Concerns over the way employers have to report gender pay gap
Gender pay gap reporting is “flawed in principle” and must be altered to simplify the process for employers to generate clearer results and avoid gaming of the system, a report has suggested.
The Royal Statistical Society (RSS) has made 10 recommendations to improve pay gap reporting, reduce ambiguities and make it easier to assess employers’ progress.
Numerous organisations entered their pay gap data incorrectly in 2017/18, according to the report and it has been suggested that an online calculator tool should be made available to businesses with inbuilt ‘sanity checks’ to “prevent the submission of anomalous and incorrect data”.
In the first round of reporting, one employer stated it had a gender pay gap of 121 per cent, the report noted, which would have meant the median female employee earning negative £0.21 for every £1 earned by her median male counterpart. The RSS has also called for gender pay data to be submitted in pounds and pence, as using percentages leaves too much room for confusion.
Currently, there are four statistical methods for calculating the percentage difference in pay gaps and despite the Government recommending one option, evidence suggests some organisations calculate their result using others, which creates inconsistent data.
Employers’ records also should be published side by side rather than on a standalone basis, for transparency and comparability.
Online activity hampers productivity and makes us depressed
A new, nationwide study has revealed over a quarter of Britons feel their phone or social media addiction is actively stopping them living life to the full, with as many as 83% saying they would love to be able to dispense with their mobile devices.
According to the study, 77% of us now spend at least three hours online every day, with one in ten spending as much as ten hours a day online.
The effect of this is that employees admit to their online activity causing them to be less productive at work and to cause them to feel depressed or unfulfilled. Employers are increasingly having to monitor online usage at work and create robust policies to deal with productivity concerns, caused by employees using mobile devices at work and engaging in online activity during working hours.
Businesses suffer from cash flow problems
According to new research, almost 1 in 7 UK small business owners have been left unable to pay employees – which means that 2.2 million people in the UK may not have been paid on time because their employer had cash-flow issues. The research found that 57% of UK small business owners have experienced problems with their cash flow and over a third of those have been left unable to pay debts.
The research also identified that UK small business owners lose £26,000 a year on average by being forced to turn down work, specifically due to issues created by insufficient cash flow.
Cash flow issues can be caused by late payments from clients and customers, a decline in sales or a lack of financial management. Problems with cash flow can ultimately seriously endanger a small business’ capacity to continue operating, resulting in management being unable to pay staff and suppliers.
The Government has committed to the introduction of payment practice reporting, which will require large companies to review and report on how they’re paying their suppliers in their annual accounts.
Concern for small businesses over the effect of pensions auto-enrolment changes
Changes to auto-enrolment pensions will have a “substantial” effect on small businesses, the Federation for Small Businesses (FSB) has warned, after minimum contributions for employers rose from 1% to 3% in early April. This increase in minimum contributions is likely to have both financial and capacity implications for smaller employers.
Pensions auto-enrolment has caused a dramatic increase in the number of workers participating in workplace pensions. The costs involved for small employers are substantial. On 6 April, minimum contributions to auto-enrolment pensions increased to 8% of wages, up from 5%. Of this, employers will now be required to contribute 3%, up from 1%.
Research shows that the introduction of auto-enrolment has meant seven in 10 of UK workers employed by small businesses were now on workplace pensions. The Government Minister for pensions has said that automatic enrolment has been an “extraordinary success, transforming pension saving and improving the retirement prospects of more than 10 million workers”.
In real terms, it is thought that the increase in minimum contributions means an employer will now contribute £55 a month to the average UK employee’s pension pot, up from £37.
The average employee can now expect to see £30 of their wages go towards their pension each month and see their total pension savings increase by an estimated £55,000.
£300,000 Christmas Party compensation case dismissed
A charity worker has lost a £300,000 compensation claim she filed for back injuries she sustained after she was lifted up and subsequently dropped at a workplace Christmas party.
The High Court ruled a payout in such circumstances could be seen as “health and safety gone mad” and could discourage employers from planning events for their staff. The employee in this case sued her employer – a charity – after suffering “devastating” back injuries she claims were sustained after she was “manhandled” at the Christmas party. She claimed that her employer was responsible for the behaviour of the employer who lifted her on the dance floor, who was intoxicated at the party. The employee’s lawyer said that the behaviour of the colleague “gave rise to a duty on the part of the employer to intervene”.
The tribunal heard that the employee was on the dance floor when her colleague attempted to lift her off the ground. In doing so, he lost his balance and dropped her, resulting in her sustaining a serious back injury. The employee was unable to return to work because of her injury in the six months following the incident.
The court ruled that she had no grounds to claim against her employer on the basis of negligence or vicarious liability because the accident was not reasonably foreseeable.
Non-disclosure agreements make the headlines in 2019
Non-disclosure agreements (NDAs), when used correctly can protect commercially sensitive or confidential information. But in the last couple of years their use has been criticised and condemned, not least for their use to cover up sexual harassment.
