HR news round-up: from childcare availability to a new D&I framework

This week’s HR news round-up covers a range of issues, including falling childcare availability and the need for a new framework for diversity, equity and inclusion work.

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Report charts increase in zero hours jobs as main jobs

A record 1.1 million UK workers are on zero-hour contracts as their main employment – and only 6% have access to rights and a predictable income, according to a new report by the Work Foundation.

The analysis reveals that a record number of young workers are on zero-hour contracts with an additional 88,000 16–24-year-olds on zero-hour contracts between 2022-2023 – an increase of 23%.

The data also shows that  Black workers are 2.7 times more likely than white workers to be on zero-hour contracts and workers from multiple/mixed backgrounds are 2.3 times more likely than white workers to be on zero-hour contracts; that women are 1.2 times more likely to be on zero-hour contracts than men; and that one in 10 young workers in the UK are on these contracts in 2023 (13%). Young workers (aged 16–24) are 5.9 times more likely to be on zero-hour contracts – but these are not just students. Young workers who are not students are still 3.5 times more likely than other age groups to be on zero-hour contracts.

The report’s recommendations include a ban on employers using zero-hour contracts but shifting the power to employees – with a proposal for workers to have a day one flexible working request, where they can request a zero-hour contract if their work is genuinely casual in nature.

Labour has pledged to end zero hours contracts, to give employees a right to claim unfair dismissal from the first day in a job and to improve conditions in the gig economy. But some senior business leaders have warned that they could result in longer probation periods, more fixed-term contracts and a switch to agency staff.

Report charts income gaps for single parents

Single parents have the lowest average income for both men and women, according to new research. for Single Parents’ Day,

Data from NOW: Pensions reveals single fathers earn 32% less than the ‘average’ man, while women fare even worse, with single mothers earning 53% less than the ‘average’ man and 37% less than the ‘average’ woman. The data also reveals single mothers have the lowest rate of labour market participation of all groups, significantly impacting their ability to save enough into their pensions for retirement.

In the UK, women retire on average with just £69,000 in their pension pot – two-thirds less than men, who retire with an average of £205,000 saved.

Read more here.

Falling childcare availability charted in big study

Parents across the UK are grappling not just with increasing childcare costs, but childcare availability, according to a new report, which suggests the Government expansion plans for early years may be put in jeopardy.

Coram Family and Childcare’s 23rd annual Childcare Survey shows only a third (34%) of English councils report sufficient childcare for parents working full-time, a fall of 14% on 2023, and just over one in three (35%) report enough childcare for children under two, down by 14% on last year.

The findings show that it is the most disadvantaged children who are missing out, with just 6% of councils reporting sufficient childcare for children with disabilities, a decrease of 12% on 2023. There are also continued decreases in the availability of childcare across all other areas of provision measured in the survey, including for parents working atypical hours (down by 7% on 2023) and families in rural areas (down by 14% on 2023).

In some areas the fall is more of a landslide, with sufficiency of childcare for families in rural areas plummeting in Yorkshire and Humberside from 60% last year to just 7% this year. Similarly, the proportion of local authorities reporting enough childcare for families in rural areas in the North East has fallen from 75% to 17%. The East Midlands is the only region to report an increase, rather than a decrease, in sufficiency of childcare for families in rural areas.

The East of England generally reported the least provision (from 18% for disadvantaged two year olds to 55% for the 30 hours for three and four year olds) for all categories of early years childcare and the North East generally reported the high levels of provision across the same categories (67% to 83%). However, the South West has South West just 21% coverage for two year olds and only 14% for the 30 hours for three and four year olds.

Meanwhile, the Government has announced that parents will be able to register for 15 free hours a week of childcare in England for children aged nine months and over from 12th May, although providers are unconvinced on the sector’s ability to deliver due to underfunding and staffing crises.

Read more here.

Parliament asked to intervene for ‘WASPI’ women

Parliament must intervene and hold the Department for Work and Pensions [DWP] to account for failure to adequately inform thousands of women that the State Pension Age had changed and should seek to compensate them as quickly as possible, according to a comprehensive investigation by the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman [PHSO].

The 1995 Pensions Act and subsequent legislation raised the State Pension age for women born on or after 6th April 1950 – the so-called WASPI women. For several years the PHSO has been investigating complaints that, since 1995, DWP has failed to provide accurate, adequate and timely information about areas of State Pension reform. Stage one of the investigation was published in July 2021 and found failings in the way DWP communicated changes to women’s State Pension age.

The final report, released today combines stages two and three of the investigation and covers both maladministration and compensation. The report points out that DWP has not acknowledged its failings or  offered any apology or explanation for these. It has indicated it will not compensate women affected by its failure.

Read more here.

D&I report calls for new framework to help employers understand their workforce

A new Government report on Diversity and Inclusion calls for a new framework that sets out  the criteria employers might apply to their D&I practice to increase effectiveness and value for money.

The independent report on the Inclusion at Work Panel’s aims to improve D&I says evidence around what works in D&I is confused due to the complexity of the issues.

It states: “We believe that, while employers have a duty to fully grasp and apply the law, leaders and managers should not be expected to possess a sophisticated knowledge of the demographic, historical, and socio-economic debates relating to the relative advantage and disadvantages between groups. Nor, crucially, should they outsource or delegate this to those with potentially conflicting incentives. Leaders in all sectors can and should be empowered to better understand their own workforce data, and how specific practice can help productivity, retention, fairness and belonging.”

The report also calls on the Government to fund, and work with, a research partner to develop a digital tool similar to the Education Endowment Foundation’s ‘Teaching and Learning Toolkit’ to allow all leaders and managers, in every sector, to assess the rigour, efficacy and value for money of a range of D&I practices. It says this will also ‘nudge’ commercial or activist providers of interventions to evaluate and prove impact.

And it wants the Equality and Human Rights Commission to explain and clarify the legal status for employers in relation to D&I practice, with particular focus on the implication of recent rulings for HR policies and staff networks.

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