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HR News Round-Up January 2019

Posted On: 29/01/2019

It’s no surprise that Brexit has dominated the news during the first month of 2019.  This demonstrates that there is only one thing we can be sure of this year – there’s going to be a lot of change.  Policies protecting workforces are certainly moving in the right direction, but there is still a lot of work to be done.  Let’s hope this year will witness the tightening up of workplace policies to better support employees and employers.

We finish this roundup blog with helpful dates for your busy diaries.  

Gender Pay Gap Reporting

The introduction of the gender pay gap reporting policy last year was welcomed by many to bring transparency to the workplace and to close the gender pay gap [1].  However, the policy does not include a vast amount of businesses allowing the potential for unfair pay differences to remain under the radar.

The current policy demands that all companies who employ over 250 members of staff must disclose their pay data.  The policy encourages those organisations who have a workforce below 250 to report this information, but it is not mandatory.  The Government has rejected calls to lower the threshold to companies employing more than 50 staff. 

Around 50% of companies with a workforce fewer than 250 published their data for 2017/2018.

Rachel Reeves, the chair of the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee says: ““Next year is the 50th anniversary of the Equal Pay Act, and yet still we are tackling issues around fairness in pay. The UK has one of the highest gender pay gaps in Europe. Pay reporting can only be the first step in closing this gap and moving towards genuine equality and diversity in the workplace.”

Reasonable Adjustments for an Inclusive Workplace Culture

All employers have a duty of care for all of their employees and should make reasonable adjustments to support individuals with a disability.

A community-based healthcare group in Hull was found to have unfairly dismissed a member of staff.  The group failed to meet the needs of their employee who was suffering from carpel tunnel syndrome [2]. 

The employee in question had declared to her employer in 1994 that she had undergone carpal tunnel decompression surgery in both wrists.  Since she joined the group her workload continued to rise resulting in an increase of typing duties.  After speaking with an occupational therapist her employers were asked repeatedly over a period of two years to invest in a voice recognition service to be installed on her computer to ease the pain, which often left the employee in tears. 

The clerical assistant resigned in September 2017 as necessary adjustments were not made and has now been awarded £45,000 by the Hull Employment Tribunal.

Mental Health First Aid to Become Mandatory

MPs from across the main political parties held a debate on legislative change concerning mental health first aid in the workplace this month. There was overwhelming support as the majority of MPs agreed that First Aid regulations need to change to ensure that mental health is treated equally to physical health.  MPs, campaigners, charities and businesses want to see a qualified mental health first aider available at every workplace.

Recent research from GRiD has revealed that only 18% of companies are taking necessary steps to manage employee stress, a mere 15% are taking steps to improve financial wellbeing and just 18% are supporting staff who have caring responsibilities [3].

Tim Loughton, MP for East Worthing and Shoreham said: ““You can get better, managing mental health is hard, but if we can go into these workplaces and say ‘we do treat mental health as seriously as we do physical health’, we can change people’s lives.”

Dates for your 2019 HR Diary [4]

29 March.  Brexit

30 March.  Public sector gender pay gap reports to be published.

1 April.  New national minimum wage and national living wage comes into force.

1 April.  The Government Equalities Office moves to the Cabinet Office to give it more influence and leverage to drive meaningful progress on equalities. 

4 April.  Private and voluntary sector gender pay gap reports to be published.

6 April.  Good work plan: employer penalties for breaches.  Tribunals have the power to impose a £5,000 penalty on employers who repeatedly breach their employment law obligations.  The maximum limit will rise to £20,000.

April.  Tax on termination payments.  From this month the government plans to make any part of a termination payment over £30,000 subject to employer NICs.

We’re Here to Help

If any of the issues raised in this month’s news roundup are affecting your business please give our friendly team of HR professionals a call on 0161 941 2426.

[1] Personnel Today

[2] People Management

[3] HR Magazine

[4] CIPD

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