Review of the year part 2: May to September

In part two of our review of 2021 we trace the path from May to September, amid pingdemics, changing guidance and skills shortages.

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The Government confirms that the next stage of the roadmap out of Covid will go ahead for England from 17th May as TUC analysis shows women account for 52% of job losses during the pandemic so far, in large part due to the sectors they work in.

The Government continues to reject requests to publish its equality impact assessments, but says it is considering extending flexible working legislation and redundancy protection for pregnant women, according to its response to a Women and Equalities Committee report on the gendered impact of Covid. And the number of women rating their work-life balance as good or extremely good has plummeted due to Covid and a quarter of women are considering leaving the workforce as a result of the pandemic, according to a survey by Deloitte.

On flexible working, CIPD analysis shows forms of flexibility other than remote working – such as part-time, flexi-time and compressed hours – have fallen. Meanwhile, the Labour party and the Trades Union Congress outline visions for the future of work, saying that as the UK emerges from the pandemic, there is the opportunity to reset the relationship between employers and staff.

On wellbeing, a study shows three quarters of employers believe their employees want them to take a more active role in supporting their financial wellbeing, but most admit they are only truly effective at supporting saving for retirement. And a pledge from CEOs of 14 major companies, including Unilever and PwC, calls for the wellbeing of staff, local communities and broader society to be placed higher on the boardroom agenda.

On childcare, over 2,000 early years providers have been forced to close their doors since the start of the year, according to government data.

On maternity rights, Labour has committed to make it illegal to make a new mother redundant from notification of pregnancy until six months after their return to work, except in specific of circumstances such as closure of business or mass redundancy. Meanwhile, almost two-thirds of organisations offer maternity pay that is more generous than the UK statutory requirements, according to a study by online HR resource XpertHR.

In other news, a growing number of employers are launching pregnancy loss policies in the wake of Channel 4’s announcement in April of what it said was the UK’s first such policy in the UK. And 40%of freelancers who have been badly affected by the pandemic fear it will take over a year to return to pre-pandemic levels, according to a study, although almost a quarter of freelancers have already bounced back. And a report shows more single parents are at risk of poverty as a result of Covid due to the fact that they are more likely to have been furloughed and work in hard-hit sectors with more part-time jobs. Meanwhile, a report says nearly two thirds of black women do not receive a pay increase after salary negotiation.


Nearly three quarters of businesses expect to have at least one employee working remotely over the coming year, with the average expectation among those firms being just over half of their employees doing remote working, according to a survey by the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC). Meanwhile, an ONS study finds managers are less keen on remote working and more enthusiastic than staff about workers returning to offices post-pandemic.

And a study reveals that flexible working pilot projects in frontline construction jobs boost wellbeing and family life, lead to greater appetite for flexible working and a greater sense of trust, ownership and a better team dynamic with no negative impact on budgets or timeframes.

On gender equality, the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) has ruled that employees working in stores can compare their roles to colleagues working in distribution centres for the purpose of equal pay in a claim against the supermarket Tesco. Meanwhile, an analysis of gender pay audits received so far this year shows gaps are narrowing, but many companies, particularly smaller ones, still have to report, says accounting firm PwC. And research shows women’s average working hours have taken a far smaller hit during the pandemic than men’s, with women who do not have children now working longer hours than ever before, according to research, which finds that the opposite is true for parents. Just 48% of the 261 listed firms outside of the FTSE 350 have met the 33% target for women in the boardroom and 54% have all male executive leadership teams, according to a report by Women on Boards UK.

On wellbeing, workforce burnout in the NHS and social care is an ‘extraordinarily dangerous risk to the future functioning of both services’, according to a Select Committee report.

On employment rights, the Government has announced plans to create a single enforcement body to protect employment rights. And the John Lewis Partnership is to become the first UK retailer to launch six months’ equal parenthood paid leave and two weeks’ paid leave for employees who experience pregnancy loss.

