This month’s law update brings you a variety of ways to improve the workplace to make life better for employees and move the workforce forward. We have proposals on the reform of flexible working, a report advising the UK Financial Services sector on how to support and improve the under-representation of ethnic minorities in its sector, advice on supporting the health of male staff, and a report on inclusion of socio-economic diversity in the financial and professional services. And the changes don’t stop there – new company car rates apply from 1 December and various employment benefit rates are to be increased from next April.
- Flexible Working: BEIS publishes consultation response on proposal to reform flexible working regulations
- Equality: Race to Equality in UK Financial Services report by Reboot
- Health at Work: Mental and physical health support for male staff beyond Movember
- Inclusion: Socio-Economic Diversity taskforce publishes class barrier report
- Employment Benefits: Rates of SMP, SSP, Maternity Allowance etc to be increased in April 2023
- Company Cars: Advisory fuel rates from 1 December 2022
Flexible Working: BEIS publishes consultation response on proposal to reform flexible working regulations
The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) has published the government response to the consultation on its reform to make flexible working the default which was launched in September 2021. Following the changes to working during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the consultation included a set of proposals which were built around the principle that working arrangements were best decided through a constructive, open-minded discussion between employer and employee. The government response confirms its intention to introduce several different measures in relation to flexible working. A total of 1611 responses were received for this consultation, of which 83% were from individuals.
Measures to be implemented by the government include:
- removing the 26-week qualifying period before employees can request flexible working, making it a day-one right;
- adding a new requirement for employers to consult with their employee when intending to decline the request for flexible working;
- allowing employees to make two flexible working requests in any 12-month period, rather than only one as currently allowed;
- reducing the time limit for an employer to respond to a flexible working request from three to two months; and
- removing the requirement for employees to detail the effects of their flexible working request on the employer and to include ways on how it might be dealt with.
Equality: Race to Equality in UK Financial Services report by Reboot
Reboot, a campaigning group of senior financial services industry professionals, has published its 2022 report on addressing the under-representation of ethnic minorities in the UK financial services sector. The report shows that 68% of ethnic minority employees have experienced discrimination and a shocking 82% have experienced unwelcome comments or conduct at their organisation based on their background in the last 12 months. The report provides financial services businesses with a three-point plan for the support of ethnic minority employees and to form a diverse workspace:
1. Leaders take charge
To remove barriers to progress, leaders have to set the tone and not outsource diversity and inclusion. By championing the cause from the top and supporting ethnic minority role models within the business, it will help to empower workforces and create an environment where employees feel comfortable to talk about race, just like we have observed with gender diversity.
2. Challenge negative office cultures
Poor attitudes in the workplace are still hindering progression. Racism has no place in the modern workplace, and it is telling that ethnicity-related jokes are still heard in offices across the industry. These behaviours need to be challenged and extinguished if we are to create a safe working environment for those of every background.
3. Close the gap and be transparent
The majority of all respondents believe ethnicity pay gap reporting should be mandatory. More transparency on ethnicity data reporting will therefore mean companies will have to become more accountable – and this will help build a sustainable roadmap. Furthermore, organisations that can show that they are fair will be more attractive to employees, customers, and investors.
Health at Work: Mental and physical health support for male staff beyond Movember
People Management has published an article by Dr Bernard Yew about how employers need to take care of their male employees because research shows they are falling behind, despite a whole month highlighting specifically male health issues – Movember is all about raising money and awareness for the prostate cancer charity. According to the article:
- Male employees are still twice as likely as female employees to feel that their employer doesn’t care about their wellbeing.
- 16 per cent of men feel work provides little or no wellbeing support, compared to just 8 per cent of women.
- One in two also say that working for their employer has undermined their health or caused them to become sick (despite two-thirds of male employees believing their employer has responsibility for their health and wellbeing).
One of the causes given is that gendered stereotypes persist, with men sometimes seen to be less in need of emotional support at work, despite two-fifths (40 per cent) of men saying emotional worries are their biggest wellbeing concern. Financial worries are the second biggest wellbeing worry after emotional health, with two-fifths of men saying their ability to manage finances is one of their biggest wellbeing challenges. This is closely followed by concerns about their weight, risk of developing cancer and not getting enough sleep. Given that the Samaritans claim that ‘Middle-aged men are more likely to die by suicide than any other age group’ it should give employers cause for reflection.
