Review of 2019 – part 3

In the final part of our review of the year, we chart events, reports and announcements made about issues relating to working families from September to December, from childcare costs to election pledges and beyond.

woman with empty purses


The last third of 2019 was very busy on the politics front, but there was plenty of news in the working families arena too, from concerns about poverty to reports on the jobs of the future. Here we chart the main developments month by month.


Nearly half of benefit claimants affected by the benefits freeze have struggled to meet essential costs such as rent, household bills and food while 40% have lost sleep due to money worries in the past year, according to a report by Citizens Advice which calls for urgent changes to the system.

Nearly a third of requests for flexible working are being turned down, according to a TUC poll.

The Government announces £66 million for maintained nurseries and other childcare providers to deliver the government’s childcare schemes in its one-year spending round, but campaigners say it is not enough.

Women are more likely than men to leave their job because of a longer commute,  according to analysis by the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

The TUC calls for social class to be added to the list of characteristics protected by equality legislation and for employers to report their class pay gaps.

The freelance sector is “flatlining” because of Brexit pressure, with 80% saying they are opposed to a no-deal Brexit, according to research from the Association of Independent Professionals and the Self-Employed and PeoplePerHour.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn promises a ministry for employment rights and a workers’ protection agency to enforce rights, standards and protections.

Almost half of new dads took 10 days or less in paternity leave, with 15% saying they took no leave at all, mainly because of financial problems and workload, according to a survey for Zurich.

Publisher Hachette UK announces that it is equalising its offer to parents on maternity leave and those on Shared Parental Leave. The company will now offer parents 20 weeks of Shared Parental Leave on full pay.

Women and regional workers will be hit hardest by future job losses unless retail brands cooperate more to create an experience-led high street and upskill the retail workforce for the age of automation, according to a report from the Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce.

Around one in 20 workers report not receiving any of their legal holiday entitlement, while around one in 10 do not receive a payslip, according to an analysis by the Resolution Foundation think tank.

The number of senior level jobs which are open to flexible working is rising quickly, according to a report from Timewise.

Only 3% of public sector workers report that they work mainly from home, compared with 17% of people who worked in the private sector, according to an Office for National Statistics report on flexible working in the public sector.

Labour says it will force all employers with over 250 employees to adopt a menopause policy.

Over three quarters of working mums [80%] feel stuck in the job they are in because they don’t think they will be able to find a new one with the same degree of flexibility they now have, while 57% say their career has not progressed since they have had children, according to’s annual survey.

Labour announces plans for a  renewed Sure Start programme, a new free nursery education service for all two to four year olds and a four-day week on full pay.

A new returner programme to help 150 parents in Yorkshire and the Humber back to work is launched by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development.

A third of employees who experience poor mental health at work say it is due to negative work relationships, including bullying managers, according to a Business in the Community survey.

The government-backed Men As Change Agents (MACA) “Lead the Change” Board meets for the first time with the aim of encouraging business leaders to act as Change Agents to promote diversity and inclusion.

Businesses in England lost £3.2bn last year because people had to quit their job or change their working patterns to care for someone with dementia, according to research from the Alzheimer’s Society.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn announces plans to overhaul Universal Credit and replace it with a social security system that focuses on “alleviating and ending poverty, not driving people into it”.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer announces plans to raise the national living wage to 66% of median earnings by 2024 rather than 60% and to reduce the age limit for the national living wage.

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The 30% Club announces that 30% of board positions in the FTSE 350 are now by women for the first time since the London Stock Exchange was established in 1571.

A group of 100 of the UK’s leading businesswomen launch the #MeTooPay campaign to tackle pay discrimination.
Women affected by the equalisation of the state pension age lose a landmark case at the High Court.

Line managers are key to enforcing a flexible working culture, but many employers don’t train them about different ways of working, according to a benchmarking exercise by the charity Working Families.

