From parent discrimination to menopause support

This week’s HR news round-up covers everything from the Chartered Management Institute’s survey showing managers’ attitudes to promoting parents to the BSI’s new guide to the menopause and menstruation for SMEs.

Woman looking upset in background


Survey highlights discrimination against parents

A third of managers believe that those with caring responsibilities are less likely to be promoted, according to a Chartered Management Institute survey.

One in three UK managers believe that people who spend more time in the office are more likely to get promoted despite managers and workers both considering flexibility in where they work to be even more important than pay in the organisation where they work.

The survey, based on conversations with over 4,500 UK workers and managers,  also found that, while one in four people in the UK workforce holds a management role, only a quarter of workers (27%) describe their manager as ‘highly effective’.

Of those workers who do not rate their manager, half (50%) plan to leave their company in the next year, only a third (34%) feel motivated to do a good job and only one in four (25%) are happy with their overall compensation.

The report found that  managers who have had training are significantly more likely to have reported concerns or wrongdoing at work than those who have not undergone formal training in management and leadership.

It says 82% of managers who enter management positions have not had any proper management and leadership training – they are “accidental managers”.

According to the research, these “accidental managers” are often promoted for the wrong reasons, with nearly half of managers surveyed (46%) believing colleagues won promotions based on internal relationships and profile, rather than their ability and performance.

The study also reveals huge divides among managers across gender, ethnicity, and socio-economic backgrounds. Male managers (22%) were significantly more likely than women (15%) to say they had already learned enough about management, and managers from lower socio-economic backgrounds (57%) were more likely than managers from higher socio-economic backgrounds (48%) to say that they didn’t have management and leadership qualifications.

Managers from white ethnic backgrounds were also more likely to say that their manager treats them fairly and with respect (81%), compared to those from non-white ethnic backgrounds (70%).

Sexism in the City inquiry begins

An inquiry into Sexism in the City heard its first round of oral evidence this week.

In 2018, the Treasury Committee published its Women in Finance report on the barriers faced by women working in the UK’s world-leading financial services sector.

The report called on firms to review their culture and working practices and look at ways to tackle gender pay gaps. The Treasury Committee is evaluating progress in implementing those recommendations.

The Committee is likely to cover the recent plans set out by the Financial Conduct Authority and Prudential Regulation Authority to introduce a regulatory framework for companies when implementing diversity and inclusion measures.

In the first session, Harriett Baldwin, the inquiry committee’s chairwoman, said the inquiry would examine the role companies, the government and regulators should play in combating sexual harassment and misogyny in the City. Subjects covered included female representation in leadership roles and what more needs to be done to narrow the gender pay gap in the City.

Meanwhile, a female finance executive, Louise Crabtree, has won an employment tribunal case against her manager at Integer Wealth Global for sexual harassment. Bandemer bombarded Crabtree with inappropriate messages, referring to her “fashion model looks” and even buying her a diamond ring.  The judge highlighted the discriminatory language used by Bandemer and stated that he would not have used such language towards a male employee. Crabtree, who joined the firm as an executive director, claimed that she was demoted after failing to reciprocate Bandemer’s advances. The tribunal also noted that Crabtree’s failure to object to the comments did not mean she welcomed them.

Half of employees missing mental health support at work

Half of employees [49%] do not feel supported in discussing their mental health at work, according to a People Management poll.

Just under two in five (37 per cent) saying they did feel supported discussing their mental health and 14 per cent said they were unsure.

The findings are backed by research by Towergate Health & Protection which found just over half (54%) of the HR leaders they polled say they provide support for their employees’ mental health and wellbeing, but figures for SMEs were smaller.

70% of large corporates say they provide support for mental health and wellbeing, compared to less than half (49%) for SMEs, and just 37% for micro companies. Support also differs by industry, with companies in the construction industry least likely to provide mental health support (43%), while employees in healthcare are most likely to have access to support (80%), according to Towergate Health & Protection.

Birmingham reaches agreement over equal pay

Birmingham City Council, which declared itself bankrupt last month, has agreed a way forward with the unions when it comes to addressing the enormous bill it faces regarding equal pay.

In June 2023, the council said the potential equal pay liability would be in the region of £650m – £760m for the period ending 31st March 2025. From 1st April 2025, the Council has an accruing monthly liability of between £5m-£14m per month if it cannot put in place a robust job evaluation methodology across the council.

Last week it agreed to outsource job evaluation to a third-party specialist supplier. It says the job evaluation programme must be objective, robust, be consistently applied and be compliant with the Equality Act 2010 “so as to remove the risks of job enrichment, sex discrimination and cannot be open to legal challenge and thus incur future potential equal pay liability”.