Critical to transforming this is encouraging managers to make a habit of conducting ‘check-in chats’ with men, as well as women, to ask them how they are, instead of just talking about goals and targets. Although these conversations can feel a little awkward at first, 28 per cent of men say a supportive manager is important for helping them to stay healthy. Men are also much more likely to utilise support services at their managers’ suggestion, than if left to initiate asking for support themselves, the article continues.
Given the long hours spent in work means employers have a vital role to play when it comes to supporting men to reduce health risks. Dr Yew suggests strategies such as:
- Enabling employees to access healthy food during the day, with education on how to batch cook and quickly reheat healthy food.
- Encouraging employees to go out during their lunch break to stay active.
- Offering simple finger-prick blood tests to help men identify risk factors, such as diabetes and high cholesterol, which can increase the risk of cancer and heart disease.
- Enabling men to access healthcare easily (47 per cent of men find it difficult to access their doctor or GP, while 56 per cent have been personally affected by delays accessing NHS support, add to that the general reluctance of men to see support and brush concerns aside).
- Using occupational health services, ranging from virtual GP and physiotherapy services to onsite clinicians.
To read the article in full, click here.
Inclusion: Socio-Economic Diversity taskforce publishes class barrier report
The Socio-Economic Diversity taskforce has published a Five Point Pathway aimed at tackling the lack of socio-economic diversity at senior levels in the financial and professional services sectors. The Pathway, which is the culmination of two years’ work, consists of recommendations from the employers, sector bodies, regulators, and government on how to break the class barrier and create a more welcoming environment for a more diverse pool of talent.
The five points (or steps) on the pathway are leadership, assess, take action, set goals, and publish and involve different processes depending on which set of institutions an organisation belongs to. For employers:
The starting point step is appoint creating clear accountability and responsibility for socio-economic diversity within an organisation. The Taskforce recommends appointing a senior champion as well as a system of reporting on ongoing strategy and progress in increasing socio-economic diversity at senior levels. Employers should aim to incentivise senior leaders and managers to meet targets.
Step two revolves around the collection of data to understand the current socio-economic make-up of the workforce. The taskforce recommends collecting data from the entire workforce on an annual basis and analysing this against different levels of seniority. Transparency is also important in this step as showing employees how the data is used and handled is more likely to build trust in the process.
3. Take action
Step three of the pathway is about taking positive action to increase inclusion and support the progression of those from non-professional backgrounds into leadership positions. The taskforce recommends the development of role models and ‘champion networks’ within an organisation as well as analysing recruitment and promotion processes to ensure they do not involve barriers to progression.
4. Set goals
Step four involves setting targets once data has been collected to incentivise actions which increase an organisation’s socio-economic diversity. The taskforce recommends setting targets for employee self-disclosure and taking a holistic view of data collected alongside other characteristics such as gender and ethnicity.
The final step is about public accountability. The taskforce recommends that employers publish their data on socio-economic gaps publicly and share any progress made towards closing the gaps with employees, investors and clients.
Co-Chair of the Socio-Economic Diversity Taskforce and Chair of Progress Together, Alderman Vincent Keaveny, commented “Socio-economic diversity is key to all sectors. It is vital that firms take action to create a more equitable pathway to the top for people from all backgrounds. I am excited to continue this great work as Chair of Progress Together so we maximise the potential of talented people and boost productivity.” The full report can be read here.
Employment Benefits: Rates of SMP, SSP, Maternity Allowance etc to be increased in April 2023
According to a Statement to Parliament by Mel Stride, the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, and proposals set out in a Department for Work and Pensions policy paper, in April 2023, State Pension and benefit rates will increase in line with the Consumer Prices Index (CPI) for the year to September 2022. This means that they will increase by 10.1% from 10 April 2023. Accordingly, the following employment benefits will apply from that time:
- the rates for Statutory Maternity Pay, Statutory Paternity Pay, Statutory Adoption Pay, Statutory Shared Parental Pay, Statutory Parental Bereavement Pay and Maternity Allowance will all increase from £156.66 to £172.48 per week, and
- the rate for Statutory Sick Pay will increase from £99.35 to £109.40 per week.
Company Cars: Advisory fuel rates from 1 December 2022
HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) has published revised advisory fuel rates for company cars which apply from 1 December 2022. The full information can be read here.
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