2018 was a very busy year for issues relating to family friendly working and diversity. In Part One of our review we cover the big news from the first six months in a year when the gender pay gap and #MeToo dominated.
2018 began with a continuing focus on the gender pay gap and on sexual harassment at work in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein revelations and the President’s Ball.
Carrie Gracie, the former China editor of the BBC, resigned from her post and gave evidence before the digital, culture, sport and media committee in which she lambasted the corporation for failing to live up to its values and not telling the truth about pay inequality. She was paid lower than other regional editors who were men. A BBC review, however, found no evidence of gender bias in pay decision-making in the corporation. The Equalities and Human Rights Commission wrote to the BBC over the resignation.
The Government announced plans to review non-disclosure agreements following harassment of women at the President’s Ball, which was attended by leading business men. Meanwhile, in the US a legal defence fund was launched to combat sexual harassment.
A Save the Children report said the childcare system is costing mothers in England £3.4 million a day because it prevents them from working and a Pre-school Learning Alliance survey showed only a third of childcare providers who offer the 30 hours free childcare for three and four year olds were not charging top-up fees and charges, nearly 30% were unable to offer the free hours and 38% who did were not sure they would be able to continue to do so next year. Tax-free childcare opened for children under nine.
The All Party Parliamentary Group on Women and Work’s annual report said the Government should ensure that parents are financially rewarded when opting for Shared Parental Leave to send “a clear signal” about the role that both sexes play in bringing up children.
A new campaign aimed at attracting former allied healthcare professionals (AHPs) and healthcare scientists back into practice was launched by Health Education England (HEE) and Women Returners launched a returner programme for financial services workers in Scotland.
Meanwhile, the 2018 Modern Families Index, published by Working Families and Bright Horizons, showed working parents are struggling to cope with the strain of overwork – and deliberately stalling and downshifting their careers.
There was more on sexual harassment at work, especially in Parliament.
The gender pay gap and equal pay
The BBC announced plans to investigate what gaps and barriers are holding back women and how they should be addressed in order to make the BBC an exemplar for other organisations. An Institute of Fiscal Studies report said gender differences in the rates of full-time and part-time paid work after childbirth are an important driver of differences in hourly wages between men and women with part timers typically missing out on any progression in their wages. Tesco was reported to be facing a £4bn equal pay claim.
Meanwhile, a charter was launched to get more women into tech.
Gingerbread reported that nearly two thirds of children in single parent families were likely to be in poverty by 2021, with single parents being more likely than the average employee to be trapped in low paid, often zero hours work. Tax-free childcare was rolled out ot parents of children under 12.
HMRC won an IR35 case against BBC presenter Christa Ackroyd who it said was a disguised employee rather than self employed.
MP Tracy Brabin introduced a Ten Minute Rule Bill in Parliament as part of her campaign to get Shared Parental Pay extended to freelancers and the self-employed. The Government launched a campaign to promote Shared Parental Leave.
The Government has announced it will publish a Good Work Plan which will give day-one rights for all workers and the right for zero hours and precarious workers to request a more stable contract.
The Equality and Human Rights Commission [EHRC] called for the Government to introduce legislation to prevent employers from using non-disclosure agreements to sweep sexual harassment under the carpet and protect their reputation.
The gender pay gap
It was announced that the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee was to investigate the gender pay gap amid concerns around the compliance of businesses with reporting requirements on the gender pay gap, such as whether the regulations are properly capturing the salaries of staff, and what steps companies are taking to address the pay gap. The EHRC also said employers with over 250 members of staff who did not report their gender pay gap would face unlimited fines. On International Women’s Day, the Labour shadow minister for women and equalities announced a Labour government would take strict enforcement action against employers who fail to close gender pay gaps. Over 200 BBC staff signed an open letter to the Director General calling for full pay and benefits transparency.
