HR news round-up: from diversity in retail to a decade of stagnating wages

This week’s HR news round-up covers everything from growing diversity in retail despite 35% of boards being all-white to a report on stagnating wages over the last decade.


Diversity rises in retail, but over a third of boards are still all-white

Retail leadership is more diverse than ever, although 35% of retailers still have an all-white board, according to a new report from the British Retail Consortium and The MBS Group.

The Diversity and Inclusion in UK Retail report shows that the percentage of female board-level leaders has gone from 32.6% in 2021 to 42.3% in 2024, and the percentage of ethnic minority leaders on boards has nearly tripled from 4.5% to 12% over the same period.

The report shows that while significant progress on diversity has been made over the last three years, it is not ubiquitous across the industry. 35% of retailers still have an all-white board, over half have no ethnic diversity on their Executive Committees and areas such as social mobility and disability need much greater focus. For example, only 11% of respondents could identify a disabled role model in their business.

D&I sits high on many shareholder agendas to ensure it is embedded throughout a business, but it is not being sufficiently prioritised by some investors or owners, says the report.

The report contains analysis of inclusion sentiment by employees in the workplace, which is generally low, particularly regarding recognition and overall feelings of happiness.

Helen Dickinson OBE, Chief Executive of the British Retail Consortium, said: “The progress made on diversity will only be meaningful and effective when it happens in tandem with a workforce where every employee feels happy and included. There needs to be greater focus on initiatives to change workplace culture to ensure we see this shift on inclusion. Only then will we complete our mission in creating a truly diverse and inclusive industry.”

Hybrid working pilot shows value of line manager training

A new and first-of-its-kind UK pilot designed to teach managers how to navigate the evolving world of hybrid and flexible work has found that bosses lack confidence in motivating their teams, running meetings, and managing conflict remotely.

The two-month pilot programme was led by the Chartered Management Institute (CMI) and Timewise.

The hybrid trial – conducted from September to October 2023 – brought together leaders from 30 organisations in a wide range of sectors, from health and social work to construction, manufacturing and law enforcement. Structured as a series of immersive workshops, Timewise offered ongoing training and support for participants on effective management, building a hybrid team and communicating with and motivating teams.

While CMI research found that 86% of managers say their organisation operates in a hybrid way, research from the University of Birmingham found that only 43% of managers have training to manage hybrid teams. Following the pilot, CMI evaluated its impact and found a significant difference in skills before and after the pilot in several areas, including resolving conflict and having difficult conversations online (46% confident prior to the pilot, 86% after the pilot).

Read more here.

Report shows over a decade of living standards slowdown

Repeated economic shocks and sluggish growth in between has resulted in typical real non-pensioner household disposable incomes growing by 0.5 per cent a year on average – or just £140 a year – in the 14 years since 2010, with poorer households experiencing stronger income growth than richer families over this period, according to new Resolution Foundation research.

Hard times notes that three economic shocks in a little over a decade – the financial crisis, Covid-19 and double-digit inflation – and little catch-up growth in between, have resulted in disposable income growth slowing to a crawl.

It says that, since 2009-10, incomes have grown by just 0.5 per cent a year on average, or seven per cent over the whole 14-year period. Income growth over the 14 years prior to 2009-10 was more than five times as strong, at 38 per cent.

More workers expect to switch jobs

More than a quarter (28%) of employees say they are very or extremely likely to switch employer in the next 12 months – a higher proportion than during the ‘Great Resignation’ (19%) in 2022, according to PwC’s 2024 Global Workforce Hopes & Fears Survey.

The survey of 56,000 workers across 50 countries and territories finds almost half (45%) of workers say their workload has increased significantly in the past year, as almost two-thirds (62%) say the pace of change at work has increased over the same time.

The report also says fewer than half of employees (46%) strongly or moderately agree that their employer provides adequate opportunities to learn new skills. This is particularly important for workers considering leaving: two-thirds (67%) say opportunities to learn new skills are a key factor in any decision to job-switch.

More than 80% of workers who use generative AI daily expect it to make their time at work more efficient in the next 12 months. Half (49%) of all users expect it to lead to higher salaries.

