This month the news focuses on some key employment announcements from the Spring budget, changes to work checks guidance, a new proposed UK version of GDPR and a proposed right to request a more predictable working pattern. Lastly a new government employment champion has been announced to urge businesses to take action on the menopause.
- Spring Budget 2023: Key Employment Announcements
- Immigration: Revisions made to right to work checks guidance
- GDPR: Government announces new UK version of GDPR
- Working Practices: Proposed new statutory right to request a more predictable working pattern
- Menopause: Czar urges businesses to step up on policies
Spring Budget 2023 – Key Employment Announcements
In the Spring Budget 2023, delivered on 15 March 2023, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Jeremy Hunt, announced a series of measures intended to support the UK workforce. Among the announcements were the introduction of a new Health and Disability White Paper on how to provide support and opportunities for workers with disabilities, the planned abolition of the lifetime allowance to encourage workers over 50 to stay in employment, the reiteration of government support for Private Members’ Bills providing unpaid carers with additional leave, parents with greater protections against redundancy, and parents of children in neonatal care with paid statutory leave, and commitments to encourage and facilitate flexible working arrangements between employers and employees.
In respect of immigration, Jeremy Hunt announced measures to tackle immediate labour shortages and ease business visits to the UK and further support for those who have come to the UK through the Ukraine Visa Schemes. Building off the Autumn Statement 2022, the Budget confirmed the government’s plan to deliver on three of the five key priorities set out by the Prime Minister in January: to halve inflation, reduce debt and grow the economy. The Spring Budget 2023 lists employment, education and enterprises as priorities for delivering on growth and building a high wage high skill economy.
Immigration: Revisions made to right to work checks guidance
The Home Office has updated its guidance for employers carrying out right to work checks. The guidance was updated late in the day on 28 February 2023 to reflect legislative changes and current practice. Examples include clarifying that employers should carry out on an online check for those with a pending Home Office application, administrative review or appeal, circumstances in which an employer should contact the Employer Checking Service and what employers should do if they are presented with a Biometric Residence Permit (BRP) with an expiry date of 31 December 2024. Similar changes have been made, on the same day, to the right to rent checks guidance for landlords.
GDPR: Government announces new UK version of GDPR
The UK government has announced that British businesses will save billions of pounds through a new version of GDPR, which will replace the EU’s data protection laws after Brexit. The new law will allow UK businesses to avoid costly compliance fees and will maintain high levels of data protection for consumers. The changes are expected to provide a boost to the UK economy and enhance the UK’s reputation as a leader in data protection.
Working Practices: Proposed new statutory right to request a more predictable working pattern
The Workers (Predictable Terms and Conditions) Bill (the Bill) proposes to give eligible workers a new statutory right to request a more predictable working pattern. This follows the Taylor review of modern working practices and the resulting 2018 Good Work Plan in which the government committed to introduce policies to end ‘one-sided flexibility’. Eligible workers (not just employees) will have the right to make a request where:
- there is a lack of predictability as regards any part of their work pattern (the work pattern being the number of working hours, the days of the week and the times on those days when the worker works, and the length of the worker’s contract)
- the change relates to their work pattern
- their purpose in applying for the change is to get a more predictable work pattern
An application must state that it is a request for a more predictable working pattern, and specify the change applied for and the date on which it is proposed it should take effect.
The Bill does not contain other earlier government commitments to introduce a right to reasonable notice of working hours and compensation for shifts cancelled without reasonable notice.
A worker can only apply for a change to their working pattern if they have been employed by the same employer (whether or not under the same contract) at some point during the month immediately preceding a ‘prescribed period’ (this will be specified in regulations and is expected to be 26 weeks ending with the date of the application). There is no requirement for the service to be continuous.
A worker can only make two applications in any 12-month period. This includes any application under the flexible working provisions if that request is for a change which would result in a more predictable contract.
The Bill contains a similar set of rights for agency workers:
- an agency worker may be able to apply to a temporary work agency for a more predictable working pattern where they have had a contract with the agency at some point in the month immediately before a ‘prescribed period’ (to be set out in regulations)
- if the agency worker has worked for a hirer in the same role continuously for 12 weeks (within a period of time which will be set out in regulations) they may also be able to apply to the hirer for a contract of employment, or other worker’s contract, which is more predictable than their current working pattern
There is no definition of ‘predictability’ in the Bill. It does, however, specifically state that workers on a fixed term contract of 12 months or less may request that the term is extended or becomes permanent. Other than that, it seems that a ‘lack of predictability’ will cover any worker whose hours or days vary in a way which provides them with uncertainty, such as:
- casual/zero hours workers without a guaranteed number of hours
- annualised hours workers if the employer has discretion over the working pattern
- workers whose hours are determined by a shift pattern or rota, where that pattern/rota varies unpredictably
In many ways the process for dealing with requests reflects the flexible working regime. There is no obligation on the employer to agree to a request, but they must deal with the application in a reasonable manner and respond within one month. An employer can only reject an application for one or more of the specified reasons, which are:
- the burden of additional costs
- detrimental effect on ability to meet customer demand
- detrimental impact on the recruitment of staff
- detrimental impact on other aspects of the employer’s business
- insufficiency of work during the periods the worker proposes to work
- planned structural changes
If the worker’s contract terminates during the one month ‘decision period’ the requirements still apply. However, there are then some additional acceptable grounds for refusing a request such as the employer having acted reasonably in dismissing for misconduct or redundancy. A worker will be able to bring an employment tribunal claim if an employer fails to follow the requirements set out above which, if the claim is successful, could result in an order for reconsideration of the request or compensation. The amount of compensation will be set by regulations and could be limited to eight weeks’ pay as it is under the flexible working regime.
There is no timetable for implementation yet and, as noted above, some of the detail of how the right to request will operate in practice still has to be set out in separate regulations.