A report by the Women’s Budget Group and the Fawcett Society said the economic impact of Brexit would hit women hard, leading to lost jobs, cuts to services and a squeeze on family budgets. The EHRC said 1.5m more children will be in poverty due to austerity reforms. The Resolution Foundation echoed this, saying benefit changes coming into effect from 9 April would significantly squeeze incomes of ‘just about managing’ families.
It was announced that the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development would co-chair the Government’s new Flexible Working Task Force which will promote flexible work and working practices, bringing together policy-makers, employer groups, Unions and employee representative groups, research groups and professional bodies. It was also reported that the European Commission is seeking greater protection for gig economy workers in the EU.
Evidence submitted to the Digital, Culture, Media and Sports Committee showed some BBC staff may have been forced into the use of Personal Service Companies, often with detrimental effects.
A Women and Equalities Committee report said the Government should consider introducing a new policy of 12 weeks’ standalone fathers’ leave in the child’s first year as an alternative to shared parental leave.
Childcare vouchers were extended for six months for new joiners. A Treasury Committee report called for the Government to increase funding for its 30 hours childcare offer. The National Day Nurseries Association said qualified staff were leaving nurseries because of underfunding and endemic low pay in the sector, putting the government’s promise to provide high quality, accessible childcare under threat.
In other news: the number of cases filed at the employment tribunal increased by 90% between September and December last year after fees were abolished; the Government launched a grant programme for returner initiatives; and the results of an ethnicity pay audit by the Greater London Authority showed an average 16 per cent pay gap between white people employed by the GLA Group and those from a BAME background. Meanwhile, an analysis of Government figures showed the gender pension gap has nearly trebled in the last decade.
April was the month companies with over 250 employees had to publish their gender pay audits. The figures showed that around eight in 10 [78%] of the companies and public sector bodies in the UK pay men more than women. Only 14% of employers reported paying women more than men and 8% reported no pay gap between men and women. The data showed the national median pay gap for all workers was 18.4%, with the public sector reporting an overall pay gap of 14% and the figure for full-time workers only being 9.1%. Analysis by the Guardian suggested the construction industry had the biggest sector-wide gap, with an average median pay differential of 25%; and accommodation and food services had the smallest gap, at 1%.
Meanwhile, the Fawcett Society’s Sex and Power Index said positions of power in every sector of our society were dominated by men and called for time-limited quotas and default flexible working among other possible solutions. The Investment Association and the Hampton-Alexander Review wrote to 35 FTSE 350 companies with low or no female representation at senior leadership level or who failed to provide gender data to ask what steps they are taking to improve gender diversity. And a cross-party group of MPs launched a #Paymetoo campaign following up on the gender pay audits and encouraging women to take action to push for greater equality at work.
The Federation of Small Businesses reported small childcare providers were struggling to make ends meet, with some considering closing their doors for good due to a shortfall in Government funding for the 30 hours free scheme. The Sutton Trust reported that as many as 1,000 Sure Start centres across the country have closed since 2009 – twice as many as the government has reported.
Research by UCL showed almost a third of working fathers in the UK lacked access to flexible work arrangements.
In other news: the number of zero hours contracts in the UK rose by around 100,000 to 1.8m last year, according to the Office for National Statistics.
Figures showed the number of working mums is rising. An Institute for Fiscal Studies found increases in the number of women at work since the 1970s have been largely driven by more working mums. The figures show that more than three quarters of women aged 25-54 in the UK are in paid work, reaching a record high of 78% in 2017.
The gender pay gap
The top 10 worst excuses for not appointing more women to the boards of FTSE 350 companies, as heard by the team behind the government-backed Hampton-Alexander Review, were published. They include suggestions they are not able to understand the ‘extremely complex’ issues boards deal with and the idea women do not want the ‘hassle or pressure’ of sitting on a top board. The NHS in England announced it will review how much it pays male and female doctors in an effort to eliminate a gender pay gap of 15%.
