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Do your Bunsen burner gauze mats contain asbestos?

On 30 August, the Health and Safety Executive said it had discovered that two UK companies had supplied schools with gauze mats containing asbestos. An HSE spokesperson said that the overall risk of exposure is low but supplies have been stopped. The HSE will contact those affected and advice them about how to safely dispose of the mats.

HSE Statement

The north-south divide in schools is real

Education think tank the Northern Powerhouse Partnership has suggested that children in the north of England have less chance of educational success than children in the south. Its findings show that children in the north are on the “back foot” and that investment is needed to address the divide.

Read more here: https://www.independent.co.uk/news/education/education-england-uk-north-south-divide-a8450136.html

Employers warn of skills shortages

The latest Employer Skills Survey (ESS) shows that employers are struggling to fill vacancies due to a lack of skills, qualifications and experience among applicants. The report also says that the skills employers found to be lacking among applicants ranged across both technical and practical skills, and people and personal skills.

View the survey findings

A-level results: Girls defy predictions and close gender gap

Girls have defied predictions that they would be hit by a cut in A-level coursework by closing the gap with boys at the top grades. This year 8.5 per cent of male entries and 7.6 per cent of female entries received an A* grade – which is slightly better than last year’s figures.

Learn more about this year’s results

Employers face further uncertainty about pay for sleep in shifts

The union Unison has lodged an appeal against the Court of Appeal's decision last month in Mencap v Tomlinson-Blake which decided that workers who are expected to sleep during their shifts are only "available for work" and are only entitled to receive the NMW if they are woken up to perform work. Unison say that it believes the "Court of Appeal got this decision wrong and they will do everything they can to reverse it". Technically, Unison are seeking leave to appeal to the Supreme Court. Once it clears that hurdle, a date will be set down to determine the issue.

Find out more about the background to this case

Is paid leave on the cards for carers?

The Government has set up a working group committed to exploring whether carers should be given up to five days statutory leave to help them cope with their caring responsibilities and remain in work. This announcement was made in response to recommendations contained in a report published by the Work and Pensions Committee. The Government has not indicated when the committee will meet or how long it will take to consider this – read the full report here.

Inquiry into the enforcement of the Equality Act

Legislation on workers' rights can be complex and difficult to understand, leading to challenges in enforcing individual rights through employment tribunals and courts. For these reasons the Women and Equalities Commons Select Committee has launched an inquiry into the enforcement of the Equality Act 2010. Previous recommendations made by the Committee include extending time limits to bring cases about pregnancy and maternity and sexual harassment; having adequate financial penalties; increasing the use by the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) of its enforcement powers; and regulators stepping up to tackle discrimination. The Committee is inviting views on a range of matters, which include:

  • How easy it is for people to understand and enforce their rights
  • How well enforcement action works to achieve widescale change
  • How effective and accessible tribunals and other legal means of redress under the Equality Act are, and what changes would improve the processes for seeking redress
  • Whether there are other models of enforcement, in the UK or other countries, which could be a more effective means of achieving widespread compliance with the Equality Act 2010, either overall or in specific sectors.

Written submissions are invited by Friday 5 October 2018 using the written submission form.

Proposals to close the gender pay gap

The House of Commons’ Business Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) has made recommendations to close the gender pay gap including:

  • Extending the duty to companies with 50 or more employees
  • Providing an explanation for pay disparity and setting out how the organisation plans to reduce this
  • Providing data in deciles rather than quartiles
  • Giving the Equalities and Human Rights Commission specific enforcement powers, to levy fines for non-compliance.

The Government has not yet responded to these recommendations – read the full report here.

T-levels: 60% of employers unprepared to offer work placements

Three-quarters of employers say they could not offer the minimum amount of work experience needed by pupils studying for the new T-level qualifications, according to a new report.

The survey, by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), found that 60% of employers have not heard of the new qualification, an alternative to A-levels and apprenticeships.

Read the full report

Key Contact

Helen Dyke