In the first part of our review of 2022, we look at the period from January to April as the country emerged from Covid restrictions.
The first four months of the year saw the transition from Covid restrictions, rising concerns about labour shortages and the Chancellor’s Spring Statement.
The cost of childcare was a big topic as was the evolution of post-Covid ways of working while there was conflicting news about the impact of Covid on women’s career progression.
In a month in which WM People announced the winners of its 2022 Top Employer Awards, with overall top employer being McDonald’s Restaurants Ltd, most of the attention was focused on flexible working and Covid.
Flexible working and alternative ways of working generally were big topics of discussion. The month kicked off with the announcement that a global four-day week campaign was actively recruiting companies in the United Kingdom to join its pilot programme. The 4 Day Week Global six-month pilot, run in partnership with leading UK think tank Autonomy, Cambridge University, Oxford University, Boston College and the 4 Day Week UK campaign, included business support, advice and mentoring to help companies roll out the scheme across their workplaces.
Meanwhile, Morgan McKinley’s 2022 Salary Guide found that 84 per cent of UK professionals were considering a career move in the next six to 12 months, with 71% saying they would consider leaving an employer if they didn’t provide their preferred flexible working option.
In employer news, Deloitte announced that its 22,000 UK people could choose when they take public holidays, while all new and recent joiners would get up to £500 for office equipment to properly support them whilst working from home.
Zurich said an initiative to advertise all new vacancies as a potential part-time, job share or full-time opportunity alongside flexible working and the use of more gender neutral language in every job ad had seen demand for part-time jobs almost double (6% to 11%). Pre-Covid, 12% of external female hires were on a part-time basis. In the 12 months following the first national lockdown that figure soared to 22% as many struggled to balance caring and home-schooling responsibilities with work. This has increased in the last year, with nearly one in four new female hires (23%) appointed on a part-time basis.
Meanwhile, law firm GQ|Littler reported that the number of employment tribunal decisions relating to flexible working had increased 52% to reach a record high in the past year, while more than half of employers said they believed their IT systems had been left more exposed to attack following the huge increase in people working from home during the pandemic, according to a new survey by the British Chambers of Commerce and IT company Cisco.
In equality news, Fawcett Society’s Sex and Power 2022 report found that the pace of change on gender representation at work is glacial in the majority of sectors and shows that women are outnumbered by men 2:1 in positions of power. And MP Stella Creasy launched a Twitter campaign for mums to share the struggles they continue to face at work.
Meanwhile, the High Pay Centre reported that the average CEO’s pay fell 17% in the 2020 financial year as many bosses took a temporary cut at the start of the pandemic and first national lockdown and many of their bonuses were cancelled. Nevertheless, it said CEOs still earn about 86 times the average UK salary which has led to repeated calls for firms to be forced to appoint a frontline worker to their executive pay committee.
When it comes to Covid, the Government announced that working from home restrictions were being dropped and a Robert Walters survey warned that workers were worried about lack of contact with their line managers during the pandemic. It wasn’t all bad news, though. The Institute for Fiscal Studies reported that, while Covid has widened inequalities in some areas, such as mental health and education, and job losses have hit lower income workers more, furlough and benefits increases have lessened income inequality.
Nevertheless, a report from the Health and Social Care Committee warned that the impact of the pandemic on the staffing crisis in the NHS needs to be addressed to aid the post-pandemic recovery.
In other news, a policy change, people on Universal Credit were told they would have just four weeks to find their preferred job rather than three months. According to the Government’s new ‘Way to Work’ campaign, people who are capable of work were told they would be expected to search more widely for available jobs from the fourth week of their claim, rather than from three months. This would be part of their requirements for receiving their benefit payment, with benefits sanctions imposed for those not engaging.
Meanwhile, a Vodafone survey found younger workers are more likely than average to think good parental leave policies are a useful indication that an organisation is a good employer, even if they are not planning to have children.
February was all about Covid restrictions, labour market shortages and recruitment and retention problems. Towards the end of the month the Prime Minister announced the lifting of all Covid restrictions.
