Fri 19 Apr 2024

Spring Equality News Round Up

We cover recent equality related news that you may have missed.

Sexism in the City inquiry

The House of Commons Treasury Select Committee launched the "Sexism in the City" inquiry in July 2023. The inquiry sought to examine the barriers faced by women in financial services and the progress made in removing gender pay gaps. A report setting out the findings of the inquiry was published in March 2024 that, while noting some improvements in tackling sexism in financial services, expressed disappointment with the rate of progress.  Findings included that the proportion of women holding senior roles in financial services firms had only had incremental increases, with some sector seeing no improvement at all.  There has only been a small reduction in the average gender pay gap, and there was a "shocking prevalence of sexual harassment and bullying" and that "firms handle allegations of these behaviours poorly". This includes inappropriate use of non-disclosure agreements ("NDA's") and poor internal whistleblowing procedures.  HR teams were criticised for prioritising the reputation of the business over employee wellbeing. Efforts to tackle sexism in the city were "moving at snail's pace".

The report made a number of recommendations including legislation to ban the use of NDAs in sexual harassment cases; stronger protections for whistleblowers in sexual harassment cases; and that regulators should drop costly plans for extensive diversity data reporting and instead focus efforts on ensuring greater responsibility is taken for improving diversity at board and senior management level.  To tackle the gender pay gap, the report recommends banning questions on salary history at recruitment and including salary bands in job adverts; reducing the threshold for pay gap reporting to businesses with 50 or more employees; and a requirement for businesses to explain pay disparities and publish action plans.

The FCA published a statement in response to the report which, amongst other things, indicated it will prioritise proposals that will tighten expectations on how firms tacking bullying and sexual harassment.  It also indicated it would consider the recommendations on whistleblowing and the use of NDA's.  It rejected the recommendation to drop the plans for diversity data reporting but will consider how it engages with businesses on their firms' cultures and encourage adoption of family-friendly policies.

Multiple new family friendly rights take effect

April 2024 has seen significant new and amended rights take effect.  These include the introduction of Carer's leave - a flexible entitlement to one week's unpaid leave for employees providing or arranging care for a dependent with a long term care need - and changes to the right to request flexible working.  From 6 April the right to request becomes a day 1 right and there are a number of changes to the statutory request procedure that should make it more straight forward and quicker to make a request.  Protection from redundancy for pregnant women and new parents has been extended to include pregnancy (from the date the employer is advised the employee is pregnant) to a date 18 months after a child is born or placed for adoption.  A similar extension applies to shared parental subject to a minimum period of 6 weeks leave being taken.  Paternity leave has also been altered to make it more flexible, reduce notice periods for taking the leave and extending the period within in which the leave may be used to 52 weeks following birth or placement for adoption.  For more detail on this see April 2024 employment law changes.

New guidance published covering new family friendly rights.

The following new or updated guidance has been published to support employers implementing the new and amended rights referred to above: -

Updated guidance for managers on employing disabled people published.

The UK Government has published an updated version of its practical guide for line managers on Recruiting, managing and developing people with a disability or health condition.  The updated guide has been developed by  Disability Confident and the CIPD. The aim of the guide is to help managers support disabled employees. It covers topics that arise during the whole employment life cycle from recruitment to leaving the business. Guidance is also provided on supporting specific disabilities and long-term health conditions such as long Covid and neurodiversity. 

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