On childcare, funding rates for the so-called ‘free childcare’ offer for three- and four-year-olds are less than two-thirds of the amount that the Government believes is needed to fully fund the scheme, according to documents obtained by the Early Years Alliance which show the Government knew parents would have to pay higher rates for younger children as a result. Childcare campaigners responded with dismay and anger after the Government dismissed a petition signed by over 110,000 people calling for a review of the childcare system.

In other news, John Lewis Partnership, Wickes, WHSmith, Sainsbury’s, EG Garages, Dr Martens, Dixons Carphone and Kingfisher have become the founding members of a new organisation dedicated to increasing diversity and inclusion in the retail sector called Diversity in Retail (DiR). And a campaign group launched a global petition for a four-day week on the same pay and benefits as a full-time job.


The Prime Minister announces that rules on working from home, mask wearing and social distancing will end on 19th July in England, while concerns mount about growing recruitment problems. MPs approve compulsory vaccines for care home staff in England, despite protests from some Conservatives.
The Women and Equalities Committee publishes a series of letters sent by the Chair of the Committee highlighting concerns with GEO Ministers, including delays and non-attendance at meetings. Meanwhile, the Financial Conduct Authority, Prudential Regulation Authority and the Bank of England are consulting on plans to link progress on diversity to remuneration in a move they say “could be a key tool for driving accountability in firms and incentivise progress.”

On flexible working, almost one in four of the UK’s financial services workforce wants to work at home permanently post-pandemic, according to a survey which comes as some businesses in London call on the Government to encourage people back to the office. The largest global trials of a four-day week have been an “overwhelming success” and led to many workers moving to shorter hours, according to researchers. Meanwhile, a group of 21 MPs and non-government officials have written an open letter to the Government calling for changes in the way National Insurance works for people in job shares.

On childcare, research finds nearly two-thirds of working mums – and 76% of single mums – with primary school age children do not have sufficient childcare for the six-week school summer holidays. Anad a report from the Coram Family and Childcare Trust shows local authorities have seen a big drop in places at out of school childcare, while Nannytax reports a 19% rise in nanny costs in the Home Counties and Greater London.

On employment rights, Labour has announced its proposals to create a single status of ‘worker’ for all but the genuinely self-employed so that everyone has the same rights from day one of employment. And it publishes plans to make flexible working a default day one right, meaning employers have to accommodate it if there is no reason a job cannot be done flexibly. The TUC calls for umbrella companies to be banned, saying they create multiple issues which make it difficult for workers to exercise their basic rights, but critics say a ban is too extreme and want better enforcement.

In other news, over a million children of key workers are currently living in poverty, according to research by the TUC. And a report calls on the UK government to impose a specific duty on all English local authorities and national public authorities to gather and publish their workforce data by ethnicity and by pay and grade.


As fears mount about the ‘pingdemic’, a KPMG and REC report says the rate of salary inflation was the sharpest seen in nearly 24 years of data collection due to staff shortages, according to the lack of available candidates and rising job vacancies. Meanwhile, the number of job vacancies advertised as open to remote working has increased significantly in the last two years, but still accounts for only 5% of jobs, according to data from jobs site And employers and the government were urged to do more to help those who cannot work due to caring responsibilities as job statistics showed 3.4 million were still out of work despite rising job vacancies and skills shortages.

On diversity, a report says ethnic minorities and females are still being pushed into functions which are far less likely routes into the top tier of leadership than those taken by their white, male counterparts.

On childcare, almost half of mothers of primary school aged children feel their promotion prospects have been affected by a lack of before and after school childcare, with 45% saying that they are working below their experience and pay grade to fit around school hours. A survey finds more than a quarter (27%) of parents of under-fives are struggling to balance work and childcare because of difficulties accessing childcare,  with those in disadvantaged areas most affected.

On flexible working, over two-thirds (68%) of British businesses are contemplating pay cuts for staff who opt to work from home, despite many (53%) saying they’ve actually saved money by having more remote workers, according to a survey.

In other news, female FTSE100 directors are paid 73% less than male counterparts, according to a study. Millions of people on Universal Credit say they will be in debt after paying just their essential bills if the Government goes ahead with plans to end the £20 a week boost introduced during the pandemic.

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