Fri 29 Nov 2019

Employment law in the news - December 2019

In our regular slot we look at the key cases and other employment law issues that have made the news headlines over the past few weeks.

The Big News

In a month that "celebrated" unequal pay day (14th November being the day that women start working for free based on the gender pay gap) it seemed sadly appropriate that the news was overwhelmed with reports of how little seemed to be changing for women when it comes to pay, the gender pay gap, and getting a seat at the top table.  The inequality wasn't just limited to women either, with disability pay gap meaning the average disabled worker also effectively works for free for the last two months of the year.

The Office for National Statistics released provisional data showing that improvements to the gender pay gap have stalled with the gap for full time workers rising by 0.3% to 8.9%.  The gap is worse for older women with those aged 50 or over having a difference of over 15%.  In terms of cold hard cash women are being paid over a quarter of million less than men during their careers.  According to the Bank of England's chief economist if inroads are to be made into pay inequality, companies employing more than 30 people (rather than the current 250) need to be reporting their gender pay gap.

Progression of women in the workplace is, of course, inextricably linked with the gender pay gap and the news for those at the very top of the tree is not good - in order for FTSE 100 companies to hit the gender target half of all new chief executives appointed in the next year need to be women

The Good News

There has been some good news on the pay front though this month for those who receive the voluntary living wage.  The voluntary living wage (as distinct from the statutory National Living Wage) increased to £9.30 per hour or £10.75 per hour for those based in London.  There are now over 6,000 accredited employers paying this rate.

Also good news if you are in the Australian women's football team - they have managed to negotiate a pay deal which will see top men and women players being on the same pay scale.

Just in time for the festive period, a German court has held that hangovers are an illness.  Although the judgement was not given in the context of an employment issue it may still start a number of discussions about appropriate use of sick leave…. … discussions which, according to a survey commissioned by the BBC, many British workers probably need to have - the research showed that 40% of adults would fake a sick day if they needed a day off.

And the rest….

Fancy being interviewed by AI?  Unilever has claimed it is saving hundreds of thousands of pounds a year by using AI systems to analyse video interviews.  No more worries about finding positive answers to questions about what your biggest failure has been - it's all done on scans of facial expressions, body language and word choice.  But it seems even this approach doesn't make it a level playing field with a report commissioned by the UK Government's Centre for Data Ethics and Innovation warning of "unfair discrimination" by data analytics and algorithms in policing.

A bad week for the ex-CEO of McDonald's - Steve Easterbrook left the company following a relationship with an employee.  The alleged affair, which Easterbrook acknowledged was a mistake, breaches McDonald's policy forbidding managers from having romantic relationships with direct or indirect employees.  However, his severance package is rumoured to be in the region of $750,000, so it's not all bad news… 

And finally, how often do you hear colleagues swearing?  A recent report says the average worker hears 11 swear words a day from colleagues.  No detail on what causes the cursing, but my bet is malfunctioning IT will be involved…..

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