Keeping Children Safe In Education updated
The government has published the 2023 version of
Keeping Children Safe in Education. It will come into force on 1 September 2023. In relation to employment, the guidance clarifies that it is ‘good practice’ to inform shortlisted candidates that online searches will be carried out during recruitment (paragraph 221). In relation to safeguarding concerns, a new paragraph (377) has been added to clarify what schools and colleges should do is they hear of an incident that happened about a staff member, volunteer or contractor, on its premises.
Update on new legislation to extend the flexible working framework
Employment Relations (Flexible Working) Act 2023 has completed its passage through Parliament and now awaits Royal Assent. The government will have to introduce separate Regulations to bring it into force and our best guess is that this will take place in 2024.
Once in force:
Employees will be able to make two flexible working requests in any 12 month period.
Employers will have to deal with requests within two months of receipt (but the parties will be able to agree to extend this)
Employers will be under a duty to consult with the employee before rejecting a request
Employees won’t have to explain what effect they think their request will have on their employer and suggest ways to deal with this.
Law restricting who can strike passed
In July, the Strikes (Minimum Services Levels) Act came into force. It amends the Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992 to provide for minimum services levels during authorised strikes in six key areas including education.
The provisions will not apply until the government issues further regulations (which it will need to consult on first). It has said that it will
focus on minimum service levels for passenger rail services, ambulance services and the fire and rescue services. This means that the new rules won’t impact on the education sector for a while.
Over half of women face maternity discrimination
More than half of all mothers have faced some form of discrimination while pregnant, on maternity leave or on their return to work, according to
research carried out by campaign group Pregnant Then Screwed.
The group surveyed more than 24,000 parents, revealing that:
19% had left their employer due to a negative experience related to their maternity
74% of women had received comments that their performance had dipped due to pregnancy or maternity leave
64% of pregnant women said their boss or colleagues had made hurtful comments about the way they looked
10% said they were bullied or harassed when pregnant or returning to work
7% were made redundant or forced to leave due to a flexible working request being declined or health and safety issues.
Nurseries warn that they can’t deliver expanded free childcare
In the Spring Budget, the Chancellor announced that it free childcare scheme (currently available to working parents of children aged between three and four) would be expanded over the next couple of years as follows:
From April 2024, eligible working parents will get 15 hours of free childcare for two-year-olds
From September 2024, eligible working parents will get 15 hours of free childcare for children aged 9 months to 3 years
From September 2025, eligible working parents will get 30 hours of free childcare for children aged 9 months to 3 years
However, according to a recent
survey published in the Observer, the majority of childcare providers in England won’t be able increase the number of funded spaces available because of costs, staff levels and/or the space they have available. The reality for many providers is that they use the fees paid for looking after younger children to subsidise the ‘free’ placements for three and four year olds.
Parliament considers need for legislation to combat bullying at work
In July, the first reading of the
Bullying and respect at work Bill was debated in parliament. The Private Members Bill aims to provide a statutory definition of bullying at work (which does not just focus on protected characteristics) and establish mechanisms for reporting and investigating incidents. It also wants to promote positive behaviours through a Respect at Work code.
The Bill doesn’t have the support of the government is unlikely to proceed to a second reading.
Eight organisations ‘named and shamed’ for failing to report on their gender pay gaps
The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) has released the names of eight organisations which have missed deadlines to report on their 2022 – 2023 gender pay gap data. That’s an improvement on the previous years’ numbers which named 28 organisations. In April and May 2023, EHRC sent warning notices to 730 organisations that have missed reporting deadlines, and most have reported.
EHRC can send warning notices threatening formal enforcement action and if organisations fail to comply, the EHRC can seek a court order and impose an unlimited fine.
Government confirms that it won’t require organisations to report on their ethnicity pay gaps
The government has recently published its formal response to its consultation on ethnicity pay reporting, which confirms what we already knew: it will not compel employers to provide this information.
Earlier this year it published guidance to help employers adopt a consistent methodology and approach if they want to volunteer this information. To access the guidance and read our thoughts on it, please click here.
Trade union membership down 20%
The annual report into trade unions reveals that trade union membership decreased by 19% between 2021 and 2022 to 5.4 million.
The total assets of trade unions decreased by 11.5% over the same period – from £2.6 billion to £2.3 billion.
New government call for evidence on working time and flexible working
The Department for Business and Trade has issued a call for evidence to find out how employers deal with requests to work flexibly outside of the statutory scheme. It is interested in regular arrangements as well as those which are occasional, time limited and irregular. It wants this information to ‘improve its evidence base’ and help to inform it’s future flexible working strategy.
Labour party considering a right for workers to switch off
The Labour party is considering a proposal to introduce a ‘right to disconnect’ (a so-called right to switch off) if it wins the next general election. It follows an increasing trend since 2017, especially across Europe, of introducing restrictions on employers contacting workers outside normal working hours or protecting employees who choose not to engage with their bosses during such hours.
The proposal forms part of Labour’s ‘New Deal for Working People’ and is currently being considered by the party’s national policy forum this summer ahead of preparations for its next manifesto.
Read more – August 2023
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