HR news round-up: From new flexi rules to tribunal decisions on working mums

In this week’s HR news round-up we cover everything from the new flexible working legislation and how part-time working is boosting senior female hires to new employment tribunal rulings involving working mums.


Part-time hires quadruple at Zurich

Insurance firm Zurich has revealed that it has almost quadrupled its part-time hires since 2019 after it started advertising all roles as ‘flexible, part time or job share’.

The announcement came ahead of new flexible working legislation, coming into effect this weekend, which means employees can request flexible working from day one in a job.

Zurich says the part-time trends it has seen aren’t exclusive to females as the number of male part-time hires has also more than doubled since 2019.

Part-time internal promotions have increased by 167% in the last two years and the number of part-time female hires to a senior level more than doubled since 2019.

Overall, in 2023, 13% of Zurich’s employees worked part time. Across the board, there has been a 72% increase in applications per vacancy in the last five years and a 110% surge in applications from women.

Read more here.

Mums more likely to ask for flex than dads

Mothers are twice as likely as fathers to ask for flexible working than dads after parental leave, according to new research.

Pregnant Then Screwed surveyed 35,800 parents. Women In Data® then extracted a nationally representative sample of 5,870 parents to create a 2024 State of the Nation report.

The data finds that mothers who are working full time are 2.5 times more likely than full-time dads to request flexible working. Meanwhile, 41% of single mothers are asking for flexible working and mothers of children with a disability are twice as likely to ask for flexible working than fathers.

Two in five mothers say their flexible working request was turned down. The research coincides with the new flexible working regulations, which Acas is publishing a new code of practice for employers about over the weekend.

Toolkit published on new pregnancy and maternity protections

The Equality and Human Rights Commission has published a new toolkit for employers outlining their responsibilities in connection with new protections coming in this month for pregnant women and those on maternity leave.

The Protection from Redundancy (Pregnancy and Family Leave Act 2023 comes into effect on 6th April, alongside other legislative changes, including new flexible working regulations that mean employees can request flexible working from day one in a job and an entitlement to unpaid carers leave for a week.

The EHRC toolkit outlines what employers need to do, for instance, they must not refuse to consider, fail to shortlist or employ someone on less favourable conditions because of pregnancy, expected pregnancy or recent maternity leave. They must also ensure that an employee is not treated unfavourably, dismissed or selected for redundancy because of pregnancy or reasons related to pregnancy including pregnancy related illness.

Other provisions include:

  • A pregnant employee must be allowed to take reasonable paid time off for antenatal care. Fathers and partners are legally entitled to take unpaid time off for up to two antenatal appointments.
  • Employers must record pregnancy-related sick leave separately to other types of sick leave.
  • Employers carry out an individual risk assessment and take reasonable action to remove or reduce any risk that they identify.
  • Employees must give notice of their intention to take maternity leave by the end of the 15th week before the due date or as soon as reasonably practicable and employers must confirm in writing the expected date of return from maternity leave within 28 days of receiving that notice.

Employment rulings for working mums

There have been several employment tribunal rulings relating to working mums in the last week.

A female Tube driver had her request for alternate Saturdays off rejected by London Underground. Nicola Jones, who had been working for the company since 2001 and had a child in 2013, asked for opposite shift patterns to her husband, who is a bus driver required to work every weekend. The employment tribunal ruled that asking Jones to work on Saturdays did not amount to sex discrimination, as there was no evidence to suggest a hypothetical male would have been treated differently. However, the tribunal found that London Underground did not act reasonably in the way it dealt with Jones’s request and awarded her £2,720 in compensation.

In another tribunal hearing, a judge ruled that describing pregnant women as “emotional” at work is discrimination and warned managers to avoid “stereotyping” and “dismissive and belittling” language. The comments came in a tribunal ruling that backed an account manager at Mitie, the facilities management company, whose boss said she was being “very emotional and tearful” in the office, and portrayed her as “hormonal” when she raised concerns about her workload.

Nicola Hinds told the tribunal that she was “inexcusably” ignored by her manager and that she resigned because she was so poorly treated when she returned to work after the birth of her child. Hinds, who represented herself before the tribunal, is now set to be paid compensation after a judge upheld her claims of pregnancy discrimination and constructive dismissal.

And in a further ruling a pregnant woman who was fired after taking three days off for morning sickness won a claim for discrimination against her employer, Hiflow Property Services. The tribunal ruled that Amy McLaren was fired because she was pregnant and ordered the firm to pay her £22,150.33 in compensation. McLaren had never received any formal warnings before her pregnancy. The judge ruled that McLaren’s dismissal was an “overt act” of pregnancy discrimination. The employer failed to produce evidence to support additional claims against McLaren.

Government clarifies law on NDAs

The Government has announced plans to crack down on the misuse of non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) or so-called ‘gagging orders’.

Proposed changes to the law announced by the Ministry of Justice aim to clarify that NDAs cannot be legally enforced if they prevent victims from reporting a crime and will ensure information related to criminal conduct can be discussed with the following groups without fear of legal action:

  • police or other bodies which investigate or prosecute crime
  • qualified and regulated lawyers
  • other support services such as counsellors, advocacy services, or medical professionals, which operate under clear confidentiality principles.

Many NDAs have been used to stop victims of sexual harassment at work taking legal action.

Read more here.

Neurodiversity and menopause at heart of Deutsche Bank’s new Wellness Suite

Deutsche Bank was in the news this week about proposed new menopause pods. The Telegraph reported that the bank is set to introduce “reset and recovery pods” in its new London office to support peri-menopausal and menopausal women and multi-functional rooms with temperature and lighting controls to help alleviate symptoms such as hot flushes and migraines.

But that is just part of what Deutsche Banks Wellness Suite will offer. It will also include elements to support  neurodiverse employees. Researchers have been working on new more inclusive office designs based on reducing sensory stimulation. WM People Top Employer Awards judge Andy Lake outlines some of the new thinking on workplace acoustics in his recent book, Beyond Hybrid Working.

The Wellness Suite is just part of the bank’s commitment to neurodiversity. It has an award-winning Neurodiversity Employee Network which sets out to de-mystify neurodiversity and to support and connect neurodivergent employees and allies. The dedicated hub amongst other things, features information about events, offers a plethora of links and resources as well as mentoring opportunities. It has also helped to make training materials more accessible to neurodivergent employees and helped support families with neurodiverse children or partners.

It also hosted an event which saw Government minister Mims Davies and Sir Robert Buckland announce the findings of the Buckland review into autistic employment and launched a new neurodiversity employment tool for employers developed by charity Autistica, Deutsche Bank’s Charity of the Year in 2016/7.

Read more here.

Record numbers of over 50s in work

According to analysis of Office of National Statistics figures employment levels amongst the over 50s are at an all time high.

This is in large part due to increasing longevity, the equalising of the pension age and the rise in the State Pension Age – with the number of such employees close to equalising the number of employees aged 35-49 for the first time in history.

Rest Less’ analysis found that the proportion of the UK workforce aged over 50 has grown from 21% to 33% in the past 30 years, with a spike since Covid and the cost of living crisis.

Read more here.

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