When it came to Covid, UNISON called on ministers to give clear, detailed guidance to prevent a “super spreader free-for-all” in workplaces when Covid isolation requirements end in England in late February and the TUC said the number of workers on Universal Credit had increased by 1.3 million since the eve of the Covid-19 pandemic, with the rise driven by working households being pushed into financial hardship during Covid.
In recruitment and retention news, the Bright Horizons’ 2022 Modern Families Index Spotlight said almost four in 10 working parents (38%) plan to look for a new job in the next 12 months while the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development reported that employers anticipated making pay awards of 3% in 2022 as they looked to combat increasing recruitment and retention difficulties, although that was below rising inflation levels. Meanwhile, Business in the Community said employers needed to address outdated recruitment practices to tap into more diverse pools of talent, including those who are disabled, have prior criminal convictions and younger and older workers. Its analysis showed that there were 3.1 million people in the UK who could fill the UK’s record 1.2 million live vacancies if employers took action to recruit more inclusively.
Wellbeing continued to be a big focus. An Acas study found over a third of British employers had not spoken to their staff about their mental health and wellbeing over the past year. Cityparents’ Annual Member Survey said over a third of parents working in the City rarely find time to relax, despite technology helping to allow flexibility, according to a new survey, but a majority thought remote working would have long-term career consequences.
Financial wellbeing was also a growing issue. A study from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation found around nine million households on means-tested benefits due to low incomes, both in and out of work, would experience an average real-terms cut of £500 per year because Universal Credit is not rising in line with inflation, with families down on average £720 per year in real terms.
In employer news, digital bank Monzo announced that it would offer three-month paid sabbaticals to employees who have worked for the company for four years or more in the latest move by a British company to rethink how staff should balance their working lives after the pandemic.
In diversity news, analysis by Deloitte and campaign group the 30% Club found just 30.1% of board seats in the UK are held by women, compared with 43.2% in France, 42.4% in Norway and 36.3% in Italy. And analysis by law firm Fox & Partners found female board directors at FTSE 350 financial services firms are still paid 66% less than men, unchanged on the previous year.
The FTSE Women Leaders Review, which replaced the Hampton-Alexander review, said FTSE 350 companies would be expected to increase women’s representation to at least 40% of both boards and leadership teams by the end of 2025. The 40% target also applies to the largest 50 private companies in the UK by sales.
In childcare news, a study by the University of Leeds said childcare inequalities and disadvantage have been exacerbated through the pandemic, with those families and children from more disadvantaged backgrounds who are most likely to benefit from early years education being least likely to be able to access or use it.
In flexible working news, the Chartered Institute of Management [CMI] reported that working from home for part of the week had become the norm for some employees. Its poll showed 84 per cent of managers said their firms had adopted hybrid working, most of them since the onset of the pandemic. The CMI said hybrid working should be adopted as best practice.
March saw the Chancellor’s Spring Statement, more concerns about the move out of Covid restrictions and some major childcare reports.
Childcare costs are increasing while availability is falling sharply affecting parents ability to work, particularly full time, according to a major Coram Family and Childcare report which called for an increase in the maximum amount of childcare costs paid under Universal Credit along with support for upfront costs and extending eligibility of the 30 hours provision.
Meanwhile, an Early Years Alliance report found more than a third [35%] of early years providers in England who were planning to increase childcare fees this year say they would not do so if government funding was enough to adequately cover their costs. In a parallel parent survey carried out by Pregnant Then Screwed and Mumset of around 27,000 parents, 62% of parents say that the cost of childcare is now the same or more than their rent/mortgage while 25% say that they have had to cut down on necessary expenses such as food, heating or clothing to afford childcare. A TUC poll found around one in three (32%) working parents with pre-school children spend more than a third of their wages on childcare.
And a survey by the Early Years Alliance found less than half of childcare providers receive additional funding for children with special needs [SEND], despite increased demand and 87% who don’t receive additional funding say that the funding they do receive isn’t enough to provide the quality of care for children with SEND that they want.
In other childcare news, a study by Ipsos and Business in the Community found nearly six out of 10 women (58%) say caring responsibilities have stopped them applying for promotion or a new job and one in five (19%) have left a job because it was too hard to balance work and care. And a Vodafone survey found nearly half of mothers feel their work performance was negatively impacted due to increased childcare pressures during the pandemic yet three in four are confident that they’ll be able to maintain a work-life balance in future and the majority have a sense of positivity and ambition in themselves and their future careers.