The new right will have the most impact in sectors where the use of casual workers and changeable shift patterns/rotas is widespread, and on businesses using short fixed-term contracts or agency workers. It is likely to lead to an increased focus on how best to manage these type of working arrangements.
The Bill only provides for the right to ask for a more predictable working pattern, not a right to a predictable working pattern. However, organisations which engage individuals on unpredictable working patterns will need to establish policies and procedures to deal with requests. They should also be aware that, if employment status isn’t clear, an individual might claim worker status while making an application for a more predictable working arrangement
(Content provided to Lexis-Nexis by Julie Keir, practice development lawyer at Brodies LLP.)
Menopause: Czar urges businesses to step up on policies
Helen Tomlinson, England’s first-ever menopause employment champion has called on businesses to develop policies and to normalize discussing the subject, saying that she has witnessed ‘the transformational power’ that talking about the health condition can have in a workplace. The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) announced on 6 March 2023 that it had appointed Tomlinson to the post to raise awareness about the health condition. Tomlinson will also aim to encourage more employers to develop policies so women who experience symptoms are better supported, the DWP added. Tomlinson said that fewer than a quarter of UK businesses ‘currently have a menopause policy, but as I take on this role, I am determined that my generation of women in work will break the menopause taboo and have confidence that their health is valued’.
The DWP said that she will raise awareness of menopause, while promoting the benefits for businesses and the economy when women are supported to stay in work. Her role could also include advising employers about ‘small but significant’ changes they can make to the workplace, including offering women experiencing the symptoms of menopause more regular breaks and creating cooler spaces in offices, the DWP added.
The announcement of Tomlinson’s appointment came after the DWP had previously published official responses to two reports on menopause and the workplace. Tomlinson is Head of Talent in the UK and Ireland at the human resources provider Adecco Group. She was appointed to the role on a voluntary basis by the DWP, where she will work closely with Mims Davies, the Minister for Social Mobility, Youth and Progression. Davies said that menopause is a major reason that too many women leave the workforce early, often when they are at the peak of their skills and experience with so much more still to contribute. Tomlinson will also work closely with Lesley Regan, who was appointed as the government’s first women’s health ambassador in 2022.
According to the DWP, a quarter of women report that they have considered leaving their job due to experiencing menopause. Not all women experience symptoms that stop them from working, but research suggests that those with serious menopausal symptoms take an average of 32 weeks of leave from work over the length of their employment.
Many women tend to suffer in silence during perimenopause and menopause. Seeing this subject acknowledged at government level, gives hope that it will inspire businesses to do the same – educating and raising awareness about menopause-related issues, whilst also providing assistance and support to those who need it.
If you would like any additional information, please contact Anne-Marie Pavitt or Sophie Banks on: email@example.com
This month’s news seems to be full of inequality as we report on the gender pay gap, perceptions and experiences of racism at work, menopause, striking transport workers, bias in recruitment, carer’s leave and new protection from redundancy measures for those on pregnancy-related leave.
- Gender Pay Gap: ONS 2022 gender pay gap data published
- Race Discrimination: 2021 survey considers perceptions and experiences of racism at work
- ACAS: Survey finds 1 in 3 employers feel under-equipped to support women during menopause
- Trade Unions: New Transport Strikes Bill introduced to House of Commons
- Technology: Research suggests using AI to reduce bias in recruitment is counter-productive
- Leave: Government backs Carer’s Leave Bill
- Redundancy: Government backs Protection from Redundancy (Pregnancy and Family Leave) Bill
Gender Pay Gap: ONS 2022 gender pay gap data published
The Office for National Statistics (ONS) releases annual statistics on differences in pay between women and men by age, region, full-time and part-time work, and occupation as compiled from its Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings. The ONS analysis of the gender pay gap is calculated as the difference between average hourly earnings (excluding overtime) of men and women as a proportion of men’s average hourly earnings (excluding overtime) across all jobs in the UK. It does not measure the difference in pay between men and women doing the same job and is different from compulsory gender pay gap reporting.
The ONS encourages focus on long-term trends rather than year-on-year trends. It notes that the data for 2020 and 2021 was subject to uncertainty and should be treated with caution. This is due to earnings estimates being affected by changes in workforce composition and the furlough scheme during the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as disruption to data collection and lower response rates.
Over the past decade, the gender pay gap has fallen by approximately a quarter among full-time employees. In April 2022, the gender pay gap for full-time employees was 8.3%. While this is higher than the 2021 gap of 7.7%, it continues a downward trend since April 2019 when the gap was 9.0%.
In 2022, the occupation group for managers, directors and senior officials has seen the largest fall in its gender pay gap figure (10.6%) since the pre-pandemic April 2019 figure (16.3%). This reflects signs of more women holding higher-paid managerial roles. In terms of geography, the gender pay gap is higher in all English regions than in Scotland and Northern Ireland.
Other trends seen in 2021 remain:
- The gender pay gap is much higher for full-time employees aged over 40 years (10.9%) than those aged below 40 years (3.2%).
- Higher earners experience a much larger difference in hourly pay between the sexes than lower-paid employees.
Race Discrimination: 2021 survey considers perceptions and experiences of racism at work
Following a survey of 1,193 UK employees (507 White, 419 Asian, 267 Black), Pearn Kandola, a business psychology consultancy, has published a new report, Racism at Work in the UK 2021. The survey replicated the approach previously taken by Pearn Kandola in 2018 (see Racism at Work Survey Result, 2018), asking participants about their perceptions and experiences of racism at work and actions their employers have taken to combat racism.
Of the employees surveyed, 74.8% considered racism to be a problem in the workplace. Of the 52.2% who had witnessed racism at work, 29.8% confronted the perpetrator, 22.4% reported the incident to a manager or HR department while 28.3% took no action.
