Review of the year: part one

2019 was a busy year on the working mums front. Here we chart the main reports, events and announcements from January to April.

review of the year

Gender equality in recruitment

While 2019 was mainly taken up with Brexit, legislation-wise, there were still some important reports, policy announcements, rulings and events in issues affecting women in the workplace, flexible working and family friendly policies. Here we look back at some of the main developments in the first four months of the year.

January

A government report said that gender audit regulations do not appear to have resulted in many employers developing concrete, measurable and targeted actions to reduce their gender pay gap. The Employers’ Understanding of the Gender Pay Gap and Actions to Tackle it report, on the Government Equalities Office site, said that while many of the employers surveyed and interviewed by the authors had aspirations to address their gender pay gap [GPG] in future, examples of concrete action taken in response to the regulations were relatively rare.

The Government launched a consultation on plans to extend legal protections against redundancy for new mothers on maternity leave to up to six months after they return to work.The consultation followed research commissioned by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) which found one in nine women said they had been fired or made redundant when they returned to work after having a child, or were treated so badly they felt forced out of their job.

A report on childcare from the Education Policy Institute found that some local authorities may be prioritising the 30 hours free care for three and four year olds over free childcare for two year olds due to funding issues. The Institute report said there was a possible trade-off going on between the free entitlement for disadvantaged two-year olds and take-up of the 30 hours entitlement for three- and four- year olds.

Radical plans for Scotland to become a leader in gender equality, including 50 hours free good quality, flexible childcare for all children between six months and five years old and two ‘Daddy months’ of use-it-or-lose-it paid paternity leave, were unveiled in the first report of the National Advisory Council on Women and Girls, established in 2017 by Scotland’s first minister, Nicola Sturgeon.

The Government announced plans for a new job-share service to give teachers more flexible options. The proposal came in the Department for Education’s Teacher Recruitment and Retention Strategy. It also called for free timetabling tools to make it easier for schools to manage more flexible working and said it would create new specialist qualifications for those who want to develop their career and progress without going down the usual leadership route and would look at workload.

Four single mothers won their case at the high court against the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions over the government’s universal credit scheme. The claim for judicial review was filed by the Child Poverty Action Group on behalf of the mothers last March. It said the rigidity of the system resulted in some people being treated as receiving two monthly wages in one assessment period which affects the amount of their Universal Credit award.

Meanwhile, the Court of Appeal ruled that staff who work in-store at Asda who are mainly women can compare their job with the jobs of their colleagues working in the company’s distribution centres who are mainly men. The ruling was the first stage in a three-stage equal pay claim.

Workingdads.co.uk launched.

Amber Rudd, Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, announced that she would scrap plans to extend a child benefits cap to around 15,000 parents who have more than two children among other changes to Universal Credit.

Women are significantly more likely than men to think their contribution in the workplace is undervalued, resulting in reduced motivation to progress, according to a report by the Women’s Sat Nav to Success.

The gender pension gap is higher in England than other nations of the UK, according to analysis by the trade union Prospect which shows that within English regions, the gender pension gap is highest in the South-West and lowest in the East Midlands.

Ninety-three per cent of firms say they are taking action to reduce their gender pay gap, according to the latest CBI/Pertemps Network Group Employment Trends survey. The most common actions taken include improving gender diversity at all levels of the business [50% say they are doing this] and introducing or improving data collecting and monitoring to understand barriers and monitor progress [40% say they are doing this].

February

Gender pay transparency does help to close gender pay gaps, according to the first academic study to look systematically at the subject.

Working parents in the UK are penalised for working part time and suffer from poorly-designed jobs that force them to work extra hours, according to a new study from Working Families and Bright Horizons.

More than 600 people a day have quit their jobs in the last two years to care for a loved one who is older, disabled or seriously ill, according to a report by Carers UK.

Universal Credit needs an overhaul as figures show many families are struggling to pay housing costs and risk eviction, according to a report by Citizens Advice.

Penny Mordaunt, Minister for Women and Equalities launches a £500,000 fund to help start up innovative programmes in England to help marginalised women return to work.

Glasgow City Council approves an historic equal pay deal costing at least £500 million. The equal pay case involves around 14,000 equal pay claims and has been going on for over 10 years. Glasgow council introduced a new pay and grading scheme in 2006, which aimed to put an end to pay inequality based on gender. However, it included protections lasting three years for bonuses paid to men.

