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News in Brief – June 2019

Court of Appeal rules employers can enhance maternity pay without increasing shared parental pay

The Court of Appeal has handed down its judgment in the cases of Ali v Capita and Hextall v Chief Constable of Leicestershire Police.

Organisations that enhance maternity pay don’t discriminate against men taking shared parental leave paid at lower or statutory rates.

Jenny Arrowsmith, an employment partner at Irwin Mitchell, acted for the successful employer in the case of Ali. She has shared her thoughts on the case.

Research indicates employers are failing to take pregnant workers' health seriously

Detailed research conducted by the Equality and Human Rights Commission into the experience of mothers at work has found that 41% of pregnant workers felt their work risked their health.

Mothers said their employers were less likely to tackle those risks they had identified. Almost two in five said it led to them taking maternity leave earlier than they wanted and more than a quarter took sick leave. Plus, one in five of these mothers said they left because the risks weren’t resolved - 4% of all mothers surveyed.

Chancellor hints National Living Wage could rise to £9.61 next year

It has been reported that the (current) Chancellor, Philip Hammond, is considering raising the National Living Wage to 66% of median earnings, the level at which the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development defines as low pay. 

If accepted, this increase would equate to a National Living Wage of £9.61 per hour – an increase of over a pound from the rate expected to come into force in April 2020 (around £8.60 an hour).

A rate of £9.61 per hour would be the world's highest minimum rate of pay according to the Guardian newspaper.

Plans to relax day release rules to improve ex-offender employment opportunities

The government has indicated that it will relax day release rules in an attempt to boost inmates’ chances of securing immediate employment on release.

The Ministry of Justice announced that inmates at open or women’s prisons would be eligible to do paid work on day release after they pass a risk assessment. Previously, this option was only available to inmates due to be released within 12 months.

The changes to the release on temporary licence (ROTL) scheme are part of government efforts to reduce reoffending rates, which are estimated to cost the UK £15bn a year.

Bill introduced to improve redundancy protection for pregnant women and those on maternity leave

On Monday 20 May 2019, Maria Miller MP, the Chair of the Women and Equalities Committee, introduced a 10-minute Rule Bill in the House of Commons to protect pregnant women and new mothers from redundancy. 

If passed, the Pregnancy and Maternity (Redundancy Protection) Bill 2019 will prohibit employers from making employees redundant during pregnancy, maternity leave and for six months after the end of maternity leave. An exception applies where the employer is closing down the business (or part of it) in which the pregnant woman or new mother is employed.

It will also apply to women who experience a stillbirth or miscarriage.

This Bill goes further than the government's proposals to enhance redundancy protection for pregnant women and new mothers. 

The Bill is said to have cross-party support and is inspired by the German model, where employers are unable to make a new or expectant mother redundant unless they have the permission of a specific public authority (this is only given in exceptional circumstances).

Survey finds 70% of LGBT people are sexually harassed at work

A TUC study into LGBT sexual harassment at work in the UK found that nearly seven in 10 lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans people have been sexually harassed at work. Two-thirds didn’t tell their employer about the harassment, and a quarter of those said they didn’t report it because they were afraid of being ‘outed’ at work.

The TUC is calling on the government to change the law to make employers directly responsible for preventing harassment, and introduce a statutory code of practice on sexual harassment and harassment at work, as well as stronger legislation to tackle third-party harassment.

Low Pay Commission reports that more people are being underpaid National Minimum Wage

In April, the Low Pay Commission published its second National Minimum Wage (NMW) non-compliance and enforcement report, which revealed that the number of people paid less than the statutory minimum wage in the UK increased in 2018.

It calls on the government to: 

  • Improve the way underpayments are measured to make it easier to assess the scale of noncompliance
  • Publicise information about the NMW to help workers understand what they should be paid
  • Find out why workers aren’t complaining and work with trade unions, Acas and other bodies to encourage them to do so
  • Improve guidance available to employers to help them understand the rules
  • Restart naming and shaming employers who don’t comply with the NMW.

New guidelines drawn up to help employers recruit and support refugees at work

The UN refugee agency (UNHCR) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM), in conjunction with the charity Business in the Community (BITC) and the UK government, have drawn up guidelines on how to help businesses recruit refugees.

The UNHCR estimates there are 120,000 refugees in the UK, all of whom have the right to work in the UK. It said studies suggest the unemployment rate among this part of the population is at 18% – three times that of the UK-born population.

According to the Guardian newspaper, Waitrose & Partners is offering work placements to resettled Syrian refugees in partnership with Business in the Community’s Ready for Work programme. It gives participants training to prepare for the workplace, followed by a two-week work placement and post-placement support. The furniture group Ikea has funded 122 refugees to receive employability support from the charity Breaking Barriers and, so far, 30 refugees have gained employment at stores across London.

Key Contact

Jo Moseley