Racism at work was experienced by 34% of the respondents. Black respondents were 15.1 times more likely than White respondents, and 1.9 times more likely than Asian respondents, to experience workplace racism. Asian respondents were 8.1 times more likely to experience racism at workplace than White respondents. These results suggested that the likelihood of Black and Asian employees experiencing racism at work had generally increased between 2018 and 2021. For White respondents it had decreased.
Almost half of employees worked for organisations that had taken action to promote greater racial equality at work (49.7%). Most frequently this involved anti-racism training and general awareness raising. Internal policies and procedures were changed both to make them more inclusive and to make it easier to report racism to senior colleagues.
The report recommendations include recognition that experiences differ both between and within racial groups, and for employees to be trained to become active bystanders who know how to challenge racism.
ACAS: Survey finds 1 in 3 employers feel under-equipped to support women during menopause
ACAS has reported on the outcome of a survey in which it commissioned YouGov to ask British businesses how well equipped they felt their workplaces were to support women going through the menopause. Responses indicated that while 46% felt either very or fairly well equipped, 33% considered that they were either not that well equipped or not equipped at all, and 21% of respondents did not know. With regard to confidence in managers having the necessary skills to support staff, 46% felt either very or fairly confident, 37% were either not very or not at all confident and 17% did not know.
ACAS advises that employers:
- Develop a menopause policy that explains how the menopause can affect people differently and what support is available.
- Provide awareness training for managers on the menopause and how to deal with it sensitively and fairly.
- Consider making practical changes at work to help staff manage their symptoms, such as the availability of cold drinking water and temperature control.
Trade Unions: New Transport Strikes Bill introduced to House of Commons
On 20 October 2022, the Transport Strikes (Minimum Service Levels) Bill had its first reading in the House of Commons. The Bill is intended to balance the right to strike with ensuring people can commute to work and make vital journeys to access education and healthcare during strikes. It will enable employers to ensure minimum service levels in specified transport services during strikes by requiring sufficient employees to work.
The Bill sets out the legal framework through which minimum service levels will be achieved using minimum service specifications, which include minimum service agreements, minimum service determinations and minimum service regulations. Employers and trade unions may negotiate and reach agreement on minimum service levels by entering into a minimum service agreement. Where the parties have failed to reach an agreement after three months, the matter will be referred to the Central Arbitration Committee (CAC) which will make a minimum service determination. The Bill provides that the Secretary of State may set minimum services levels through minimum service regulations which will apply where an agreement has not been entered into and a determination has not been made.
When a union gives an employer notice of a strike which relates to a specified transport service, and the employer and union are bound by a minimum service specification as regards the employer’s provision of that service, the employer may give a work notice to the union. That notice will identify the people required to work during the strike in order to ensure that minimum levels of service are provided and specify the work they will be required to carry out during the strike. Where an employer has given a work notice and the union fails to take reasonable steps to ensure that those identified in the notice do not take part in the strike, the union will not be protected from an action in tort by the employer.
The Transport Strikes (Minimum Service Levels) Act 2022, which will extend to England, Scotland and Wales, will come into force at the end of the period of two months beginning with the day on which it is passed.
Technology: Research suggests using AI to reduce bias in recruitment is counter-productive
Cambridge University researchers have suggested that using Artificial Intelligence (AI) to reduce bias in recruitment is counter-productive in their report Does AI Debias Recruitment? Race, Gender, and AI’s “Eradication of Difference”.
The research considered the suggestion that using AI in recruitment can objectively assess candidates by removing gender and race from their systems and, in doing so, make recruitment fairer and help organisations to achieve their DEI goals and establish meritocratic cultures. The researchers built their own simplified AI recruitment tool, to rate candidates’ photographs for the “big five” personality traits: agreeableness, extroversion, openness, conscientiousness and neuroticism. However, they found the software’s predictions were affected by changes in people’s facial expressions, lighting and backgrounds, as well as their choice of clothing.
Recommendations made as a result of the research include developers shifting from trying to correct individual instances of bias to considering the broader inequalities that shape recruitment processes. Those, such as HR professionals, tasked with using technology must understand the limitations of AI and need suppliers to explain where AI is being used in their systems and how it is being used to evaluate candidates. The research also suggested that there remains an insufficient contribution from AI ethicists, regulators and policymakers in the scrutiny of AI-powered HR tools.
The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development’s Resourcing and talent planning report (September 2022) found that only 8% of employers used AI to interpret job requirements and scan databases or the open web for relevant candidates and that 5% of employers used AI to either screen candidates (shortlisting based on a job description) or select them (through analysis of interview responses to match hiring criteria or using chatbots for first-stage interviews).
Leave: Government backs Carer’s Leave Bill
On 21 October 2022, the government announced that it was backing the Carer’s Leave Bill, a Private Members’ Bill sponsored by Wendy Chamberlain MP. The Bill had its first reading in the House of Commons on 15 June 2022 and its second reading was passed with government support on 21 October 2022.
The Bill will introduce a new and flexible entitlement of one week’s unpaid leave per year for employees who are providing or arranging care. It will be available to eligible employees from the first day of their employment. They will be able to take the leave flexibly to suit their caring responsibilities and will not need to provide evidence of how the leave is used or who it will be used for which, it is hoped, should ensure a smooth process. Employees taking their carer’s leave entitlement will be subject to the same employment protections that are associated with other forms of family-related leave, meaning they will be protected from dismissal or any detriment as a result of having taken time off.
Between 16 March and 3 August 2020, the government consulted on its proposal to give employees who are also unpaid carers a week of unpaid leave each year to provide care. On 23 September 2021, the government response to the consultation confirmed that it would introduce a statutory right of up to one week of unpaid carer’s leave when Parliamentary time allowed.
