Mon 05 Aug 2019

New Legislation, Guidance & Consultations - August 2019

We look this month at consultations relating to the Gender Equality Roadmap, sexual harassment in the workplace, non-disclosure agreements and the Good Work plan.  

Gender equality roadmap  

The Gender Equality Roadmap was published - with considerable fanfare in the press and on social media - on 3 July.  The roadmap sets out the UK Government's plans to tackle persistent gender inequalities.  It was published alongside "The case for change" which explains how gender inequalities develop across an individual's lifetime and the Gender Equality Monitor which brings together a suite of metrics from across Government to monitor important gender equality issues in the UK.  

The roadmap sets out the new measures to be introduced by the UK Government in an attempt to meet the challenge of inequality.  It is focussed on the inequalities faced by women, highlighting the fact that compared to men, despite doing better in education, women are over three times more likely to work part-time, generally work in lower paying industries and occupations and have lower pension wealth.  Eight key issues are identified for action.  These are:-  

  • Tackling limiting attitudes to gender in schools

  • Women tend to work in lower paid sectors and occupations and are less likely to progress

  • The working age benefits system has not always tackled the disadvantages that women and those with caring responsibilities face

  • Women take more time out of the labour market to care for children

  • Women are providing more informal care and unpaid work for others

  • Helping people to return to work after taking time out for caring

  • Women are more likely to face financial instability later in life

  • The Government needs to ensure they have the right foundations for the future  

Proposals for tackling the issues include undertaking research, publishing tools and advice and a number of consultations as well as investment in childcare and returner schemes.  The gender pay gap reporting metrics are being reviewed to assess their effectiveness and an evaluation of the Shared Parental Leave and Pay schemes is also underway with the results being used to assess the effectiveness of both.    

A new voluntary Investing in Women Code is to be introduced with the aim of increasing transparency of funding of female entrepreneurs and exposing the gender gap in investment. In addition, work is to be done with the Money and Pensions Service to explore what works to improve women's financial outcomes. Enforcement of equal pay legislation will be reviewed to ensure it is working effectively, including consideration of mandatory equal pay audits. In addition, a taskforce is to be set up to consider further steps and take action to tackle the workplace culture that allows pregnancy and maternity discrimination to subsist.  Consultations are due to take place on:-  

  • Changes to gender pay gap reporting legislation following the outcome of the review of the reporting metrics

  • Increasing the transparency of organisations parental leave and pay policies and improving the availability of flexible working adverts

  • Dedicated employment rights for carers

  • Sexual harassment legislation to ensure it is fit for purpose, including looking at whether the 3 month time limit for tribunal claims should be extended  

An annual progress report is to be made to Parliament alongside annual reporting against the Gender Equality Monitor.  

Sexual harassment in the workplace  

The publication of the equality road map was quickly followed by the launch of the consultation on sexual harassment in the workplace.  The consultation considers re-introducing protection from third party harassment, extending protections to volunteers and interns, extending the 3 month time limit for making a sexual harassment claim to an employment tribunal and the possibility of a new legal duty on employers to prevent harassment, something that campaign groups have been calling for.  The consultation closes on 2 October.  

Non-disclosure agreements 

The UK Government published its response to the consultation on the use of Non Disclosure Agreements (NDAs) in situations of workplace harassment or discrimination on 21 July 2019.  The response also addresses a number of the recommendations proposed by the Women and Equalities Committee in their inquiry report into the use of NDAs in discrimination cases.  The responses identified a number of measures the UK Government intends to take to tackle misuse of NDAs including:-  

  • Legislating to ensure a confidentiality clause cannot prevent an individual disclosing to the police, regulated health and care professionals or legal professionals;

  • Legislating to ensure the limitations of a confidentiality clause are clear to those signing them;

  • Legislating to improve independent legal advice available to an individual when signing a settlement agreement;

  • Production of guidance on drafting requirements for confidentiality clauses; and

  • Introduction of new enforcement measures for confidentiality clauses that do not comply with legal requirements.  

The Good Work plan  

The UK Government has also published three separate consultations in one paper - Good Work Plan: Proposals to support families - all dealing with proposals to help working parents.  The first consultation on parental leave and pay is open until 29 November and aims to look at the costs and benefits of different options for reforming parental leave in order to achieve greater equality in parenting and at work.  The other two consultations are open until 11 October 2019.  The consultation on neonatal leave and pay looks at how new leave and pay entitlements can support parents of sick and premature babies.  The final consultation on transparency considers whether large employers should be required to publish their family-related leave and pay policies and how that could be done, and also whether employers should make clear when advertising a vacancy whether flexible working might be available and how that could be achieved.  

One sided flexibility, where the flexibility in a worker/employer relationship is beneficial only to the employer and detrimental to the worker, was identified in the Taylor Review.  On 19 July BEIS published a consultation to address this issue - Good Work Plan: Consultation on measures to address one-sided flexibility.  The consultation seeks views on providing a right to reasonable notice of working hours, providing workers with compensation for shifts cancelled without reasonable notice, and what guidance the Government can provide to support employers and encourage best practice to be shared across industries.  

The UK Government has also responded to the consultation on extending redundancy protection for women and new parents.

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