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20th December 2017

Employment and Diversity Review of 2017

Welcome to our employment and diversity review of 2017! It’s been a hectic year, so we’ve pulled together a month by month guide of all the developments you may have missed.

Brenda: "You're joking. Not another one?"

Picture Credit: BBC News 2017

Don’t worry Brenda, we’re skipping over the election and Brexit. These subjects would need a whole piece of their own.

However, there are a number of big developments that have occurred this year, bringing the role played by D&I to the top of the agenda:

January

  • Women Returners report

In January the Women and Work All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) launched their first report into Women Returners. The report aimed to tackle the problem of women “falling out” of the economy due to parenthood, disabilities and caring responsibilities.

One of the key recommendations of the APPG was a call to equalise Statutory Maternity and Shared Parental Leave Pay. Another was the suggestion that all workplaces with more than 250 employees should have a carers policy.

February

  • McGregor-Smith Report published

The McGregor-Smith report, Race in the workplace, was commissioned by former Business Secretary Sajid Javid in 2016. Conducted by now enei Patron Baroness Ruby McGregor-Smith, it found a 12 percentage point gap between white and BME employment. The report also identified that BME people are almost four percentage points more likely to be underemployed than white workers.

In its response, the Government rejected the headline recommendation that all organisations with more than 50 employees should publish workforce data by race and pay band. Instead they favoured the voluntary, business led approach of the Davies Review. Following the report we held a conference for employers who were Leading the Change on Race Equality in October.

March

  • Self Employed escape NI increase

In the March Budget Chancellor Philip Hammond announced that National Insurance contributions would be increased for self-employed people earning more than £16,250 per year. However, the Chancellor was soon forced into an embarrassing U-turn as Conservative backbenchers refused to back the policy. They argued that the increase went against the spirit of a manifesto commitment not to increase VAT, Income Tax or National Insurance.

  • High Heels and Workplace Dress Codes inquiry

Nicola Thorp (now better known as Nicola Rubenstein in Coronation Street) launched her petition to make it illegal for a company to require women to wear high heels at work in May 2016. The joint report from the Petitions Committee and Women and Equalities Committee was published in March 2017.

The inquiry found that discriminatory dress codes were widespread. It called on the Government to strengthen the Equality Act 2010 around dress codes. In its response the Government said that the current legal provisions were sufficient. They also announced that they would publish guidance on dress codes in the summer to raise awareness of the act’s provisions.

This guidance has not been published as of December 2017.

April

  • Being Disabled in Britain Report

The "Being Disabled in Britain: a journey less equal" report was published by the EHRC and found that less than half of disabled adults in Britain were in employment. This compares to 80% of non-disabled people. The report also found the disability pay gap has increased and disabled young people were at least twice as likely to be NEET as their non-disabled peers.

  • Apprenticeship Levy launch

The Apprenticeship Levy is designed to increase incentives for employers to offer apprenticeship schemes. It works by charging employers with a wage bill of over £3 million a 0.5% levy on their wage bill. However, it was reported in November that as many as 42% of eligible employers are yet to sign up for a levy account for their own apprenticeship schemes.

  • Snapshot date for Gender Pay Gap Reporting

5 April was the first ‘snapshot date’ for Gender Pay Gap Reporting. This is the date from which private and voluntary organisations need to draw their figures and base their gender pay gap calculations on. As of December 2017 only 417 of the potential 9,000 reporting employers have published their gender pay gap data (GPG) on the official Government GPG website. Members can download our Gender Pay Gap infographic here.

May

  • Employment Tribunal judgements move online

In May the Government’s online Employment Tribunal decisions database was launched. The database provides copies of all tribunal decision documents for public viewing.

June

  • Social Mobility Benchmark

The Social Mobility Foundation and the Social Mobility Commission announced the top 50 UK employers for social mobility. The 50 strong index was published following the world’s first social mobility benchmarking exercise and was the subject of Social Mobility Foundation Chief Executive David Johnston's speech at our annual conference, Social Inclusion ... Why Bother?.

In December all four commissioners at the Social Mobility Commission walked out in protest over the Government’s lack of progress towards a “fairer Britain”.

July

  • Tribunal fees outlawed

The Supreme Court surprised everyone in July when it ruled that Employment Tribunal fees were illegal. The fees contributed to a 79% drop in the number of cases being brought and prevented workers accessing justice.

November saw the launch of a full refund scheme. The Lord Chancellor David Lidington has since confirmed that the Ministry of Justice intends to resurrect the fees in the future.

  • Gender Recognition Act Consultation

The Government announced proposals to streamline and de-medicalise the process for legally changing one’s gender as part of a wider consultation on the Gender Recognition Act. However, Trans sections of the Equality Act 2010 are not under the scope of the review. This is despite recommendations made in 2016’s Transgender Equality report by the Women and Equalities Committee.

  • Taylor Review

Driving Matthew Taylor’s review into modern working practices was rising self-employment and the emergence of the gig economy. The review identified the challenges of:

  • tackling exploitation and the potential for exploitation at work;
  • increasing clarity in the law and helping people know their rights; and
  • aligning the labour market in the longer term with broader industrial strategy.

The Review argues that zero hours contracts shouldn't be banned, but recommends that a workers hours should be guaranteed following twelve months of service. It also suggests that the "worker" employment status should be retained, but that it should be renamed "Dependent Contractor" and for the current requirement for someone to perform work personally to be removed.

August

  • Burden of Proof shifts (temporarily)

In a decision largely unreported outside the legal world, the Employment Appeal Tribunal in the case of Efobi V Royal Mail Group found that there was no requirement for the claimant to prove discrimination in the first stage of the claim.

However, in November the Court of Appeal ruled in Ayodele v Citylink that the claimant in a discrimination case must prove the facts on which an inference of discrimination can be made before that burden moves to the respondent. This judgment re-established the conventional legal position.

September

  • PwC publishes Race Pay Gap

In September PwC voluntarily published its Race Pay Gap, calculated using the same methodology as the Gender Pay Gap. PwC found that BAME staff were paid almost 13% less than white staff. The firm stated that the pay gap is driven by the fact that there are more non-BAME staff in senior roles and more BAME staff in junior roles, but that equivalent roles are paid equally.

October

  • Race Disparity Audit

Theresa May announced the Government’s Race Disparity Audit when she became Prime Minister. The audit, which provided only bare statistics without analysis, identified wide disparities between ethnicities. The Government’s Ethnicity Facts and Figures website hosts the entire data set.

November

  • Hampton-Alexander Review

The Hampton-Alexander review reports annually on the progress of women in leadership positions in FTSE companies. It follows on from the Davies Review which closed after achieving its target of 25% women on boards. The first review in 2016 set a target of 33% women on FTSE 350 Boards and 33% women in FTSE 100 leadership teams by 2020.

Dame Helen Alexander sadly passed away in August 2017.

  • Workers by Default

A draft bill published by the Work & Pensions and Business Parliamentary Committees called for the law to assume that workers have worker-status by default, to combat the rise of companies recruiting staff on a self-employed basis. The bill also proposes a wage premium for workers without contracted hours. It is hoped this will prevent agency workers being paid less than permanent employees who perform the same job and incentivise employers to offer more stable work.

December

  • EHRC Evidence of action – Sexual Harassment

Letters were sent to the chairs of all FTSE 100 companies at the beginning of the Christmas party season, a sign that the EHRC is adopting a stronger approach to enforcement. The letters demanded details of safeguarding, reporting and future plans to prevent harassment. The chairs must respond by 19 January.