Redundancy: Government backs Protection from Redundancy (Pregnancy and Family Leave) Bill
On 21 October 2022, the government announced that it was backing the Protection from Redundancy (Pregnancy and Family Leave) Bill, a Private Members’ Bill sponsored by Dan Jarvis MP. The Bill had its first reading in the House of Commons on 15 June 2022 and its second reading was passed with government support on 21 October 2022.
Currently, the Employment Rights Act 1996 (ERA 1996) allows the Secretary of State to make regulations concerning redundancy “during” periods of maternity leave, adoption leave or shared parental leave. For example, under regulation 10 of the Maternity and Parental Leave etc Regulations 1999 (SI 1999/3312), before making a woman on maternity leave redundant, an employer must offer her a suitable alternative vacancy where one is available with the employer or an associated employer.
The Bill will amend the ERA 1996 to enable the Secretary of State to make regulations providing protection against redundancy “during or after” an individual taking the relevant leave. It will also add a new provision to the ERA 1996 allowing for regulations about redundancy “during, or after” a “protected period of pregnancy”. While the detail will be provided by the regulations, the explanatory notes to the Bill suggest that, by extending protection after a protected period of pregnancy, a woman who has miscarried before informing her employer of her pregnancy will benefit from the redundancy protection.
On 25 January 2019, BEIS published a consultation on extending this protection to apply from the date an employee notifies the employer in writing of her pregnancy, to six months after her return from maternity leave. The consultation also asked whether this protection should be extended to similar types of leave such as adoption leave and shared parental leave. On 22 July 2019, the government published its response to the BEIS consultation suggesting that it would bring forward legislation when Parliamentary time permitted.
If you would like any additional information, please contact Anne-Marie Pavitt or Sophie Banks on: firstname.lastname@example.org
This month the news is full of diversity and equality – calls to support and engage on a wide range of matters such as neurodiversity, LGBTQ+ and race and ethnicity. There is also a focus on health – with updates on fit notes to calls for action on mental health and menopause.
- Diversity: Neurodiversity in Business forum launched to support neurodiverse employees
- Diversity & Equality: Government’s LGBT+ Business Champion issues call to engage
- Equality: Government publishes response to Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities report
- Health: Fit notes may be issued digitally without a wet-ink signature from 6 April 2022
- Mental Health: DHSC publishes discussion paper and call for evidence
- Menopause: Workplace pledge signed by over 600 employers
Diversity: Neurodiversity in Business forum launched to support neurodiverse employees
On 21 March 2022, Neurodiversity in Business (NiB) was launched at the Houses of Parliament to support neurodiverse employees in the workplace. Between 15% and 20% of the population are estimated to be neurodivergent. Dan Harris, Chief executive of NiB, states that although employers increasingly recognise the benefits of a neurodiverse workforce, neurodivergent employees need improved support. NiB and founding members, such as Accenture, AstraZeneca, Bank of England, Capita, Network Rail, Sky and Unilever, recognise that reasonable modifications can enable more neurodiversity in the workplace and also benefit sustainability. The new forum will work with organisations that support neurodiversity including Auticon, Ambitious about Autism, the ADHD Foundation, the British Dyslexia Association, Diversity and Ability and the National Autistic Society.
Diversity & Equality: Government’s LGBT+ Business Champion issues call to engage
On 18 March 2022, the government’s LGBT+ Business Champion, Iain Anderson, issued a call to engage to employers, staff networks, trade unions and civil society organisations with practical experience of creating LGBT+ inclusive workplaces, supporting LGBT+ inclusion and improving outcomes and experiences for LGBT+ people. He is looking for practical examples that work of what businesses are doing to improve LGBT+ outcomes and experiences in the workplace. The call to engage is not for personal experiences or views.
The questions ask for information on the following issues:
- The collection of LGBT+ diversity and inclusion data and how effective this has been.
- How organisations have been able to improve the outcomes and experiences of LGBT+ employees in the workplace and how effective this has been. Where possible, respondents are asked to disaggregate measures taken in support of lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans employees.
- In countries where LGBT+ people routinely experience discrimination, what organisations are doing to support the safety and advocacy of LGBT+ staff.
- How organisations can have a positive social and economic impact on LGBT+ equality, including in countries where LGBT+ people routinely experience discrimination. In particular, comments are welcomed on impacts outside the organisation, for example, having a positive influence through supply chains, distributors and customers.
The consultation closes on 28 April 2022.
Equality: Government publishes response to Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities report
On 17 March, the government has published its response to the report of the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities made a number of recommendations to address ethnic and racial disparities across society. The response confirms that mandatory ethnicity pay gap reporting will not be introduced. However, organisations who choose to publish their figures will be required to publish a “diagnosis and action plan“, setting out reasons why disparities exist and what will be done to address them. Guidance on voluntary ethnicity pay gap reporting, to be published in summer 2022, will be designed to help employers address some of the challenges around ethnicity pay gap reporting. It will include case studies drawn from organisations which have already chosen to report on their ethnicity pay, setting a benchmark for what a good action plan might cover.
The report also tackles the use of artificial intelligence in recruitment processes and automated decision-making. A white paper, to be published later in the year, will deal with how to address potential racial bias in algorithmic decision-making. To ensure technological advances do not have a disproportionate impact on ethnic minority groups, the EHRC will advise on the safeguards needed and issue guidance that explains how to apply the Equality Act 2010 to algorithmic decision-making.
The government has accepted the Commission’s recommendation that the acronym BAME (Black, Asian and minority ethnic) is unhelpful, and it has stopped using the term in its own communications. It is more productive to consider the disparities and outcomes of specific ethnic, rather than homogenous, groups. Where it is absolutely necessary to draw a binary distinction between the ethnic majority and ethnic minorities, the government will use the term “people from ethnic minority backgrounds“. The response also states that terms such as “white privilege” can be seen as stigmatising and potentially divisive, as they have the unintended consequence of pitting groups against each other.