In flexible working news, a study led by the University of Southampton found there has been a permanent mindset shift about how work is organised among the UK’s formerly office-based workforce. Meanwhile, research by HR software provider CIPHR suggests flexible working can help boost recruitment drives, but it may not necessarily make a big difference when it comes to retention.
In other flexible working news, 60 per cent of adults in the UK are in favour of a right to disconnect law which would give employees the right to ignore work-related communications, such as emails, texts and instant messages, outside of their official working/on-call hours, according to research by Ipsos.
And over half of shift workers get less than a week’s notice of their work schedule, with 14% of this group – 8% of all working adults – being given less than 24 hours’ notice, according to a survey by the Living Wage Foundation.
When it comes to parents’ rights, Parliament’s Petitions Committee said that the Government continues to ‘turn a blind eye’ to the needs of new parents after Covid, including stronger employment protections for new mothers and the extension of parental leave and pay entitlements to all new parents and guardians.
Government evaluations of its returner programmes in ICT, social services and planning have found the programmes have had varying degrees of success, with a need to introduce introductory pathways back to work being identified in some areas.
In equality news, fewer than half (41%) of management roles in the UK workplace are held by women, according to analysis of the Labour Force Survey by the Chartered Management Institute, [CMI] with that figure falling to 38% for women in senior business-leading positions.
A survey by HR and payroll software provider CIPHR warned that the gender pay gap could increase given women are less likely than men to have been awarded a salary increase that is in line with or above the rate of inflation for 2022.
Black, minority and ethnic (BME) women are twice as likely to be on zero-hours contracts as white men, according to analysis from the TUC which says the figures are indicative of structural racism in the labour market and deepening gender inequalities.
A meeting of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Women and Work heard calls in early March for gender pay gap reporting and ethnicity pay gap reporting to be on an equal footing. A report for Business in the Community said it could take until 2075 for companies currently capturing their ethnicity pay gap data to publish what their pay gap is. Its analysis, taken from the 2021 Race at Work survey, also found that unless the Government makes ethnicity pay gap reporting mandatory, it will take 23 years for businesses to know what their own ethnicity pay gap is.
In late March, the Government ruled out bringing in mandatory reporting on the ethnicity pay gap, but published its Inclusive Britain strategy which, it says, sets out 70 actions to tackle racial disparities, boost opportunity and promote fairness.
In other equality news, a report by the House of Commons’ Women & Equalities Committee found women represent just over a third [34%] of MPs in the UK Parliament, a figure that lags behind other comparable European countries and devolved parts of the UK.
And a Women in Finance Charter paper found it could take the financial services 30 years to achieve gender parity at senior levels and that the proportion of women in senior management increased by only 1% between 2018 and 2020 – up from 31% to 32%. Meanwhile, just nine CEOs running FTSE 100 companies are women, according to new analysis by talent solutions consultancy Robert Half.
The Government launched a pilot scheme where employers list salary details in job adverts and stop asking about salary history in the recruitment process.
Concerns persisted about the plans for emerging from Covid. The TUC wrote to Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng warning that workers’ safety was being put at risk by confusion created by guidance announced by the Prime Minister on Covid-19 and workplace risk assessments. The Prime Minister’s ‘Living with Covid’ plan, presented to parliament on 21st February, stated that from 1st April, employers would no longer have to explicitly consider Covid-19 in their risk assessments.
Research by Gingerbread found the current system of back to work support, the high cost of childcare and a lack of flexible new jobs was preventing many single parents from moving into sustainable work after the pandemic, with evidence that they are experiencing longer term unemployment as a result.
In other issues, the TUC called for tough action against P&O over its summary dismissal of 800 of its staff with the possibility of increased legal penalties. It said that “if one employer gets away with this, every worker is at risk.”
