Review of 2018 – Part Two

2018 was packed with activities related to gender diversity and family friendly working. In this article we look at the major reports and news from July to December.

team of women working


2018 has been packed full of activity relating to gender diversity and family friendly working. Here we conclude our review of the year, tracking the months from July to December.


This month a report by Cranfield School of Management  found the number of women executive directors on FTSE 100 and 250 boards had flatlined or dropped and criticised the lack of progress in improving gender diversity at the highest executive echelons of leading UK companies. Meanwhile, the British Social Attitudes Survey showed a growing number of British people are questioning traditional gender roles around work and family, with 72% disagreeing with the view that “it is a man’s job to earn money and a woman’s job to look after the home and family”. However, 33% think mothers of pre-school age children should stay at home, a figure that remains unchanged over the last five years; 38% think these mothers should work part time, down from 43% in 2012; and just 7% think full time is the best option compared with 5% in 2012.

The gender pay gap

the BBC said its gender pay gap had been reduced by nearly a fifth over the past year, with the median pay gap falling from 9.3% to 7.6%.

The gig economy and self employment

A report from the Office of Tax Simplification said the Government should consider the case for enabling online platforms such as taxi or delivery firms to operate a system equivalent to PAYE for self employed platform workers without affecting their employment status. Meanwhile, the Government rejected calls for a change in monthly reporting for self employed people claiming Universal Credit. And the Federation of Small Businesses said self employed people should have the right to two weeks statutory paternity pay and an adoption allowance.

Parental leave

The Department of Work and Pensions called on organisations with 250 staff or more to publish their shared parental leave policies on their websites to improve transparency and encourage competition on pay.


A Working Families report found parents of disabled children are struggling to hold down vital jobs because of a dearth of suitable and affordable childcare, flexible jobs and appropriate leave. The Family and Childcare Trust’s annual survey found holiday childcare costs have risen by four per cent in Britain in a year, bringing the average parents now pay for one week of holiday childcare to £133.

The economy

The Government’s Brexit white paper received a mixed reception when it came to employment laws. Some legal experts welcomed a pledge that all current employment laws will remain in effect post-Brexit, but trades unionists want the legislation to go further as they fear the government could reduce rights after Brexit.

In other news: the Women and Equalities Committee said the Government, regulators and employers are failing in their responsibilities to tackle sexual harassment in the workplace. A Resolution Foundation report found black male graduates can expect to be paid 17 per cent less than white male graduates after accounting for their background and their job while black women graduates suffer a 9 per cent penalty in comparison with white women. A survey by law firm Slater and Gordon found nearly one in three UK bosses admit they have or would reject a female job applicant because they suspect she ‘might start a family soon’.


This month the Government Equalities Office published figures which show more than three out of four UK companies pay their male staff more on average than their female staff, more than half give higher bonuses to men, on average, than women, and over 80% have more women in their lowest paid positions than in their highest paid positions. The figures were published together with a new ‘What Works’ guidance for companies to help them improve the recruitment and progression of women and close their gender pay gap.

Meanwhile, the Chartered Management Institute said female chief executives at FTSE 100 companies earn less than half as much as their male counterparts overall and the Commons business, energy and industrial strategy committee said new rules requiring UK companies with at least 250 staff to report gender pay gaps should be extended to small companies with more than 50 staff.

The economy

The Child Poverty Action Group said low-paid families working full-time are unable to earn enough to meet their families’ needs due to the freezing of tax credits, benefits caps and cuts and rising prices.

The gig economy 

A University of Oxford study warned that the poor quality working conditions associated with the digital gig economy may have consequences for employees’ wellbeing.

In other news: the Equality and Human Rights Commission called for mandatory reporting for larger employers of data on staff recruitment, retention and promotion by ethnicity and disability.

South Lanarkshire Council announced it is to launch a policy to support women through the menopause and increase understanding about the issues menopausal women may face in the workplace. Growing number of employers are looking at policies for older women in the workplace. An Aviva report said longer working lives have become a reality for millions, yet a significant number of over-50s feel unsupported in the workplace. It called on UK businesses to boost support for their older workforce. Another study by Aviva and the British Chambers of Commerce found one in three business leaders have noticed an increase in the length of time that staff are taking off due to mental health issues.

September’s annual survey, sponsored by McDonald’s, showed 59% of mums say their partner doesn’t work flexibly and only 4% say their partner works part time. A survey of dads showed overwhelming demand for flexible working among men with 73% saying they are considering seeking it, but 72% fearing their employer’s reaction if they do.

A survey by law firm Slater and Gordon showed more than a third of women have been sexually harassed at work in the last 12 months despite the MeToo movement shining a spotlight on the problem.

Parental leave

The deputy leader of the Liberal Democrats Jo Swinson announced 10 major employers who have committed to publishing their parental leave and pay policies.


A Young Women’s Trust report showed one in five employers admit that if a woman is pregnant or has children it has an impact on decisions about whether to promote them. The same number said that pregnancy is frowned upon in their organisation within the first year of employment.