The response includes a package of other measures designed to improve diversity and inclusion, including additional funding for the EHRC, an “Inclusion at Work Panel” which will disseminate diversity resources to employers, and updated guidance for employers on positive action, to be published by the end of the year.
Health: Fit notes may be issued digitally without a wet-ink signature from 6 April 2022
In its July 2021 response to the 2019 consultation document “Health is everyone’s business: proposals to reduce ill health-related job loss“, the government committed to removing the statutory obstacles to the digital issuing of fit notes. Currently, fit notes must be signed in ink by the issuing doctor, although given the significant shift to virtual GP consultations since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been increasing demand for fit notes to be provided digitally.
The Social Security (Medical Evidence) and Statutory Sick Pay (Medical Evidence) (Amendment) Regulations 2022 (SI 2022/298) were made on 14 March 2022 and come into force on 6 April 2022. They amend the Social Security (Medical Evidence) Regulations 1976 (SI 1976/615) and the Statutory Sick Pay (Medical Evidence) Regulations 1985 (SI 1985/1604). The new Regulations prescribe a new form of fit note, which will be used in parallel with the existing version of the form. The Regulations remove the requirement for the fit note to be signed in ink and the new form of fit note no longer contains a signature box.
Mental Health: DHSC publishes discussion paper and call for evidence
The Department for Health and Social Care has published a discussion paper and call for evidence on improving mental health and wellbeing, which includes the development of a ten-year plan to reduce the prevalence, incidence and recurrence of mental ill-health.
The discussion paper suggests compassionate employers are needed, who will protect and promote positive mental wellbeing by understanding and meeting physical and mental needs in the workplace. Two key challenges that were identified through the Thriving at Work are reiterated in the document:
- the need for a clear role for employers to prevent the onset of mental health conditions and mental ill-health, and
- wider implementation of workplace interventions to support mental health.
The role for employers to support mental wellbeing is further highlighted in the discussion around early intervention. Employers are identified as an important source of support for employees who may not need “clinical” early interventions. This section also highlights that in those instances, employers may need support and information to provide support for a distressed employee.
The consultation is open to all, and responses will be collected through an online survey until 11.45 pm on 5 July 2022.
Menopause: Workplace pledge signed by over 600 employers
More than 600 employers have signed the Menopause Workplace Pledge, which is part of a campaign by Wellbeing of Women. In signing the pledge, employers recognise that the menopause can be a workplace issue for which employees need support. Signatories commit to open, positive and respectful workplace dialogue about the menopause and to taking active steps to support employees affected by the menopause and informing them of the support offered. Active measures have already been undertaken by some signatories: the Royal Mail has run an internal campaign to normalise conversations about the menopause, Tesco plans to incorporate a breathable fabric into its uniform to help with hot flushes, and News UK has said it will cover the cost of NHS HRT prescriptions and provide desk fans.
Last week, a survey of 1,000 HR professionals, (conducted by YouGov on behalf of Irwin Mitchell) revealed almost three-quarters of employers (72%) do not have a menopause policy and that only 16% of employers train line-managers on the menopause. The CIPD has reminded employers that positive action, such as engaging with this pledge and having a policy that outlines available support, must be “underpinned by a culture where people are actively encouraged to have open and supportive conversations“. It has its own Guidance for employers on how to better manage those affected by menopause at work, which can be accessed here.
If you would like any additional information, please contact Anne-Marie Pavitt or Sophie Banks on: email@example.com
- COVID-19: SEISS was indirectly discriminatory against new mothers but was justified
- Equal Pay: Morrisons’ retail workers employed on common terms with distribution centre workers
- Disability Discrimination: Tribunal erred in focusing on adverse effects of claimant’s avoidance behaviours rather than impairments
- Disability Discrimination: Tribunal reasoning in disability case did not show critical evaluation of justification issue
- Wrongful Dismissal: Tribunal should have weighed claimant’s oral testimony against opposing hearsay evidence
- Flexible Working: Agreeing to appeal hearing outside the three month decision period does not mean the decision period is extended
- Equal Pay: Fawcett Society urges employers to stop asking about previous salary to reduce pay inequality
- Guidance: CIPD publishes new Effective Hybrid Working guidance
- Flexible Working: Study shows refusing to accommodate flexible working requests costs UK businesses almost £2 billion a year
- Workers: Government call for evidence on umbrella company market
- Support for Women: Employment Minister calls on employers to provide stronger career support to stop menopause affecting careers
- Parental Leave: Survey reveals prospect of better parental leave policies would lead six in ten employees to switch jobs
- Statutory Pay Rates: April 2022 proposed increases to statutory maternity, paternity, adoption and sick pay announced
COVID-19: SEISS was indirectly discriminatory against new mothers but was justified
Under the SEISS (Self-Employment Income Support Scheme), grants were awarded to self-employed individuals based on average trading profits (ATP) in the three full tax years preceding 2019/20. The scheme was amended in July 2020 to include those who had not qualified because of the effect of childcare, pregnancy or maternity on their trading profits or total income for the tax year 2018-2019.
In R (on the application of Motherhood Plan) v HM Treasury  EWCA Civ 1703 an application for judicial review of the scheme was brought by a self-employed mother and a maternity rights charity. They argued that, contrary to the ECHR, it was indirectly discriminatory to calculate grants based on ATP in previous tax years, since women on maternity leave during those years received smaller payments than they would otherwise have been entitled to. Alternatively, applying Thlimmenos v Greece  ECHR 162, grants for women on maternity leave in the calculation period should have been calculated differently to remove the disadvantage they suffered if treated the same as everyone else.