The Government publishes practical guidance to help employers identify the potential causes of gender pay gaps in their organisation and develop an effective action plan to tackle them.

South Ayrshire Council becomes the first local government in Europe to offer additional leave provision to employees who are victims of domestic abuse.

Everyday examples of unintentionally gender-biased behaviour in workplace culture are stalling women’s careers, according to a study by Murray Edwards College, University of Cambridge, which found that gender double standards are perpetuated by both men and women. Almost three in four (74%) female employees believe their workplace culture makes it more challenging for women to advance their careers than men. Just 42% of men agree, highlighting a big perception gap.

Two thirds of fathers of premature and sick babies says they have felt under pressure to return to work while their child was still receiving neonatal care, according to a survey by the charity Bliss and Radio 5 Live Investigates.

Sixty per cent of UK industries exhibit significant bias towards men in the wording used in their job ads, according to a study by jobs site Adzuna.co.uk.

Nearly three quarters of disabled workers in the UK say they have stopped working due to a disability or health condition, according to research from disability charity Leonard Cheshire.

Labour announce plans to introduce legislation for a day one right to flexible working with a “presumption in favour of flexible working” in order to normalise flexible working.I t says it would also provide new statutory guidance making it more difficult for employers to reject requests. Instead, they would have to prove roles were unsuitable for flexible working.

The birth of a child has drastic short-term effects on new mothers’ sleep and the impact of sleep deprivation is felt for up to six years after birth for both parents, according to a study from the University of Warwick.

Childcare costs have risen by 3 per cent in the last year, meaning parents now pay an average of £127 per week, or over £6,600 per year, for just a part-time nursery place, according to research from Coram Family and Childcare.

March

Fifteen companies sign a commitment to work towards mandatory ethnicity pay gap reporting and encourage other businesses to do so as well. They include the Bank of England, Deloitte, KPMG, WPP, Santander and EY.

The Government announces a tightening up of rules around non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) and confidentiality clauses.

Equality and diversity in the workplace drives innovation, business growth and success, according to a report by global strategy and consultancy firm Accenture. It highlights the importance of getting more women into senior roles and of providing flexible working and adequate paternity policies.

Employers who don’t publish action plans for how they will close the gender pay gap should face consequences, according to the Chartered Management Institute (CMI).

The Equality and Human Rights Commission announces that it is to open an investigation into complaints that female employees at the BBC have not been paid equally for work of equal value.

Chancellor Phillip Hammond announces a review of low pay in a Spring Statement overhung by a “cloud of Brexit uncertainty” with little on offer for childcare or working families reliant on tax credits.

The Investment Association  and the Hampton-Alexander Review write to 69 companies in the FTSE 350 with no women or just one woman on their board asking them to detail their action plans on making progress in gender diversity.

Nearly half of women [45%] who have taken a career break say that it has damaged their career, with 42% saying they are earning less, often a lot less, as a result, according to a survey by TechPixies.

Women are twice as likely as men to have caring responsibilities in the later part of their working lives and much more likely to drop out of work due to informal caring roles, according to a report from the Office for National Statistics.

The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development warns employers that they need to contextualise their gender pay gap figures given that many may face rising pay gaps.

Less than 20 per cent of employers in the Times Top 100 Graduate Employers list publish details of their parental leave policies, according to a report by the Executive Coaching Company.

Three out of five working women between the ages of 45 and 55 who are experiencing menopause symptoms say it has a negative impact on them at work, according to research from the Chartered Institute for Personnel and Development [CIPD]

Over 200,000 nurses have left the NHS since 2010/11, with voluntary resignations going up by 55% and many of those leaving citing work-life balance issues, according to analysis by Labour.

Seventy per cent of poor children now live in working families, according to figures based on statistics released by the Government on household income in 2017-2018

Just under three quarters of childcare settings ask for additional charges from parents, according to a Department for Education report. It says the most common types of charges were for unarranged late pick-ups (44 percent), one-off activities (41 percent) and meals (30 percent). Less common were charges for regular activities (14 percent), snacks (12 percent), consumables (10 percent) and registration or other administration (8 percent).