Labour party leader Jeremy Corbyn announced a plan for 30 hours a week of free universal childcare for children aged two to four. An independent evaluaation found the Government’s 30-hour childcare offer for three and four year olds is not completely flexible or free for all parents with 48% reporting restrictions on when they can use the hours and 56% saying that they have had to pay charges for additional items or activities. TUC analysis found working parents with children under five have seen nursery fees rise three times faster than their wages over the past decade. Meanwhile, a Pre-school Learning Alliance survey found four in 10 childcare providers fear they may have to close within the next year as a result of the government’s 30-hour offer for three and four year olds.


Five organisations in England were awarded a total of £489,050 from a new government start-up fund to help people who have taken lengthy career breaks to care for others get back into work.

The gender pay gap

Global leaders from governments, private sector companies, trade unions and civil society pledged to take concrete action towards closing the gender pay gap by 2030. The global commitments – to ensure women in every sector of the workforce are paid equally to men for doing work of equal value – were made at the Equal Pay International Coalition (EPIC) Pledging event held during the United Nations General Assembly in New York.

Meanwhile, a report commissioned by the Association of British Insurers found motherhood is the single biggest reason for the lack of senior female managers and a Financial Reporting Council survey found a majority of the UK’s largest companies have adopted policies on boardroom diversity but said for many the reporting to stakeholders suggests a tick box approach with no clear strategy for improvement.

In other news: the Treasury launched a review into the relative lack of women entrepreneurs. A new workplace right to paid leave for bereaved parents was officially enshrined in law: the new Parental Bereavement Leave and Pay Act is expected to come into force in 2020. A report led by the RSA and the Carnegie UK Trust said that job security, workplace mental health and how well-supported workers feel by their employer should be monitored annually by the government. And a TUC report recommended a new Future of Work Commission should work towards a four-day week, with no reduction to living standards.


The October Budget left childcare and schools campaigners angry and disappointed at a lack of investment despite the Chancellor’s statement that “austerity is finally coming to an end”. Despite a welcome for investment in mental healthcare and other spending, including extra cash for the NHS and local authorities, the Institute for Fiscal Studies said the Budget did little to undo austerity cuts introduced since 2010.

Meanwhile, the average gender pay gap for full-time workers was revealed to be 8.6% – its lowest level yet, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS). The ONS said that between April 2017 and April 2018 the gap fell from 9.1%.

The gender pay gap

An OECD report says governments should set national digital strategies that actively aim to close the gender digital access, adoption and usage gaps and improve the affordability of digital technologies while enhancing online safety. The Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee reported that the BBC had failed to live up to its duty of advancing equality of opportunity by paying far less to women working in comparable jobs to men.

Parental leave

Campaigners for Shared Parental Leave to be extended to the self employed lobbied Parliament in support of the Shared Parental Leave and Pay Extension Bill.


A survey by the charity Ambitious about Autism found nearly a third of parents of children with autism have had to give up their jobs as a result of school exclusions. Childcare vouchers schemes closed for new joiners.

Harassment at work

The Women and Equalities Committee called for the Government to step in to ensure regulatory bodies in sectors like healthcare and the police carry out their duties in overseeing how employers are tackling workplace harassment.

The economy

A Resolution Foundation report said that if the Government is serious about ending austerity the Chancellor should reverse planned  the freeze on benefits which could cost low-income families an average of £210 next year.

The gig economy

A survey of ‘alternative work arrangements’ in the UK revealed a stark dichotomy between workers on zero hours contracts who are content with their flexible working arrangements and those wanting greater security while another study of Uber drivers in London found the average driver reported higher levels of life satisfaction than other workers in the UK’s capital – but in common with many other self-employed people, a minority also reported much higher levels of anxiety.

In other news: an EHRC report found alarming reductions in access to justice, increasing child poverty and a weakened safety net for the poorest, growing challenges for those with disabilities and widespread bullying and sexual harassment had helped contribute to backwards moves in equality in the UK over the last three years. A UNISON survey found nearly a fifth of parents and other staff with caring duties have had to quit their jobs. The Government announced plans for a Race at Work Charter. And a University of Manchester study revealed the amount of time the father spends alone, caring for the baby during the first year of parenthood, has a positive effect on the stability of the parental relationship.


The Government confirmed that the number of formal complaints from parents experiencing technical issues with tax-free childcare increased by 30% since last December. It was also reported that only two local councils in England will see an increase in the funding they are given by central government to subsidise childcare costs, according to the Government’s statistics for the next year.

Meanwhile, the number of childcare providers in England has fallen by nearly 9,000 since 2016, resulting in a decrease of 251,700 childcare places, Government statistics revealed.

Universal credit

Three single working mothers brought a legal case at the high court to challenge the rigidity of the assessment period regime in Universal Credit.