The Court of Appeal held that the High Court had been wrong to find that the use of ATP did not constitute prima facie indirect discrimination. The judge had found that the disadvantage to new mothers was not “caused by the scheme itself” but by their reduced earnings while on maternity leave. However, that mis-identified the alleged disadvantage, which was that recent mothers’ earnings in the measured period would be disproportionately unrepresentative of their hypothetical earnings had there been no pandemic, resulting in lower payments under the scheme for recent mothers as a group. That disadvantage was caused by the use of ATP as the relevant measure.
However, the High Court had reached the correct conclusion on justification. The indirect discrimination was justified because the SEISS was devised in the extreme and unique circumstances of the pandemic, where time was of the essence. Obtaining additional information from recent mothers would have significantly delayed the implementation of the scheme and the information would have been difficult to verify. In addition, the choice of ATP to assess profits had legitimate aims, namely: effectiveness; speed of delivery; ease of verification to reduce the risk of fraud; and the need to avoid perverse effects and costs. The requirements of speed and simplicity meant that the government was justified in introducing the scheme in a form which did not contain special provision for new mothers.
Equal Pay: Morrisons’ retail workers employed on common terms with distribution centre workers
In Abdar and others v Wm Morrison Supermarkets plc and another (2021) ET/1811283/18 an employment tribunal has held that retail workers in Morrisons and Safeway supermarkets could compare themselves for equal pay purposes with logistics workers in their employer’s regional distribution centres. At a preliminary hearing, the tribunal held that the majority of the claimants were employed on common terms with the logistics workers for the purposes of section 79(4) of the Equality Act 2010 (EqA 2010). Further, the terms on which they were employed had a single source for the purposes of their directly effective rights under Article 157 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU).
Subject to any appeal, the next stage will be for the tribunal to determine whether the retail workers’ roles are of equal value to those of the logistics workers. The tribunal noted that there is a dispute between the parties as to whether the ECJ’s decision in K and others v Tesco Stores Ltd  IRLR 699 is binding in this case, by virtue of Articles 86 and 89 of the Withdrawal Agreement and sections 6, 7A and 7C of the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018 (Withdrawal Act). In Tesco, the ECJ held that Article 157 of the TFEU extends to equal value claims. However, although the referral was made pre-Brexit, the decision was handed down after the UK left the EU. It is not disputed that if Tesco is not binding, the tribunal may have regard to it to the extent that it considers it relevant. It was accepted that the tribunal was bound by section 6 of the Withdrawal Act and the EAT’s judgment in Asda Stores Ltd v Brierley and others  ICR 384 that Article 157 of the TFEU has direct effect in equal value cases. The supermarkets did not therefore advance any arguments as to the binding effect of Tesco in the tribunal proceedings, but may do so on any appeal.
Disability Discrimination: Tribunal erred in focusing on adverse effects of claimant’s avoidance behaviours rather than impairments
In Primaz v Carl Room Restaurants Ltd t/a McDonald’s Restaurants Ltd and others  UKEAT 2020-000110, the EAT has held that a tribunal erred in focusing on the behaviour adopted by a claimant in an attempt to manage her conditions when considering whether those conditions had an adverse effect on her day-to-day activities. The claimant suffered from epilepsy and vitiligo and avoided coffee, alcohol, cosmetics, cleaning products, sunlight and all medications (including those prescribed by her physicians to manage her conditions), believing that they would adversely trigger her conditions. However, there was no medical evidence to support the claimant’s beliefs, and she was acting contrary to medical advice in refusing to take medication.
The EAT held that the question of whether a claimant’s impairments had an adverse effect on their ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities was an objective one and could not be determined by a claimant’s subjective beliefs about how to manage their conditions. In this case, the claimant only relied on physical, not mental, impairments. The tribunal had to disregard the claimant’s coping mechanisms, even though her belief that they were necessary was strongly held. It should have considered the impact the actual conditions had on the claimant’s day-to-day activities, leaving aside the impact of her avoidance behaviours. The EAT remitted the question of disability to a fresh tribunal, noting that this was a novel point of law on which it believed there was no previous case law.
Disability Discrimination: Tribunal reasoning in disability case did not show critical evaluation of justification issue
In Gray v University of Portsmouth  UKEAT 2019-000891, the EAT has allowed an appeal where a tribunal failed to provide sufficient reasoning in its judgment to demonstrate that it caried out a critical ev aluation on the question of objective justification in respect of a claim for discrimination arising from disability under section 15 of the Equality Act 2010.
Mr Gray was employed by a University in its Information Service department from 2009. He was dismissed in 2017 following a two-year sickness absence related to his disability. He complained to an employment tribunal that he had suffered discrimination arising from his disability, alleging that the University had treated him unfavourably by initiating a formal meeting under their absence process, stopping his sick pay, dismissing him and rejecting his appeal against dismissal.
The tribunal rejected the claim. It determined that the University had a legitimate aim in ensuring the efficient running of the Information Service department as part of its provision to students. The Tribunal considered each of Mr Gray’s complaints and held that the actions taken were a proportionate means of achieving the legitimate aim.
Mr Gray appealed to the EAT, arguing that the tribunal had erred in its approach to objective justification under section 15 and had not adequately explained its conclusions. The EAT noted that the critical evaluation required for the purpose of section 15 means the tribunal must carry out its own assessment of objective justification. Further, the tribunal is required to make clear how it had undertaken its assessment by demonstrating that critical evaluation in its reasoning.
The EAT took issue with the tribunal’s findings on Mr Gray’s dismissal and the decision to uphold that dismissal on appeal. In its judgment, the tribunal had stated that it was “obvious” that continuing to hold Mr Gray’s job open was significantly disruptive for the University but, critically, failed to explain why it reached that finding. The judgment had not included findings about how Mr Gray’s job was being covered, whether his absence was actually causing any disruption or whether the University incurred additional cost. The EAT allowed the appeal and remitted the matter to the original tribunal.
