the slides means - in this case regarding a FWAP Employability related action - based on information that employability services are not supporting disabled people enough, and more needs to be done in that respect.

LH explained that the action in question is complete, as the action in FWAP was about commencing relevant work. As such the action is complete, even though outcomes are not yet coming through. That will happen through the No One Left Behind lens going forward.

A further ask was whether it would be useful to simplify some of the information contained within the slides, for example if priorities could be pulled out. LH stated that it would be good to have that conversation.  Another suggestion included whether outputs and outcomes could also be included in the tables in the slides. It may make the slides more complex including more information, but also clearer in relation to what the actions are aiming to achieve. Having outputs and outcomes included in the tables could potentially also aid with identifying what evidence may be needed.

Before moving on to the next agenda item, LH clarified in relation to a query regarding the FW Convention Construction inquiry that there will be a meeting next week which would look at taking forward the recommendations.

Agenda item 5: any other busieness and date of next meeting

LH said that the Scottish Government is looking to hold the 3rd meeting of the FWOG in May next year. Also, that the Scottish Government is committed to delivering the National Strategy for Economic Transformation (NSET), and officials will be in touch to set out opportunities for the FWOG to help shape delivery.

It was mentioned that this work chimes well with some organisations being anchor institution, both in relation to statutory duties public bodies have, including PSED, and regarding providing public sector support to employers.

In addition, there was a query around what the UK Government’s Autumn Statement would mean for disabled people in Scotland, and other equality groups. LH mentioned that this is something the Scottish Government could look into as part of ongoing work.

Agenda item 6: close

LH thanked group members for attending and their ongoing support and closed the meeting.


  • meeting 2 action 1 (2.1): Officials to contact Group members regarding opportunities to engage around delivery of NSET
  • meeting 2 action 2 (2.2): Officials to engage with ONS on the Transformed Labour Force Survey to ensure data capture in relation to FWAP is consistent with what Scottish Government aims to do; and in relation to the terminology around learning disability/ difficulty
  • meeting 2 action 3 (2.3): Officials to incorporate the comments received on the Evidence Plan where appropriate
  • meeting 2 action 4 (2.4): Officials to make improvements to the presentation of FWAP progress, including adding priorities, outputs and outcomes tables and clarification of ‘completed’
  • meeting 2 action 5 (2.5): Officials to investigate whether pay gaps will be included in FW First work; and how to best engage with Group Members regarding FW First work
  • meeting 2 action 6 (2.6): Officials to ensure language and terminology are tailored to help better understanding by different groups, such as varying businesses and other stakeholders, when communicating around FW
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