Gender pay gap

The Women’s Business Council’s latest report shows the gender pay gap for workers over 60 has increased in last five years and the number of women engaged in early stage entrepreneurship has fallen slightly despite improvements elsewhere.  The IPPR called for legislation requiring large employers to report their gender pay gap to be extended to cover ethnicity and disability pay gaps.

Harassment at work

An Acas study found only one in four workers agree that international media coverage in the form of #MeToo and high profile celebrity cases has helped to improve their workplace culture. Google employees around the world staged a walkout in protest over reports of sexual harassment, gender inequality and racism at the company.


The Government announced plans to set up a £600,000 fund to help disadvantaged women carers back to work.

Parental leave

Aviva said that its parental leave policy which offers up to one year of leave to parents whether they are mums or dads with 26 weeks at full basic pay had resulted in almost every new dad employed by the insurer in the UK opting to take more than the statutory two weeks of paid paternity leave. That meant the average number of paternity days taken by men at Aviva UK had increased by more than 14 times since the policy was introduced. Two thirds (67%) of eligible fathers chose to take six months off work with their new arrivals and 95% took more than a fortnight, said Aviva. In the UK, around 500 employees have used the policy, including more than 220 men.

Women on boards

The Government-backed review into women on boards urged FTSE 350 companies to do more to meet the target of a third of women in senior leadership positions by 2020. Although the percentage of women on the boards of FTSE 100 companies had risen from 12.5% in 2011 to just over 30% now, in the FTSE 350 nearly a quarter of companies had only one woman on their board and five boards were still all-male. Moreover, the number of women in CEO roles had fallen from 15 to 12 in 2018, said the review.

In other news: a BBC survey found over a quarter of mums did not enjoy their maternity leave as much as they thought they would. Figures from the Office for National Statistics showed men undertake almost two-thirds of commutes lasting more than an hour, with the ‘gender commuting gap’ opening up after the birth of a first child. Meanwhile, the voluntary Living Wage increased to £9 an hour around the UK and £10.55 in London and research by the union Prospect showed the gender pension gap stands at nearly 40% – almost twice the level of the gender pay gap.


In December, a report from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation said the number of children trapped in poverty has risen by half a million in the last five years. A TUC report highlighted that, despite recent wage rises, parts of the UK are still paid less than they were 10 years ago when inflation is taken into account.

A report from the Resolution Foundation also highlighted that agency workers face an average pay penalty of £400 a year compared to direct employees with identical qualifications doing identical jobs. Another report from the Foundation called for the Government to make employers report their ethnicity pay gap in the same way they do their gender pay gap.

Meanwhile, a survey by the Chartered Institute for Securities & Investment found workload was one of the main drivers of poor mental health and that only 46% of those working in financial services would feel confident about speaking to their manager about mental ill health.

It was also announced that adverts that depict ‘harmful’ gender stereotypes are to be banned under a new rule in the Advertising Codes which comes into force next June. And a study from the LSE found fathers are less likely to hold traditional attitudes towards gender roles if they have a school-age daughter.


A report from the Work and Pensions Select Committee called for more childcare help for Universal Credit claimants. It said the design of Universal Credit childcare support directly conflicts with the aim of making it easier for claimants to work, or to work more hours.  A Department for Education report found children living in the most deprived areas were least likely to receive formal childcare as well as a significant drop in parents accessing afterschool childcare. The report showed 62% of children living in the least deprived areas received formal childcare this year, compared to 44% of children living in the most deprived areas. Another Department for Education report found younger disadvantaged children were losing out on childcare places due to the government’s 30 hours policy for three and four year olds.

Gender pay gap

The overall median gender pay gap for all staff across the Civil Service narrowed over the past year, but the gender pay gap in five government departments has grown, it was reported. The figures showed the overall median gender pay gap for the Civil Service fell from 12.7% in 2017 down to 12.2%. This compares to an average 23.8% in the private sector and 19% for the public sector as a whole. The mean gender pay gap for the Civil Service was lower at 9.8%, down from 10.6% in 2017. An EHRC report said it should be mandatory for employers to publish their action plans for dealing with the gender pay gap. It said only a fifth have done so.  A report by executive search company Spencer Stuart found the number of women coming through the ranks of FTSE 100 businesses has fallen by 4.1% in the last year.

Harassment at work

The Government announced that it will introduce a statutory code of practice to tackle sexual harassment at work, but said there will be no new legislation to ensure workers are protected from abuse or any sanctions for those who fail to comply with the code.

Flexible working

The Government published its Good Work Plan, a set of workplace reforms, including a right to request guaranteed hours, which it says will meet the challenges of the changing world of work.

A University of Kent study found a third of all UK workers believe those who work flexibly create more work for others. A similar proportion believe their career will suffer if they use flexible working arrangements.


New and expectant fathers are to be offered mental health checks and treatment if their partner is suffering anxiety, psychosis or post-natal depression as part of an expansion of perinatal mental health services under the new NHS long term plan.

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