Tue 03 Nov 2020

November - what else is happening in employment law?

We look at what is happening in employment law away from the COVID-19 pandemic.

In August we reported that a UK wide restriction on public sector exit payments was imminent following draft regulations being published in July.  The Regulations have now been made and will come into force on 4 November 2020.  A cap is already in place in Scotland for exit payments made by devolved bodies.

A new campaign is being launched by the CBI alongside a number of high profile employers, to increase racial and ethnic participation in businesses.  The campaign - Change the Race Ratio - identifies four "Commitments to Change" that businesses will be asked to make.  These are to increase racial diversity among Board members, to increase diversity in senior leadership, to be transparent on their actions and to create an inclusive culture in which talent from all diversities can thrive.  The Commitments are based on findings of the Parker Report on ethnic diversity in business. Currently more than one third of FTSE 100 firms do not have ethnic minority representation at board level.

The need for the CBI campaign is all the more clear considering recent research from the CIPD finding that 24% of employers are not making any effort to attract and recruit more diverse candidates to top level jobs.  Barely half of companies asked had a formal diversity strategy and less than a quarter had policies that went beyond the legal minimum in terms of how people with protected characteristics are treated during recruitment and selection.

Mental Health for England have launched a campaign calling on employers to become actively anti-racist.  The My Whole Self campaign provides guidance on supporting the mental health and wellbeing of people of colour in the workplace.  

The UK's approach to gender pay gaps has been criticised as being "unique in its light touch".  Research by the Fawcett Society and Kings College London found other countries have much more robust systems.  Although the UK has high levels of compliance with pay gap reporting the lack of a requirement for employers to produce a plan to tackle the gap limits its effectiveness.  The report also calls for companies with fewer staff to be required to report (at present the requirement only applies to employers of 250 or more employees), and for the introduction of ethnicity pay gap reporting.  Employers were not required to report on the gender pay gap this year because of the impact of Covid-19.

Whilst the 2019/20 annual employment tribunal award statistics showed a drop in the number of tribunal claims made year on year, the statistics for the first quarter of the 2020/21 paint a different picture.  Although multiple claim receipts have reduced compared to the same quarter last year, single claims have increased by the highest level seen since 2012/13.  The Ministry of Justice believe this is due to the rising levels of unemployment and changes to working conditions that we have seen over recent months.

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