It was widely reported that Harvey Weinstein deployed NDAs to keep alleged victims quiet. The issue of NDAs made the headlines again last October when Sir Philip Green was named as the leading businessman accused by a newspaper of sexual and racial harassment. The Court of Appeal had issued an injunction preventing publication of Sir Phillip’s name in circumstances where the five staff members involved had signed NDAs contained in settlement agreements.
The UK Government has now published a consultation on measures to prevent misuse of confidentiality clauses in situations of workplace harassment or discrimination. The purpose of the consultation is to examine:
The proposals include a requirement for the written statement of particulars of employment to include a clear description of the limits of any confidentiality clause it may contain; and for a settlement agreement to be valid, the independent advice a worker receives, would have to cover the nature and limitations of any confidentiality clause and the disclosures a worker is still able to make.
A travel agency manager has been awarded over £84,000 after an employment tribunal found he had been subject to race discrimination and victimisation by his former employer.
The employee had been called a “black monkey” in the officein front of the general manager’s son and an accounts assistant.
The employee formally complained in an email but was accused of having fabricated the allegation, “knowing that his employment was precarious because of his poor performance”. However, the tribunal found this “inherently unlikely” as warnings were never documented or referred to.The tribunal also questioned the seriousness of the performance issues as there was no evidence that these had been discussed with any employee or manager during the employment period.
The tribunal said that the employer’s response to the email was “unduly hostile, harsh and bound to antagonise the employee”, and said no reasonable manager would have responded in this way.
The employee took time off work due to stress and anxiety and on his return was invited to a meeting, during which he received a letter of dismissal stating that he had not grown into the role, the job was not right for him and he was being terminated with immediate effect.
The employee brought claims of race discrimination and automatic unfair dismissal to the employment tribunal which unanimously ruled that he had suffered race discrimination and victimisation by his ex-employer awarding him £84,358in compensation for injury to feelings, personal injury, loss of wages, expenses and aggravated damages.
The case confirms that employees who raise complaints relating to discrimination on the grounds of their race or any other protected characteristic should not be subjected to a detriment or dismissed because they have raised the complaint.
Do you support staff with cancer?
Many cancer patients are either not receiving the support they need to return to work, feel forced to hide their symptoms or are being pressured into returning to work before they are ready, according to Macmillan Cancer Support in a recent survey of workers with cancer diagnoses. Apparently, one in 10 staff felt pressured into returning to work before they were ready.
Of the 1,500 workers surveyed by the charity, more than a quarter received no support to help them back to work after their diagnosis, and of those who did return to work, 23% did not feel well enough to be there.
The survey found that the vast majority felt it was important to continue working after their diagnosis, but one in 10 reported feeling the need to cover up their symptoms, like fatigue and sickness, at work.
Employers have a vital role to play in helping employees remain in or return to work after their diagnosis and need to understand their legal obligations to employees with cancer under the Equality Act, that they consider what reasonable adjustments their employees may need to stay in work, and that they have appropriate policies and processes in place.
Macmillan estimates someone in the UK is diagnosed with cancer every two minutes, with around 2.5 million people in the UK currently experiencing the disease. Many will have to hold down a job while they undergo treatment.
Increase in the number of Data Subject Access Requests in the last year.
The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) has been in force for almost a year, and what has become apparent is that it is an ongoing obligation requiring regular compliance. Part of that activity has involved managing requests for access topersonal data using data subject access requests (DSAR). Subject access requests regularly arise in the context of a dispute with a disgruntled employee or ex-employee, who will often be only too keen to report the matter to the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) if they feel their request has been mishandled.
When an organisation receives a DSAR from a member of staff, ex-employee, or unsuccessful job applicant, it must respond within a month and cannot usually charge a fee for doing so. There are a number of exemptions, but the presumption is generally that the individual should be provided with the personal data that he or she has requested.
Personal data includes statements of opinion or of intent about the data subject, which in the context of an employment relationship, could include unflattering comments made, for example, in interview notes, emails and minutes of meetings. It is a criminal offence to deliberately destroy personal data to thwart a DSAR.
The widespread publicity surrounding the GDPR means that people are more aware of their rights, are more likely to exercise them, and they are more likely to complain to the ICO if their request is not properly dealt with.
Businesses, public authorities and charities must have robust, effective policies and processes in place for dealing with data subjects’ requests and they should ensure that their staff are trained to recognise and manage requests.
As Easter approaches are your staff looking for “statutory holidays” or double time?
There is no statutory right to time off on a bank holiday. All workers must receive 5.6 weeks’ paid annual leave each year, but it is up to an employer for when they are allowed to take those days off. It is important that employers are fair to staff when holidays are requested as there is a risk that some workers’ requests for annual leave may be treated more favourably than others.
Employers may reward staff for working on bank holidays by paying them extra, but there is no rule that they should. Many businesses offer extra pay for bank holidays as an incentive to encourage staff to work those days.
If an organisation closes over Easter, employers can force workers to use annual leave while the organisation is shut. However, to do this, staff must be given twice as much notice as the time period that they are asked to take off work.
So, to close for one week of holiday, employers would need to give two weeks’ notice.
Contracts and policies should cover: