301: And finally a look forward to what’s happening in employment news for April 2021
Many employers intending to make vaccination a requirement
A survey by HRLocker of 750 executives has highlighted that 23% of employers are planning to make vaccines compulsory for their staff, with 49% of executives admitting that they would prioritise vaccinated applicants during the recruitment process. Acas has provided brief advice to employers on this issue, recommending that it is best practice to support staff to be vaccinated without making it a requirement. For example, employers could offer paid time off to attend vaccination appointments, and pay full pay if staff are off sick with vaccine side effects. If employers feel it is important for staff to be vaccinated, Acas advise working with staff or recognised trade unions to discuss what steps to take. Any decision after that should be put in a written vaccine policy, ensuring that it is in line with existing disciplinary and grievance policies. When dealing with any individual concerns about vaccination, employers should act sensitively and ensure that they comply with the Equality Act 2010 and with data protection law.
Human Rights Act call for evidence
On 13 January 2021, the Ministry of Justice issued a call for evidence as part of an independent review of the Human Rights Act 1998 (HRA). Questions are split into two broad themes: the relationship between domestic courts and the European Court of Human Rights; and the impact of the HRA on the relationship between the judiciary, the executive and the legislature. The review panel will report in summer 2021. This wider review into the HRA is being conducted on the basis that the UK will remain a signatory to the European Convention on Human Rights.
Anti-Slavery Commissioner calls on financial institutions to do more
The Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner has published a report which calls on the UK’s financial sector to do more to address forced labour and exploitation of workers. This highlights the very low levels of awareness of modern slavery risks within the financial services sector, both in the UK and globally. Levels of awareness are lower among more senior employees, with 43% of board level managers and directors not knowing if their organisations have a modern slavery policy or confirming that they do not have one. Many financial institutions focus only on the potential direct impacts, such as cleaning or catering staff, or construction of office buildings. The report urges them to also consider the far larger impact their businesses have through their investment, lending and client relationships. Key recommendations from the report include undertaking regular due diligence to check for abusive practices in supply chains and investments; integrating modern slavery red flags into existing money laundering control frameworks; and ensuring that senior management set the tone by taking a stand against abusive practices.
Equalities Office releases Gender Pay Gap report
The Government Equalities Office has published a research report on how employers understand the gender pay gap (GPG) and actions to tackle it. The report is based on a survey of 900 large employers (over 250 employees) which was conducted after the deadline for publication of the second set of GPG data in 2019. Key areas include employers’ understanding of the GPG, their experiences of complying with the GPG regulations, and the actions taken to close any GPG or ensure one did not develop. 89% of respondents reported a good understanding of the GPG, up from 48% in 2017 when the first survey was carried out. Most employers believed that the GPG reporting requirements had resulted in a greater level of engagement with the issue at senior level and 47% reported that action had been taken to address their GPG at board level. However, most employers reported that there had been little or no staff reaction to the GPG results. This may be linked to many employers doing little to communicate their results, since only 15% had adopted a comprehensive and active staff engagement strategy. Employer attitudes to reducing the GPG varied widely, with 23% allocating it a high priority and 35% a low or non-priority. Three quarters (76%) of employers that had a GPG had looked at the underlying causes, with many looking at gender balance, salaries and bonuses, part time workers, recruitment and promotion.
Employee data breach leads to imprisonment
Following a prosecution brought by the Information Commissioner’s Office, a motor industry employee has been sentenced to eight months’ imprisonment, suspended for two years, after pleading guilty to the offences of conspiracy to secure unauthorised access to computer data and selling unlawfully obtained personal data. The employee, who worked for the RAC, unlawfully compiled lists of road traffic accident data including names, mobile numbers and registration numbers, and unlawfully transferred them to an accident claims management firm. There was evidence that the data was then used to make nuisance calls. The offence came to light when a fleet management company alerted the RAC to nuisance calls received after recovery of one of its vehicles. This prompted the RAC to perform a data leakage scan of its Outlook mailboxes, which led to discovery of the unauthorised lists. The employee also had to pay £25,000 under the Proceeds of Crimes Act to recover benefits she had obtained as a result of the offending.
BEIS relaunches naming and shaming
After a two-year pause, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) has relaunched the naming and shaming scheme for employers who fail to pay the national minimum wage, with a new emphasis on the most serious offenders. BEIS has published a list of 139 employers, including major household names, who failed collectively to pay £6.7 million to over 95,000 workers between 2016 and 2018. Employers who pay less that the minimum wage have to pay arrears of wages to workers as well as financial penalties of up to 200% of the arrears, capped at £10,000 per worker. The minimum wage breaches were often caused by low-paid staff having to pay work costs such as uniform, training and parking, as well as by failing to move employees into a higher wage bracket following a birthday.