Wrongful Dismissal: Tribunal should have weighed claimant’s oral testimony against opposing hearsay evidence
In Hovis Ltd v Louton  UKEAT 2020-000973, the claimant, a lorry driver for Hovis, was summarily dismissed for smoking while driving his company vehicle, which was a serious breach of the company’s smoking policy and a criminal offence. He denied smoking, and the investigator found no physical evidence of smoking in the vehicle. However, the evidence at his disciplinary hearing, which was accepted by the employer, included written statements by two eyewitnesses (a Hovis manager and his wife, who alleged that they saw the claimant smoking when they overtook him on the motorway). It also included dashcam footage confirming that it was indeed his vehicle.
A tribunal found the dismissal fair but wrongful. On the wrongful dismissal point, the tribunal noted that it had to undertake its own assessment of whether the claimant had been smoking. Neither of the eyewitnesses gave oral testimony, although their written statements from the internal investigation were put in evidence. The tribunal held that, without being able to assess their testimony, it could not conclude that the claimant was guilty on the balance of probabilities.
The EAT rejected Hovis’s first ground of appeal, that the tribunal had impermissibly fallen back on the burden of proof rather than making a positive finding. This was not a case where the evidence both ways had been equally compelling, leaving the tribunal unable to make a decision. Rather, the tribunal had held that there was insufficient evidence to support a finding that the claimant had been smoking.
However, the EAT upheld the second ground of appeal, namely, that the tribunal had wrongly attached no weight to the hearsay and documentary evidence. The employment judge had said that, without the eyewitnesses in attendance, she was “unable” to evaluate their credibility against that of the claimant, and therefore “cannot find” that the claimant had been smoking. In the EAT’s view the judge was wrong to say that she was “unable” to assess the credibility of the statements or that it was not open to her to find against the claimant. The statements were admissible as hearsay, and there was no rule that oral testimony must necessarily trump opposing hearsay or documentary evidence if the judge finds it more reliable or compelling.
For those reasons the EAT overturned the finding of wrongful dismissal and remitted it to a fresh tribunal.
Flexible Working: Agreeing to appeal hearing outside the three month decision period does not mean the decision period is extended
In Walsh v Network Rail Infrastructure Limited  UKEAT 2020-000724, the claimant submitted a flexible working request in February 2019, which the employer rejected in March and the claimant appealed. Following much correspondence causing a delay in arranging the date of the appeal hearing, it was eventually agreed between the parties in late June 2019 to hold the hearing on 1 July. However, this meant the appeal hearing was outside the three-month ‘decision period’ for resolving the request.
Before the appeal hearing, on 25 June, the claimant submitted a tribunal claim alleging breaches of the flexible working legislation, including that the process had not been concluded within the decision period. The tribunal held that by agreeing to attend the appeal hearing he had, by implication, agreed to extend the decision period itself meaning his claim was made prematurely and therefore the tribunal did not (yet) have jurisdiction to hear the claim.
The EAT disagreed, holding that in order to extend the decision period it must be clear that there is an agreement to extend the decision period. Agreeing to attend an appeal hearing does not necessarily mean that the employee also agrees to extend the decision period.
Equal Pay: Fawcett Society urges employers to stop asking about previous salary to reduce pay inequality
The BBC reported on 18 November 2021 that The Fawcett Society is urging employers to stop asking jobseekers about their previous salaries. The Fawcett Society is the UK’s leading membership charity campaigning for gender equality and women’s rights at work, at home and in public life and this is part of their “Equal Pay Day 2021 Briefing” campaign.
The question about past salaries is faced by almost half of working adults (47%) and affects 61% of women’s confidence to negotiate better pay. The Fawcett Society is calling on employers to stop this practice which contributes to pay inequality by replicating gaps from other organisations. Only a quarter of people surveyed believe their salary should be based on their previous rate of pay, but more than half (58% of women and 54% of men) think they have been offered a reduced salary because of this question.
Guidance: CIPD publishes new Effective Hybrid Working guidance
The CIPD (Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development) has published new guidance on 3 December 2021 around Effective Hybrid Working. The guidance was produced in partnership with the government’s Flexible Working Taskforce. The guidance focuses on the key areas of:
- People management
- Recruitment and induction
- Inclusion and fairness
- Health, safety and wellbeing.
They explain that hybrid working is a form of flexible working where workers spend some of their time working remotely (usually, but not necessarily, at home) and some of their time at their employer’s workplace. The Taskforce, which was relaunched earlier this year, is a partnership across unions, businesses, and government departments, and aims to improve public policy around flexible working. Members include the CBI, the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) and Working Families.
The guidance was published on International Day of Persons with Disabilities, and is intended to encourage employers to train managers on how to ensure best practice in hybrid working. Inclusivity in the key to making hybrid working effective, allowing all employees access to flexible arrangements who are then treated equally regardless of how they work. It is also important to take into account people’s individual working preferences and personal circumstances. There could be unintended consequences for non-office based employees as they may miss out on things which happen in the office (such as training or learning opportunities), likewise promotions or other business opportunities may not be so obvious for those who choose to work from home more, leading to inequality. As such, hybrid working policies should be kept under regular review, with input from employees being key to maintaining working relationships.
The guidance also covers performance management, remote communication and effective collaboration, as well as ways to improve recruitment processes in order to accommodate flexible working practices.
