Employment Law General Update – November 2022
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.
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