Penny Mordaunt, the new Minister for Women and Equalities, told the Women and Equalities Committee that the UK’s exit from the EU would not undermine the Government’s commitment to eliminating the gender pay gap. Analysis of HMRC figures by employment law experts Fox & Partners found the gender pay gap is 91% for those earning £1m or more each year at UK financial services firms and has been getting wider, with 4,600 men in this income bracket and only 400 women. An IPPR report found employers should commit to publishing narrative reports alongside their pay gaps, rethink promotion and pay negotiation and encourage more men to work flexibly if they want to tackle the gender pay gap.
The Preschool Learning Alliance said parents are likely to see an ongoing increase in childcare costs as a result of government underfunding of childcare,
HMRC launched a consultation about how to address bogus employment in the private sector, including the possibility of extending the controversial IR35 rules.
A report from the Work and Pensions Committee said carers should be better supported to stay in, or enter, employment through making the right to request flexible working a day one right and introducing paid carer’s leave.
A report from the Government Equalities Office found simplifying information about Shared Parental Leave improved parents’ understanding of the scheme and made them feel that it was less of an effort to take it up. An Employment Appeal Tribunal ruled that employer enhancing maternity pay but paying only statutory rate for Shared Parental Leave [SPL] is potentially applying an indirectly discriminatory practice that puts men at a disadvantage.
The TUC found the number of children growing up in poverty in working households is set to be one million higher this year than in 2010. Another TUC report said 3,820,000 – or one in nine – UK workers were in insecure forms of employment and may be denied workplace rights, including protection from unfair dismissal, family friendly rights and rights to be represented by a trade union.
In other news: transport firm Uber has announced plans to provide sickness and injury insurance and maternity and paternity payments to its drivers in the UK and Europe.
The gig economy firm has faced a lot of criticism over its operational model. Drivers are self employed which means they have not been allowed any basic employment rights.
The 2018 Modern Families Index: how employers can support the UK’s working families, showed many parents feel compelled to work far beyond their contracted hours to meet managers’ expectations and to progress in their careers.
Government guidance was published which says gender specific dress codes that require women to wear make-up, high heels, skirts, have manicured nails, certain hairstyles or specific types of hosiery are likely to be unlawful and employers should avoid them.
A Mind survey says almost half of employees have experienced poor mental health while working for their current employer and only half of these informed their employer.
The Commons Work and Pensions Committee report said current monthly reporting system of Universal Credit penalises the self employed.
The Hampton-Alexander Review reported that twenty nine per cent of FTSE 100 board positions were held by women, but the rate of progress in FTSE 350 countries is significantly slower, according to new data.
The Lib Dem MP Jo Swinson tabled a bill in the House of Commons that would require firms with more than 250 employees to publish their parental leave policies.
Just 9,200 new parents took advantage of the Shared Parental Leave scheme in 2017/18, according to official figures. The figures, obtained through a Freedom of Information request by law firm EMW, showed only 500 more parents than last year took SPL – around 1% of all eligible parents. A study by the University of Edinburgh found dads were missing out on paternity leave and other forms of support due to financial concerns and embarrassment that it is still not expected of them.
Meanwhile, the Government, in a response to the Women and Equalities Committee report on dads, called for a public debate about funding workplace support for dads, but has dismissed calls for increases in paternity pay, more standalone paternity leave and the introduction of a paternity allowance for self-employed dads.
The gig economy
The All-Party Parliamentary Group on Responsible Tax called for faster progress, more urgency and practical policy solutions to address the pressing tax challenges posed by the gig economy.
Childcare providers criticised what they call the Government’s “woeful” response to a Select Committee report on childcare, saying it failed to address the funding problems facing the sector. Free pre-school education is disproportionately benefiting children from higher income families who least need it and recent government policy is likely to widen the gap, according to research from the London School of Economics’ Centre for Analysis of Social Exclusion.
In other news: a report by the National Audit Office said Universal Credit has not delivered value for money and it is uncertain if it ever will. The Government published an action plan for a two-year programme of work to support unpaid carers.