One in five employees aged 45 and over in the UK expect to leave work in order to care for adult family members, according to a survey by Aviva.

Parents, carers and best-practice employers are overwhelmingly in favour of greater transparency around companies’ flexible working and family-related leave and pay policies, according to Working Families.

Employers should promote dad networks, be transparent about parental leave policies, plan ahead to have cover if dads need to go on leave suddenly and have strong role models across their organisation if they are keen to retain dads, according to a and white paper on dads in the workplace.

Gig economy workers should have greater employment rights to boost innovation and provide them with greater protection, according to a report on the future of work by the International Bar Association’s Global Employment Institute.

Children as young as seven risk ruling out future job options because of their gender, race and background, according to the OECD’s Director of Education and Skills Andreas Schleicher.

Most families in East London who are on benefits say they are worse off after moving onto Universal Credit, according to a study by the Child Poverty Action Group.

The Government Equalities Office publishes a toolkit to help people who have taken a career break to look after family members to get back to work.

Thirty major businesses and organisations sign up to a new commitment to tackle mental well being in the workplace.

Only 27.8 per cent of women are in full-time work or self-employed three years after childbirth, compared to 90 per cent of new fathers, according to a study by researchers at the Universities of Bristol and Essex.

The effectiveness of unconscious bias training is questionable and it may lead to greater observed bias in some cases, according to a report from the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development.Mums are still much more likely than dads to alter their employment because of childcare issues, according to a report from the Office for National Statistics.

Women’s average lifetime earnings has grown more since 2004 than those of men, but remain 41% lower than those of men in 2018, according to a Office for National Statistics report.

Nearly a fifth of parents has had to leave work after having children due to the cost of childcare, with nearly two thirds saying they have had to reduce hours, according to a survey by Pregnant Then Screwed.

The gender pay gap among full-time employees has changed little since 2012, according to figures from the Office for National Statistics.

Leading early years membership organisation the Early Years Alliance call on all political parties to commit to increasing investment into the childcare sector as a matter of urgency after figures from Ofsted revealed that between April 2018 and March 2019, an average of more than 500 nurseries, pre-schools and childminders closed every month.

Global investment company Standard Life Aberdeen announces that from next year all its employees will be entitled to a year of parental leave and 40 weeks of full pay.

The majority of people undergoing IVF are using annual leave and sick leave to cover the time they need off for treatment, according to research.

Including a flexible working field in job adverts to prompt employers to think about flexible working makes them more likely to offer flexible new roles, according to an experiment run by the Government Equalities Office.


Single parents are being unfairly blocked from career progression by factors outside of their control, including a lack of affordable childcare and having to work part time, according to a report from Gingerbread. announces the winners of its 10th anniversary Top Employer Awards, celebrating the leading companies in gender diversity and flexible working. Vodafone UK is the Overall Top Employer.

Traders in the investment management and banking industries call on the London Stock Exchange (LSE) and other European trading venues to review trading hours across Europe in a bid to improve culture, diversity and wellbeing on trading floors, and create more efficient markets.

Nearly a quarter of childcare providers think they will close in the next year due to the mismatch between the Government’s key childcare policy and the full cost of childcare places, according to a survey by the lobbying group Pregnant Then Screwed.

If half of senior leadership roles do not go to women this year, the FTSE 350 will not achieve its targets for building a more gender balanced executive pipeline to board-level positions, according to a report by the Hampton-Alexander Review.

Demand for food banks rose to a record high this year as the number of people needing emergency food parcels increased by 23% on last year’s figures, according to figures released by the Trussell Trust charity.

The Fawcett Society calls for a change in the law to allow women the right to know what their male colleagues are being paid if they suspect pay discrimination as a survey shows significant numbers of women who know their male counterparts’ pay say men doing equivalent work earn more than them.

Remote working can provide employees with the flexibility to juggle work and home life demands and improve well being, making it key to attracting and retaining talent, but research is inconclusive about its impact on stress levels and productivity, according to a white paper by Nuffield Health.