The council’s issue with equal pay dates back to 2012, when a Supreme Court ruling found that mostly female employees in roles such as teaching assistants, cleaners, and catering staff missed out on bonuses given to staff in traditionally male-dominated roles.

Hybrid working tribunal cases increasing

Employment tribunals are seeing record levels of cases relating to remote working, according to analysis by HR consultants Hamilton Nash.

They say some 42 tribunals mentioned ‘remote working’ in 2022, a 50% increase from the 27 cases the year before. In the first half of 2023 there have been 25 cases already – equivalent to 50 cases for the whole year.

Prior to the pandemic, there were on average seven employment tribunals a year relating to remote working, but since 2020 the rate has quadrupled to an average of approximately 33 cases a year.

Jim Moore, employee relations expert at Hamilton Nash, said: “Many companies have been keen to encourage employees back to the office, but the increasing number of disputes ending up in tribunals shows that it’s a growing source of workplace tension.

“Businesses that force staff into the workplace against their will are likely to find that disputes escalate, resulting in an increasing turnover rate or costly legal remedies.

“With most employees favouring a mix of office and home working, the battle for workers’ hearts and minds is going to be won by progressive employers who embrace hybrid working.

“Instead of dictating one-size-fits-all policies, companies should show understanding for personal circumstances. Many parents who have got used to working from home have adapted their routines to suit their childcare needs, and forcing them back to the workplace can create large amounts of stress and upheaval.”

HMRC to crack down on gig workers

HMRC is reported to be preparing to launch a tax crackdown on side hustles and the wider gig economy.

The new rules, effective from January 1st, will require platforms like Uber, Etsy, and Airbnb to record users’ income and report it directly to HMRC rather than HMRC trusting freelancers and gig workers.

It will cover digital platforms in the UK that facilitate the provision of services or the sale of goods by UK or other taxpayers as well as UK taxpayers who provide services or sell goods on digital platforms. The reporting rules list apps and websites which facilitate the provision of goods and services, such as the provision of taxi and private hire services, food delivery services, freelance work and the letting of short-term accommodation.

The  Government says: “The regulations will support the government’s work to help taxpayers get their tax right first time, and to bear down on tax evasion.”

Blueprint launched on early years

The National Day Nurseries Association has launched its Blueprint for Early Education and Care with a call for a national commission into the future of early education and care.

The NDNA also wants to see the term ‘early education and care’ used rather than ‘childcare’, saying early years should be more on a par with teaching and that early years is about much more than babysitting. It has also called for a system of universal, fully funded early education and care provision that supports all children, families and working parents.

The 10 recommendations include an independent annual review into the cost of delivering high quality early education and care and the removal of business rates from all early education and care settings.

Meanwhile, it and other organisations have criticised the Government’s response to the Education Select Committee’s earlier report into childcare and the early years. Much of it is a reiteration of already announced plans for the expansion of ‘free’ childcare which have caused concern in the sector given underfunding of ‘free’ childcare up until now.

Purnima Tanuku from the NDNA called the response “a missed opportunity to fix some of the major challenges in the sector” and the workforce strategy outlined “too little too late”.

She stated: “Our research shows that nursery closures are up 50% on last year so it’s clear that funding is not sustainable for many providers. This is really worrying when we know that closures are more likely in areas of deprivation.

“By rejecting recommendations to review Business Rates and VAT in early years the Government is reinforcing the divide between our sector and school-aged education. When the Government will be the biggest purchaser of early education and childcare places – 80% of them from April – they must acknowledge that these additional costs create extra burdens for providers. Changes to the valuation policies for nurseries is actually sending business rates bills skyrocketing which the Government is refusing to recognise.”

Read more here.

New guide on menopause launched for SMEs

The British Standards Institution [BSI] has published free guide aimed at encouraging small and midsize enterprises (SMEs) to initiate conversations with employees experiencing menopause.

BSI’s little book of menstruation, menstrual health and menopause is specifically aimed at SMEs to help them start a conversation with employees and implement straightforward changes to create a more inclusive and productive environment.

It follows research published by BSI in July identifying that a fifth of women in the UK expect to leave the workforce before official retirement and not necessarily out of personal preference, in a trend that was described as a Second Glass Ceiling. One fifth (21%) of UK women said menopause was a barrier to continuing work, and nearly three quarters (72%) said there should be more support for those experiencing symptoms. More than half (54%) said it would be difficult to raise menopause issues with an employer, and over half would be uncomfortable to do so (52%).

75% of UK women said they wanted employers to take action to address this. The report made a number of recommendations to do so, including encouraging business leaders to open the dialogue and ask women what they want, as well as ensuring support is available and accessible, whether around menopause or other considerations.

Read more here.

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