Labour talks about plans to create new employment watchdog

Labour will create a watchdog with “real teeth” that has the power to prosecute and fine companies which breach the rights of their employees as part of its plans to strengthen workers’ rights.

Angela Rayner, the party’s deputy leader, says the party plans to establish the Fair Work Agency to oversee these proposals. The agency would have the authority to levy fines, inspect workplaces, lodge civil proceedings, and bring forward prosecutions. It aims to enforce rights like holiday pay, sick pay, and parental rights.

Under the plans, existing bodies such as the Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority, the National Minimum Wage unit, and the Employment Agency Standards Inspectorate will be amalgamated into the new Fair Work Agency.

“Under the Tories, the enforcement of workers’ rights is fragmented, overburdened and overstretched. That’s bad for workers, for businesses and for our economy,” Rayner said. “Allowing those who don’t even pay the national minimum wage off scot-free only encourages a race to the bottom. Employers who want to do right by their workers are being badly let down, finding themselves undercut by those who refuse to play by the rules.”

TUC highlights benefits of Statutory Sick Pay changes

More than seven million working people would benefit from making Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) available from day one of sickness, according to new analysis published today (Sunday) by the TUC and the Centre for Progressive Change.

The analysis shows that if the law was changed 7.4 million employees would be able to claim SSP from their first day of illness instead of having to wait until the fourth day of illness before getting any support.

This is over quarter (26%) of all employees. And the number rises to more than a third (36%) for people working in elementary occupations like labourers and cleaners, and to nearly two-fifths (39%) for people working in sectors like care and leisure.

The TUC and Centre for Progressive Change warn that without reform workers across the country will continue to face “a financial cliff edge” if they become sick at work, with those on the lowest pay hit hardest.

Meanwhile, another report from the TUC shows child poverty in working households has increased by over 1,300 a week, on average, since 2010.

Its analysis shows that the number of children living in poverty with at least one parent in work increased by 900,000 (44%) between 2010 and 2023 – the equivalent to 1,350 a week.

The TUC says that in 2023 there were three million children in working households living below the breadline in the UK.

Concerns over delivery of childcare roll-out mount

Nearly six in 10 councils in England are not confident or are unsure whether they will have sufficient places to cope with the demand of the next phase of the free childcare expansion in September, according to a new report by Coram Family and Childcare (CFC).

It says two in five councils (41%) say they are ‘confident’ or ‘very confident’ that they will have enough places to meet demand for the September 2024 expansion (15 free hours for children from nine months for eligible working parents). This is up from 28% in January 2024, but still leaves 59% of councils either not confident or unsure if there will be enough places.

Councils’ confidence in the final phase of the roll-out in September 2025 (30 hours from nine months for eligible working parents) is much lower, with just 11% reporting that they are ‘confident’ or ‘very confident’ that there will be enough places to meet demand. This figure is practically unchanged from January 2024 (12%), says CFC.

Read more here.

Wages have risen by just £16 a week since 2010

Average UK wages are only £16 a week more than in 2010 in real terms, according to a new report by the Resolution Foundation.

The report, Job done?, says that if UK employees’ wages had risen at the same rate as they have in Germany and the US over that period they would be £3,600 better off on average. Nevertheless, the gap between minimum wage earners and others has closed as the minimum wage has been boosted. The Foundation says that, while wages have picked up since the cost of living crisis, the UK, hit by crisis after crisis from the financial crash to Brexit to Covid, is suffering from chronic labour shortages which are holding employers back.

The Office for Budget Responsibility has forecast a flatlining economy over the next months. Will the main parties’ manifestos make a difference? The Foundation’s senior economist Hannah Slaughter said that the Conservatives’ approach is more about cutting health and disability benefits, keeping the minimum wage tracking average earnings and not making any significant labour reforms, while Labour has pledged to support those with mental health issues back to work, may raise the minimum wage significantly and has promised many labour reforms, such as increased sick pay, compensation for shift cancellations and several day one rights.

She said there may be unintended consequences and risks related to reforms, particularly with the day one rights if there is no probationary period, that employers might choose to lower their hiring rates. The reforms will need to be carefully implemented, she stated. The think tank published a report last week on disability and long-term sickness which highlighted the dangers of taking a punitive approach.

Read more here.

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