The next Government should seek to improve employment rights for pregnant women and new mothers by introducing a legal ban on employers making a woman redundant throughout her pregnancy and up to six months after her return from maternity leave in most circumstances, according to the organisation Maternity Action.

Companies in the FTSE250 are more likely to publicise the availability of fresh fruit, free eye tests and in-house massage therapy than they are to publish details of their parental leave policies, according to an analysis by Mumsnet.

Eighty five per cent of employers think demand for flexible working is likely to increase, with demand coming from across the board, but over four in 10 [42%] would like more support to implement it, according to a survey.

More people are rejecting the traditional 9-5 working pattern in favour of greater flexibility, according to research from the Recruitment and Employment Confederation, which reports a rise in temporary agency work, contracting and freelancing.

The Liberal Democrats launch their election manifesto with a proposal to expand free childcare, more rights for the self employed and benefits changes to tackle in-work poverty.

The next government should introduce a Self-Employed National Minimum Wage as a way of improving financial security for lower paid self-employed workers, a report by think-tank Demos argues.

Labour launches its election manifesto, pledging to eradicate in-work poverty in its first term by tackling the structural causes of poverty and inequality and increasing the social safety net.

The Conservatives publish their general election manifesto with a pledge to create a new £1 billion fund for holiday and breakfast and after school childcare.

A leading childcare campaigner has launched a campaign calling on political parties to pledge to increase early years funding amid election pledges on free childcare.

Around 15% of the female workforce in 107 countries have experienced domestic violence and abuse in the past 12 months, according to an independent international study from KPMG commissioned by Vodafone.

Over half (56%) of parents with children under five experience loneliness at least some of the time, with twice as many parents on the lowest incomes saying they often feel isolated from others as parents on the highest incomes (33% compared to 16%), according to a survey by Coram Family and Childcare.

The SNP launches its general election manifesto, pledging to increase maternity pay to 100% of a woman’s average weekly earnings for the first 12 weeks and to introduce 12 extra weeks of Shared Parental Leave earmarked for dads.


Parents are less time poor now than they were 15 years ago, although mums are still under significantly more time pressure than dads, according to a study by the National Centre for Social Research.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer Sajid Javid promises a review of controversial IR35 legislation.

Health and hygiene firm RB launches a global parental leave policy and over 100 wellness suites where mothers can breastfeed.

Disabled employees in the UK are paid 12.2% less than their non-disabled peers, according to figures from the Office for National Statistics.

Only half of permanent employees in the UK believe they are paid fairly and only a third feel that everyone in their organisation receives fair pay, according to data published by the Chartered Institute for Personnel and Development.

Almost half of people with mental health problems don’t know their conditions could legally be classed as a disability and that they could claim significant workplace rights, according to a survey by the charity Mind.

Flexible working advocates welcome the appointment of the NHS’s new ‘head of flexible working’ as the UK’s largest employer seeks to become more flexible friendly.

Lloyd’s of London publishes its first guide on trans and non-binary inclusion.

The election result is greeted with a round of calls from childcare and self employed campaigners for urgent action on childcarefunding and on reviewing and halting the roll-out of IR35 legislation to the private sector.

The UK falls from 15th place in 2018 to 21st in the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Index rankings.

The number of employed women has fallen in the last quarter while the number of women turning to self employment or classified as economically inactive rising, according to figures from the Office for National Statistics.

The newly elected Government announces measures on carer’s leave and to encourage flexible working as part of the Queen’s Speech.

Voters who switched from Labour to Conservative want the Government to enhance and protect workers’ rights, according to a TUC survey.

Cashiers, bank clerks and hairdressers have been among the hardest hit by labour market shifts in the 2010s while van drivers, software programmers and care workers have enjoyed the biggest jobs growth, according to an analysis from the RSA Future Work Centre.

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