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Employment News – March 2022

Employment Law

This month the news raises some really interesting issues: the CIPD is providing advice on supporting employees with links to Ukraine, the EHRC has advised how to deal with employees suffering with long-covid and the Minister for Women has launched two schemes to promote women. Some eye opening reports have also been published this month: workforce reporting for FTSE 100 firms is inadequate and IPSOS finds two thirds of UK adults want a “right to disconnect” from work.

  • Support for employees: CIPD urges compassionate treatment of employees with links to Ukraine
  • Covid-19: EHRC suggests employers should treat long COVID as a disability
  • Reporting: Inadequate quality of workforce reporting among FTSE 100 firms
  • Women: Government launches pay transparency and STEM returners pilot schemes
  • Work-Life Balance: New research shows two third of adults in UK favour a “right to disconnect” law

Support for employees: CIPD urges compassionate treatment of employees with links to Ukraine

On 4 March 2022, Personnel Today reported the CIPD has asked employers to treat all employees affected by the conflict in Ukraine with compassion, especially those who are Ukrainian or have links to the country. Indeed, many Russians living in this country will also find themselves in an unnerving time, with many having close family and friend links with Ukraine, or receiving unwanted attention simply as a result of where they were born, so should also be handled sensitively. More flexible work hours to help manage stress and anxiety, wellbeing checks, and bereavement leave are the types of support employees may require. This is most likely to be necessary for employees with relatives or close contacts in the country. The CIPD also suggests that managers should check in on colleagues who may be affected and could signpost them to wellbeing and mental health support. More resources from CIPD, including a video exploring how people professionals can best support their people through the crisis, can be found here.  

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Covid-19: EHRC suggests employers should treat long COVID as a disability

According to Personnel Today, (1 March 2022), the head of employment policy at the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) has suggested that organisations should treat their employees who have long COVID-19 symptoms as if they have a disability for the purposes of the Equality Act 2010. The advice is to avoid employers falling foul of equality law, in the absence of clear legislative protections for people with long COVID. Lingering symptoms, which can include cognitive difficulties and fatigue, may affect employees’ performance at work. However, because symptoms vary and can fluctuate, it is not yet certain whether all cases of long COVID will meet the legal definition of disability. The TUC and other bodies have asked the government to classify the condition as a disability. The EHRC indicates that the short amount of time that long COVID has been a condition, and the fluctuating nature of symptoms, may be a barrier to the government doing so.

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Reporting: Inadequate quality of workforce reporting among FTSE 100 firms

The CIPD’s most recent analysis of annual reports shows “inadequate” quality of workforce reporting by FTSE 100 firms: CIPD: Report, How do companies report on their “most important asset”? Only one-third of firms have reported recruitment data and just nine companies reported their ethnicity pay gap. Reporting on the cost of hiring contingent workers was identified as a key gap by the study as only 6% of FTSE 100 firms reported such data. The age of employees, the proportion who identify as LGBT+ and the number of disabled employees was reported by 10%, 5% and 4% of firms respectively. Almost all companies reported investment in skills or training, but a lack of concrete data was identified as fewer firms disclosed the hours (35%) and costs (16%) of training. To address low quality of reporting, the CIPD recommends that the Financial Reporting Council should establish a framework for workforce reporting in collaboration with stakeholders. The framework should set out a baseline of minimum standards.

Despite the inadequacy of reporting in some areas, the results of a snapshot survey of governance professionals have shown that nearly 50% of UK companies and not-for-profits have reported plans to reach gender parity at board level in the next three years. This survey was conducted by the Chartered Governance Institute for UK & Ireland in association with The Core Partnership.

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Women: Government launches pay transparency and STEM returners pilot schemes

On 8 March 2022, the government announced that the Minister for Women, Baroness Stedman-Scott, has launched two new pilot schemes to mark International Women’s Day. The first seeks to improve pay transparency by requiring participating employers to include information about salary details in their job adverts and refrain from asking candidates to disclose salary history during the recruitment process. Further details about how the pilot scheme will work and how many employers will be involved are awaited.

The second pilot scheme aims to help women return to careers in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM). Organisations participating in the scheme will be helped to recruit and retrain candidates who may be overlooked because of a CV gap. Again, further details are awaited.

The launch comes at a time when new research published by the Chartered Management Institute (CMI) has shown a gap between “the rhetoric” employers promote about supporting gender equality and “the reality”. The CMI research found that less than two thirds of employers (61%) try to ensure that women and men receive an equal voice in meetings and decision-making, and only 41% of management positions are held by women.

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Work-Life Balance: New research shows two third of adults in UK favour a “right to disconnect” law

On 11 March 2022, IPSOS published the results of new research which shows that  a majority of UK adults aged 16-75 are in favour of introducing a law giving employees the right to ignore work-related communications, such as emails, texts and instant messages, outside of their official working/on-call hours. Sixty per cent would support the Government introducing such a law, including 34% who would strongly support it. Only around 1 in 10 (11%) would be against it. 

There is little difference in the views of workers and non-workers, nor between Conservative and Labour 2019 voters, although graduates are more in favour than non-graduates, and 16-24 year olds are also less strongly in support.

Currently, two-thirds of UK workers say they participate in work-related communications outside of their working hours (67%). Four in 10 (43%) check work-related communications while a similar proportion (40%) reply to them. A third (34%) proactively send work-related communications. Only 3 in 10 (30%) do not communicate with work outside of their official working hours. Website, People

Management, questioned Ben Willmott, head of public policy at the CIPD, who warned that a legal right to disconnect would have a limited impact, and alone would not address why people feel they cannot switch off.

He cited issues such as heavy workloads, a lack of support and unreasonable management expectations as causes for the inability to disconnect. “Simply giving [staff] the legal right to choose not to respond to calls, emails or other digital communication outside of working hours won’t resolve these issues or necessarily improve wellbeing,” he said.

Employers should make it clear that employees don’t have to respond to digital communications outside working hours unless it suits them,” Willmott added, highlighting that managers needed to provide staff with achievable objectives and maximise flexible working opportunities to help staff balance competing work and home pressures.

Those earning upwards of £55,000 a year are more likely to be checking, replying to and sending work-related communications outside of working hours, 82% say they do this compared with 65% of workers earning up to £54,999. 

More than half of UK adults say it is not acceptable for employers to expect their employees to participate in work-related communications outside of official working/on-call hours. Fifty-five per cent say it is unacceptable for employers to expect their employees to check for work-related communications, while 58% say the same for responding to them and 57% for sending them. Younger people tend to be most likely to believe such expectations are acceptable – for example, 56% of 16-34 year olds believe it is acceptable for employers to expect their employees to check work-related communications out of hours, compared with 34% of 35-75 year olds.

Opinion is split as to whether priority should be given to the right to disconnect or flexible working. A third (32%) say it is more important to give employees the right to disconnect than it is to give them more flexibility around the time that they work. However, a quarter (24%) believe it’s more important to give employees a degree of choice over the times they work. But more, almost 4 in 10 (37%), say both are equally important. 

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Further Information:

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The data contained within this document is for general information only. No responsibility can be accepted for inaccuracies. Readers are also advised that the law and practice may change from time to time. This document is provided for information purposes only and does not constitute accounting, legal or tax advice. Professional advice should be obtained before taking or refraining from any action as a result of the contents of this document.

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