Flexible Working: Study shows refusing to accommodate flexible working requests costs UK businesses almost £2 billion a year
Personnel Today reports that, according to a study conducted by Flexonomics, refusing to accommodate flexible working requests is costing UK businesses £2 billion a year. The cost is attributed to the link between flexible working and employee morale, boosted productivity and lower employee absence. The study found that flexible working is currently contributing £37 billion to the UK economy and a 50% increase in flexible working could result in a net contribution of £55 billion to the UK economy and create 51,200 new jobs.
The report also looks at removing the myths around flexible working only being suitable for a few sectors and highlights how the construction and other “hard-to-flex” sectors could embrace flexibility through methods such as self-rostering.
Ahead of the government’s response to the consultation into flexible working, the report calls for more to be done to ensure businesses are being clear about flexible working opportunities in its job adverts and to be more proactive about communicating the benefits of flexible working to businesses.
Workers: Government call for evidence on umbrella company market
On 30 November 2021, HM Treasury, HMRC and BEIS published a call for evidence on the umbrella company market. It follows concerns about the tax and employment rights risks posed by umbrella companies. An umbrella company is a company that employs a temporary worker (an agency worker or contractor) on behalf of an employment agency. The agency will then provide the services of the worker to their clients.
Umbrella companies currently fall outside the regulation of the recruitment sector (Employment Agencies Act 1973, Conduct of Employment Agencies and Employment Businesses Regulations 2003 (SI 2003/3319) and Agency Workers Regulations 2010 (SI 2010/93)). In April 2020, the government sought to address transparency on employer identity and pay for assignments of agency workers supplied through umbrella companies by introducing the Key Information Document (KID). The government proposes a multi-stage process of further action. Primary legislation will bring umbrella companies into the regulatory framework. Regulations will then set out minimum requirements and address common issues, including:
- Non-payment of wages and payroll skimming (where umbrella companies “skim” money from payslips or inflate deductions to retain money that should be received by a worker).
- Non-payment of holiday pay (by failing to inform workers of their entitlement or failing to pay the correct amount).
The Employment Agency Standards Inspectorate will continue to ensure compliance with the KID and enforce the regulations. Workers are invited to share their experiences of working through umbrella companies and the KID, to identify means of better protecting workers based on the most up-to-date market practices. Specifically, views are invited on the reasons for the increased use of “joint-employment” contracts in which an umbrella company and employment business both employ the worker (making it more difficult for workers to understand the nature of their relationship with either entity).
HMRC gives examples of tax (direct and indirect) non-compliance and evasion by umbrella companies and the steps that it has taken to combat such activities. However, HMRC seeks more evidence about the specific tax risks posed by umbrellas and how these risks might be mitigated. Evidence is sought from, among others, umbrellas and entities contracting with them, on their experiences, the steps they take to ensure tax compliance in their labour supply chains and the further steps HMRC and the government should take to prevent and tackle non-compliance.
Responses are requested, where possible by email (firstname.lastname@example.org) by 11.45 pm on 22 February 2022.
Support for Women: Employment Minister calls on employers to provide stronger career support to stop menopause affecting careers
In a press release issued on 25 November 2021, the Minister for Employment called on employers to strengthen their support of the careers of women who suffer from serious menopause symptoms. The press release was issued alongside the publication of findings from the independent report commissioned by the government in July 2021, which found that almost one in four women are forced to leave work as a result of menopause symptoms and those who experience serious symptoms take an average of 32 weeks of leave. Without the support of employers, this could limit progression and lead to long-term unemployment. The Minister for Employment has urged employers to use a national network of advisors, “50 Plus Champions”, to support and retain their workers over the age of 50, including women experiencing the menopause.
The government will be responding to the recommendations of the report in the coming months. The recommendations of the Women and Equalities Committee’s inquiry into menopause in the workplace are also awaited.
As we have previously reported, ACAS now has guidance for employers on how to help women at work dealing with the menopause, which you can view here: Menopause at Work.
Parental Leave: Survey reveals prospect of better parental leave policies would lead six in ten employees to switch jobs
According to a survey conducted by Virgin Money, six in ten parents or expectant parents would change jobs if offered better parental leave benefits, reports Personnel Today. Virgin Money The survey revealed that employees were also worried that they would miss out on promotions or career opportunities while on maternity leave (58%) or lose their job (52%). Most of those who responded believed that parental leave policies are an important factor when considering roles at a new organisation (92%) and one in seven (14%) had already left roles due to poor parental leave entitlements, whilst almost a third (29%) of working parents feel maternity and paternity leave in the UK is generally outdated. Virgin Money goes on to report on other benefits workers and parents expect their company to offer include 30 days annual leave (55%), wellbeing days (39%), private medical insurance (31%) and the opportunity to work remotely abroad each year (28%).
The survey coincides with the launch of Virgin Money’s new parental leave policy, which offers equal family leave to all employees from the first day of employment. David Duffy, CEO of Virgin Money, said: “The pandemic has permanently changed our approach to working life. It’s clear to us that by taking a purpose-driven approach to how we work, we can help colleagues achieve a work-life balance that brings out their best.”
Statutory Pay Rates: April 2022 proposed increases to statutory maternity, paternity, adoption and sick pay announced
The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has published its proposed increases to a number of statutory benefit payments. The following rates are expected to apply from April 2022:
- The weekly rate of statutory sick pay (SSP) will be £99.35 (up from £96.35).
- The weekly rate of statutory maternity pay (SMP) and maternity allowance will be £156.66 (up from £151.97).
- The weekly rate of statutory paternity pay (SPP) will be £156.66 (up from £151.97).
- The weekly rate of statutory shared parental pay (ShPP) will be £156.66 (up from £151.97).
- The weekly rate of statutory adoption pay (SAP) will be £156.66 (up from £151.97).
The rates will be confirmed once an Order is made and are due to come into effect on 11 April 2022. The national minimum wage rates that will apply from April 2022 were announced in the Autumn Budget.