Review of the year part 3: September to December

In the last part of workingmums.co.uk’s review of the year, we look at the main news in the months from September to December, amid mounting job vacancies and more Covid twists and turns.

seasonal recruitment - three Christmas cards with new jobs sign

 

September

As schools return and amid reports of labour shortages in some parts of the country and in certain sectors, an Acas survey found over a third (36%) of British employers have seen their employees’ mental health support improve since the start of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, with the majority [25%] saying they thought it had improved a little bit.

On childcare, the Welsh government announced that registered childcare premises will benefit from 100% non-domestic rates relief for an additional three years. A survey shows parents overwhelmingly believe childcare is too expensive and that the Government doesn’t support families enough with the costs and availability of childcare. Meanwhile, another survey finds childcare costs are forcing many families on lower incomes into debt and, in some cases, to use food banks.

On equality, a PwC report finds women are significantly more likely than men to say the pandemic worsened their employment opportunities.

On flexible working, a survey finds more than half of hybrid workers think that their current hybrid working arrangements don’t go far enough to help engender an effective work-life balance as the Government announces a consultation on plans to make the right to request flexible working a day one right. Labour says it will introduce a new right to flexible working as the default, protections for those with caring responsibilities and a right to switch off.

Meanwhile, major employers are increasing the range of benefits they offer to encourage staff retention, post-leave career progression and satisfaction and to reduce recruitment costs, according to a new benchmarking exercise by Bright Horizons.

In other news, black surgeons are far less likely to be promoted than their white colleagues, particularly if they are women, according to analysis of NHS career data in England. Just 13 FTSE 100 companies have reported their ethnicity pay gap in their current annual report – 10 for the first time, according to the Chartered Institute for Personnel and Development, which is calling for reporting to be mandatory for large employers from 2023.

October

Eleven per cent fewer employers have filed their gender pay figures by the deadline than in 2019, according to analysis by the Chartered Institute for Personnel and Development. Meanwhile, another study says UK legislation aimed at tackling the gender pay gap “has no teeth” and is focused on monitoring the problem but not actually fixing it. And a report by a House of Commons committee says the Government urgently needs to publish a dedicated Covid-19 recovery strategy for new parents with clear delivery plans.

Ninety per cent of parents of primary schoolchildren say they would support extending statutory sick leave for parents when their children are sick, with only six per cent opposed, according to a Mumsnet survey while the divide between employers who are transparent about the parental leave support they offer and those who aren’t is growing, according to another report which finds the majority of firms are still not doing enough to make parents aware of what they offer. And two in five working mums feel they are held back in their careers due to being parents, according to a Working Families survey for the National Work Life Week.

On women’s career progression, a study by Cranfield School of Management finds the number of women executives on boards of FTSE 100 and 250 companies has flatlined for another year.

On flexible working, a survey from the TUC and Mother Pukka finds half of working mums who have made a flexible working request have had it turned down. The latest British Social Attitudes survey finds the number of people who support flexible working for those who have been ill or suffer from a health condition has increased over the last year.

In other news, the Chancellor announced improvements in Universal Credit for low earners and extra investment for childcare in the Budget and Spending Review to offset, in part, rising inflation, tax increases and the ending of the £20 a week uplift in Universal Credit. Meanwhile, Business in the Community says the UK is still uncomfortable talking about race with only four in 10 employees saying that their employers are comfortable discussing race in the workplace, an increase of only 3% since 2018.

November

Advertised job vacancies have topped 1.3 million, with the worst ‘hiring holes’ appearing in Hospitality & Catering and Logistics & Warehouse roles, according to research, while another poll shows a big rise in people looking to move jobs in the next months.

On women’s career progression, the Government has given its backing to a new five-year review to monitor women’s representation on the boards of leading companies. Meanwhile, mothers of young children did 67 more minutes of housework a day than fathers during the lockdowns, according to a study. And another report finds women are being left behind when it comes to being rewarded financially for taking on new roles or additional responsibilities to fill gaps left by Covid-related job losses. Gender pay gaps are continuing to narrow slowly, according to a PwC analysis of this year’s figures, but it warns that the pandemic may be masking what is happening on the ground.

On childcare, it is revealed that the Government has spent £2.4 billion less on the tax-free childcare scheme since 2017 than was originally budgeted.

On flexible working, a Timewise analysis shows nearly three quarters of UK job vacancies make no reference to flexible working possibilities. Working from home and flexible working have become much more widespread during the pandemic, but most pandemic-related flexible working is being done informally, according to a study by The University of Birmingham Equal Parenting Project. A study finds the economic contribution of flexible working to the UK economy is currently £37 billion a year due to factors including reduced absence rates and increased talent attraction and retention.

In other news, the number of people working for gig economy platforms has almost tripled in England and Wales over the past five years, according to new research for the TUC, and one in three workers are now being monitored at work – up from a quarter just six months ago in April, with a doubling of the use of camera monitoring in people’s homes, according to a poll. Another report finds pervasive monitoring and target-setting technologies harm workers’ mental and physical wellbeing and puts extreme pressure on them through constant, real-time micro-management and automated assessment. Meanwhile, the Court of Appeal rules that the calculation of the self-employed income support scheme (SEISS) indirectly discriminated against new mothers, but that the urgency of the Covid context  justified the discrimination. And the CIPD finds that employment in the UK has become more secure on most measures over the last decade – despite the impact of the pandemic.

December

Seven in 10 HR managers say they have or could implement significant flexible working, according to a TUC poll which shows that employer attitudes towards flexible working arrangements have shifted markedly during the pandemic.

On childcare, a survey shows parents of young children are facing repeated disruptions to their childcare services as a result of severe and growing staffing shortages at childcare settings across England. The number of staff working in early years has fallen from 363,400 in 2019 to 349,000 in 2021, according to a report from the Department for Education which finds that 23,600 were temporary staff in a sector struggling to fill vacancies.

In other news, more than a third of pregnant women fear losing their jobs over Covid safety concerns, according to a Maternity Action survey. Meanwhile, the majority of people from minority ethnic backgrounds say they are treated differently than those who are white when applying for jobs while an analysis of ethnicity pay gap data shows white British people earn more on average than people from almost every other ethnic group, with ethnic minority women more disadvantaged than men, according to two studies by PwC.

On equality, an Institute for Fiscal Studies report of paid and unpaid work finds the average working-age woman in the UK earned 40% less than her male counterpart in 2019. Meanwhile, for the first time the number of female non-executive directors in leading UK companies exceeds the number of male non-executives, according to the 2021 UK Board Index. And a G20 survey says the UK needs to promote more gender-equal roles at home and address social norms that view unpaid care and domestic work as women’s responsibility, reduce maternity and pregnancy discrimination and collect data on the different forms of workplace harassment by gender.

As the year draws to an end the Prime Minister announces a return to working from home as concerns rise about the rapid spread of the Omicron variant. Meanwhile, research shows the impact of repeated lockdowns, home schooling and increased domestic responsibilities on women’s ability to work and save has forced 300,000 women out of workplace pension saving in the last year.  And two-thirds of UK employers [62%] say there should be an increase in the statutory rate of sick pay to help fix an “ailing and financially inadequate” system, according to the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD).



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