Meanwhile, the Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced plans to increase the threshold for National Insurance Contributions [NICs] to make it equal with the income tax threshold, meaning people can earn up to £12,570 before they start paying tax or NICs. However, the Resolution Foundation said its analysis of the Chancellor’s Spring Statement found absolute poverty could rise by 1.3 million people next year, with only one-in-eight workers seeing their tax bills fall by the end of the parliament.
In other financial news, nearly one in five employees (19%) said their employer was not doing enough to support their financial wellbeing, with one in 10 saying their job didn’t protect them from falling into poverty, according to research from the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development.
Labour shortages continued to be a problem. A KPMG and REC, UK Report on Jobs survey showed vacancies and labour shortages continue to rise and staff supply kept falling in March.
In flexible working news, sixty employers began preparations to start the largest UK pilot of a four-day working week while a Harvard Business School study found just one or two days in the office is the ideal set-up for hybrid work. Research from the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development
found more employers think a rise in homeworking has increased their organisation’s productivity or efficiency since 2021.
Meanwhile, the third Fair Flexible Futures report by Timewise on flexible working pilots in frontline sectors showed that modest investment in flexible working can be financially worthwhile in a short period and could have a significant impact on staff retention.
In other flexible working news, a third of Black, Asian, Mixed Race and other ethnically diverse people have left or considered leaving a job due to lack of flexibility, according to research from Business in the Community, The Prince’s Responsible Business Network and Ipsos UK, a higher percentage than white people. And SMEs are at risk of losing a quarter of their female employees, with 28% of female staff planning to leave their role in the first half of 2022 and flexibility being one of the drivers, according to analysis by food services and facilities management company Sodexo.
When it comes to family support, an Opinium poll found that over a third [35%] of sandwich generation workers say juggling caregiving responsibilities and work has impacted their mental health, while 29% say it has impacted their financial health and 25% feel an impact to their physical health while Vodafone announced policy changes to bring greater support for carers and parents, including extended paid and unpaid leave.
In childcare news, reports that the Government is considering plans to allow childcare providers to have fewer members of staff to help parents with childcare costs were slammed as “ludicrous” and “retrograde” by the Early Years Alliance while less than half of nurseries said their income was not covering their costs and over half said that their total costs have significantly increased on pre-pandemic levels, according to three reports released by the Department for Education.
In equality news, as the deadline closed for reporting gender pay figures, analysis by Lewis Silkin law firm found there may be up to 700 companies missing. It said only 9,872 employers had published their gender pay gaps by the deadline, compared with 10,548 employers in 2020.
Meanwhile, a report by the Centre for Progressive Policy found women in the UK are providing more than twice as much unpaid childcare per year as men (23.2 billion hours vs. 9.7 billion hours) as well as spending more time caring for adults than men. And a large Yougov poll suggested one in five women who ask for a pay rise is successful in receiving one compared with just under a third of men.
Moreover, a report from Deloitte said nearly half of women in the UK feel burnt out, with nearly a third taking time off due to mental health concerns and a study, led by researchers at Yale University and co-authored by Jochen Menges at Cambridge Judge Business School, found women experience more negative and fewer positive feelings in climbing the organisational ladder which puts them at a disadvantage in attaining leadership roles.
In positive news, the Recruitment and Employment Confederation [REC] and Fawcett Society have joined forces to end the practice of asking job applicants about how much they earned in their previous job. The two organisations published a guide for recruiters as part of the ongoing End Salary History campaign.
In wider diversity news, the Financial Conduct Authority decided not to set mandatory quotas for women and those from a minority ethnic background but will ask London-listed companies to either comply or explain if they fail to reach the targets it has set. The disability pay gap, the gap between median pay for disabled employees and non-disabled employees, fell in 2021 to 13.8% from 14.1% in 2019, but remains higher than the 11.7% figure for 2014, according to figures from the Office for National Statistics. And the number of employers implementing diversity and inclusion drives has almost trebled since the Black Lives Matter protests, according to a Multicultural Britain survey.
When it comes to self employment, just 11.9% of investment in business goes to female-led businesses in the UK, with venture capital and private equity investment hugely skewed towards men, according to The Gender Index report, based on data generated by the analytics company mnAI.
And on pay, nearly half of employers are offering no salary rise or people who work there are unaware of any plans to do so, according to research by the Chartered Management Institute.