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23 September 2019

192: And finally a look forward to what’s happening in employment news for October 2019

The government has responded to the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee’s report on executive rewards which was published in March 2019 (Executive rewards: paying for success). This response stresses that, rather than considering further significant changes, the government’s current priority is the effective implementation of recent reforms such as the introduction of pay ratio reporting requirements, the strengthening of the Corporate Governance Code and the establishment of a public register of companies which have encountered shareholder opposition to their executive pay policies. However, the government also states that it would take action if companies do not respond sufficiently to significant shareholder concerns about executive pay. It also rejects the recommendations that all companies be required to appoint at least one employee representative to the remuneration committee, that pay ratio reporting requirements be extended to include all organisations with over 250 employees and that publication be required of the ratio between CEO and the lower pay band.

The government has announced a package of measures to tackle the barriers faced by disabled workers and enable them to fully integrate into society. As part of a new cross-government disability team, the Office for Disability Issues will collaborate with the Government Equalities Office and the Race Disparity Unit to form a new Equalities Hub, working with disabled people, organisations and charities to inform new policies. A consultation is also due to be published to help develop new measures for employers to improve the support they offer to employees with long-term health conditions and disabilities, such as reform of Statutory Sick Pay and offering small and medium-sized employers a conditional rebate to support staff on sickness absence and enable them to return to work.

The International Labour Organisation (ILO) has adopted a legally binding international standard to tackle workplace violence and harassment. The ‘Violence and Harassment Convention, 2019’ and ‘Violence and Harassment Recommendation, 2019’ both highlight that violence and harassment in the workplace can be classed as human rights violations. The new standard will apply to all workers, including workers whose employment has been terminated. It will come into force one year after two ILO members ratify it.

A report funded by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport on the impact of bullying on individuals highlights that workplace bullying is linked to deficiencies in governance and management and therefore needs an organisation-wide strategy to combat it. The report was compiled from an online survey of 524 victims of bullying at charities in England and Wales. 58% said they had formally reported bullying, yet only 3% believed their complaint was resolved satisfactorily. The survey also found the bullies were most likely to be senior managers (57%), and of those, chief executives (45%). The report makes a number of recommendations to tackle bullying in the charities sector, including nominating at least one trustee and one senior manager to oversee workplace well-being; ensuring that policies, procedures and practices reflect a commitment to promoting a safe working culture; and ensuring the appropriate use of non-disclosure agreements.

The Living Wage Foundation has set up a new accreditation for FTSE100 employers with the aim of improving job security for zero-hours contract workers. Companies that sign up to the ‘Living Hours’ programme must pay the Living Wage, give at least four weeks’ notice of working time, offer a guarantee of at least 16 hours’ work per week and issue a contract that accurately reflects the number of hours worked. They will then receive the ‘Living Wage and Living Hours’ accreditation.

As part of the European Pillar of Social Rights Package, which aims to enhance EU welfare systems, the EU Economic and Social Affairs Council has formally adopted a directive to improve work-life balance for parents and carers. The directive requires member states to grant fathers at least 10 days’ leave around the time of the birth of their child, paid at a level equal to that set for maternity leave at EU level; an individual right to four months’ parental leave, of which two months would be paid and non-transferable between parents; the right to five working days’ leave per year for workers caring for seriously ill relatives; and extension of the right to request flexible working arrangements to include working carers. Member states will have three years to implement the new directive into national law.

The Migration Advisory Committee has published a review of the shortage occupation list (SOL), its first full review since 2013. Employers recruiting for a role on the SOL do not have to conduct a resident labour market test to show that no UK resident is available to perform the role before they offer it to a non-EU worker. The committee’s recommendations include: broadening the SOL to include all roles in occupations such as medical practitioners, nurses, programmers and software developers; adding vets, web designers and architects; and considering the addition of Northern Irish and Welsh SOLs to the existing UK list and Scotland-only SOL. If accepted, these recommendations would mean that the SOL would cover around 9% of jobs, compared to 1% under the current list. However, the committee also notes that its recommendations are only applicable under the current immigration system and that the SOL would need to be reviewed again once there is a clearer picture of the UK’s post-Brexit immigration system. The government has also asked the committee to undertake a separate review of whether the current £30,000 minimum salary threshold for high-skilled workers should be maintained.

As part of a parliamentary review of the effectiveness of gender pay gap reporting, the director of the Government Equalities Office (GEO) has informed the House of Commons Treasury Committee that the GEO is working on various proposals to strengthen the current requirements before the formal review date of 2022. These include proposals to lower the threshold for reporting obligations to include smaller companies; strengthening enforcement; extending the information required to include company policies and more detailed data; making action plans compulsory; and extending reporting to include ethnicity pay gap reporting. Any proposals would be subject to public consultation.

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