The NHS has introduced new rules on shared parental leave which enhance pay and mean junior doctors on rotation are now eligible for the leave. The changes will give parents entitlement to six weeks’ leave on full pay including the statutory pay entitlement and 18 weeks on half pay plus the statutory pay entitlement.

Graduates face a growing gender pay gap, according to figures from the Department for Education. They show the gender gap in earnings five years after graduation has increased over time compared with previous tax years. In the 2014/15 tax year male earnings were 12% higher, in 2015/16 the earnings were 14% higher, and in 2016/17 they were 15% higher.

Almost two thirds of childcare providers have increased fees in the last year – and two in five plan to do so in the next year, according to an Early Years Alliance survey.

April

The National Living Wage – the lowest rate employers can pay – rises by 4.9% for over 25 year olds with the rate for under 25s on the National Minimum Wage rising by between 3.6% and 4.3%.

The formal flexible working process needs to be simplified and managers need support on how to scale workloads effectively, according to a report from the Government Equalities Office.

Only eight per cent of organisations have acted as a result of publishing their gender pay gap data, according to an analysis of last year’s figures published by the Chartered Institute for Personnel and Development.

Drinks maker Diageo announces plans to offer all new parents in the UK six months of fully paid leave, regardless of gender, sexual orientation or whether they become parents biologically, via surrogacy or adopt.

Britain’s gender pay gap has remained almost unchanged since last year and many employers have ‘wasted’ the opportunity to tackle the problem by leaving reporting till the last minute, according to expert analysis by XpertHR.

Shared Parental Leave needs a complete overhaul and for it to be extended to all parents, regardless of employment status, according to the TUC. The TUC says  parents who are agency workers, on zero-hours contracts and those in self employment are currently excluded from SPL and it should be extended to them.

Around 1.75m of the lowest paid workers – most of them women – could be missing out on around £60m per year in pension tax relief, according to the Royal London.

Women are less likely to query their pay slips, according to Government research launched as legislation comes into effect to make it compulsory for all workers to receive a payslip.

Nearly two-fifths of UK businesses have seen an increase in stress-related absence over the last year, with heavy workloads and poor management style to blame, according to the annual Health and Well-Being at Work Survey Report from the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development and Simplyhealth.

The Bar Council comes out strongly in favour of extending redundancy protection for pregnant women and new parents to the period after return to work in its response to government consultation on extending redundancy protection.

The Government should review its response to a report detailing the problems parents face with Universal Credit when they are moving into work, according to the Department for Work and Pensions Select Committee.

Nearly one million women need to be recruited into the UK tech sector so that it can reach gender parity and Brexit makes the need for action even more urgent, according to a report by the Inclusive Tech Alliance.

Legal & General Investment Management voted against more than 100 chairmen last year for failing to boost the number of women in their boardrooms.

Supermarket group Asda is accused of trying to disguise a pay cut for thousands of its workers by imposing voluntary flexible contracts on all staff.

MEPs approve minimum rights for gig workers. The law, already agreed with EU ministers, grants a set of minimum rights for those in casual or short-term employment, on-demand workers, intermittent workers, voucher-based workers, platform workers, as well as paid trainees and apprentices if they work a minimum of three hours per week and 12 hours per four weeks on average.

Universal Credit disproportionately reduces incomes among poorer adults, with the poorest losing most from it, according to a report by the Institute for Fiscal Studies.

Households in the UK where the woman is the sole earner are significantly poorer than those where the man is the only breadwinner, bucking the trend in western Europe, according to research.

Young graduate, postgraduate and non-graduate men each earned an average of £3,500 more in 2018 than young females of the same qualification group, according to figures released in the Graduate Labour Market Statistics 2018 report by the Department for Education. They show that men across all qualification groups had higher median salaries than their female counterparts and that women with postgraduate degrees earned £1,500 less on average than men with undergraduate degrees. The DfE says the gaps, to some extent, reflect differences in working patterns between the two genders.

The Department for Education (DfE) announces a £30,000 grant to help encourage more men to consider careers in the early years sector.

The number of disability discrimination claims at Employment Tribunals rose by 37% last year, with speculation that this is due to more cases being taken out related to mental health, according to an analysis by law firm Fox & Partners.



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