HR round-up: From social mobility in charities to Long Covid

This week’s HR news round-up includes everything from a report on the underrepresentation of people from lower socioeconomic backgrounds in charities to new figures on the incidence of Long Covid.

Diversity And Inclusion


‘Charities sector needs more work on social mobility’

People from a low socioeconomic background are underrepresented in paid charity roles, compared to the average in public and private sectors, according to a report from the EY Foundation.

The report says that, despite a widespread awareness of a ‘diversity deficit’ in the sector, it is not prioritised as an issue that needs to be addressed, with diversity of socioeconomic background particularly neglected. It highlights lack of HR resources that create inconsistent outreach policies,widespread lack of knowledge about DEI with support that exists often neglecting socio-economic factors and lack of awareness of charity careers or where to look for charity jobs among young people as some of the barriers.

It calls for a dedicated body to support and promote good HR practice in the charity sector and guidance on good practice in the sector,. It adds that the Charity Commission should implement its diversity disclosure requirements, in which socioeconomic background should be included as an attribute to be recorded.

Calls for legal changes to boost flexible working

The Government should revise the Equality Act (2010) to add ‘parental status’ as a protected characteristic and amend flexible working legislation to make it the default, a meeting of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Flexible Working heard this week.

The meeting also heard calls for an Annual Flexibility Audit, similar to reporting on the gender pay gap. The meeting heard from Dr Jasmine Kelland from the University of Plymouth about the barriers still facing men wanting to work flexibly, including mocking comments from colleagues.

Claire McCartney from the Chartered Institute for Personnel and Development spoke about the challenges that still exist around flexible working and areas of improvement for the future, including flexibility stigma – the belief that workers who work flexibly are less committed in the workplace and the lack of roles advertised as flexible.

She said awareness still needed to be raised about the different forms of flexible working to explore how they can be effective in roles that have traditionally been seen as non-flexible. Pilots and trials and build-in mechanisms can monitor and evaluate progress, she said. She also highlighted the recent Deloitte survey that found that nearly four in 10 women with hybrid work arrangements reported experiencing exclusion from meetings, decisions, or informal interactions and called for more work to ensure fair treatment, such as training.

London employers are letting more staff work entirely from home

Over a fifth of white-collar jobs in London are now fully remote, as employers in the UK capital embrace working from home to attract staff seeking higher pay without the high living costs.

A survey by recruiter Hays, reported by Bloomberg, found that the proportion of remote jobs in London has risen from 18% to 22%, making it equal to the east of England as the UK region with the highest number of fully remote jobs.

Lorraine Twist, a finance director at Hays, says remote contracts are attractive to candidates who can enjoy a London salary without the commute and high property prices. The survey also revealed that the proportion of London staff working entirely in the office has decreased, while hybrid jobs have also declined. The findings suggest that parts of the UK labour market remain tight as firms compete for talent.

Great-grandmother wins unfair dismissal case

A great-grandmother has been awarded nearly £25,000 in compensation for unfair dismissal after being told to give a child a “good slap” by her managers.

Stephanie Lee-Shields, who had worked at Exquisite Displays in Leicester for almost 20 years, resigned following an argument about her caring commitments.

An employment tribunal heard that she had become the carer of a four-year-old child, which placed great strain on her. The tribunal judge agreed that there had been aggressive criticism of Lee-Shields and frustration at her caring commitments, leading to the compensation award. The judge also noted comments made by the directors suggesting that the child needed a slap. Lee-Shields was awarded £24,725 in compensation.

Wages below 2008 level in real terms, says TUC

Pay packets are worth less than in 2008 in nearly two-thirds (63%) of UK local authorities, according to new TUC analysis.

The analysis of official statistics shows that 16 years on from the global financial crisis, wages are set to be lower – in real terms – in 212 out of 340 UK local authorities in 2024. The TUC adds that, in every UK local authority, real wages are far below where they would be if they had grown at the pre-2008 growth rate, with London having the highest share of real wage blackspots.

However, even in lower-paid regions of the UK like the North East – where incomes of those on the very lowest pay have been pushed up by the minimum wage – real wages are still lower than in 2008 in half (50%) of local authorities.

The TUC estimates that the average UK worker would be £10,400 a year better off if real wages had grown at their pre-crisis trend – the equivalent of £200 a week. Before the financial crash UK real weekly wages grew on average by 1.7% each year. Since 2008, average annual growth has been –0.2%.

Read more here.

Musculoskeletal pilot announced

The Government is piloting a programme to support people with musculo-skeletal [MSK] problems back to work.

The programme will be piloted from the autumn in certain areas and builds on a similar initiative for patients of talking therapies. A second wave of sites will be launched in 2025. The aim is to introduce employment advice within MSK pathways through building an understanding of the most promising local approaches, gathering evidence of impact and developing the case for wider roll-out.

The project will offer non-clinical employment guidance to people who are receiving clinical support for an MSK health condition and who may be at risk of falling out of work, on sickness absence or who are facing MSK-related barriers to finding employment.

The service will not be mandatory for patients and integrated care boards will have flexibility to implement employment support in a way that aligns with local needs and circumstances.

The Government says it is estimated that 23.4 million working days were lost due to MSK conditions in the UK in 2022 and that MSK accounts for up to 30% of GP consultations in England. MSK is one of the main reasons given for ill health-related inactivity and can reduce productivity in the workplace.

Read more here. 

Controversial Green Paper launched on cutting PIP

The Government has launched a consultation to reduce disability and mental health benefit payments and encourage more people with health and disability-related problems to work.

The 12-week consultation on personal independence payments (PIP) – cash benefits paid to 3.3 million people with health problems and disabilities in the UK – follows a speech by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak where he announced plans to tighten the benefits regime in an effort to tackle what he called the UK’s ‘sicknote culture’.

The Government says there are now 2.6 million people of working age claiming PIP and Disability Living Allowance – with 33,000 new awards for PIP each month which is more than double the rate before the pandemic. It says this is expected to cost the taxpayer £28 billion a year by 2028/29 – a 110% increase in spending since 2019. It adds that this is in part due to a rise in people being diagnosed with mental health conditions such as anxiety and depression.

The Modernising Support Green Paper includes proposals to target benefits more.  It will look at whether the current thresholds for entitlement “correctly reflect the need for ongoing financial support”. This includes considering if current descriptors – such as the need for aids and appliances – are good indicators of extra costs. It also proposes changing the qualifying period for PIP in order to ensure the impact that people’s conditions will have on them over time is fully understood and considering whether to change the test used to determine if a condition is likely to continue long-term.

Another controversial proposal is to replace cash payments with vouchers or one-off grants. In addition, it proposes removing the PIP assessment altogether for people with certain long-term health conditions or disabilities, including those with terminal illnesses.

Read more here.

Two million have Long Covid

Around two million people in England and Scotland were experiencing Long COVID symptoms at the time of the latest Office for National Statistics survey, with middle-aged people most likely to report this, particularly women.

The survey covers the period from November 2023 to March 2024. It finds Long Covid symptoms adversely affected the day-to-day activities of 1.5 million people, with 381,000 reporting that their ability to undertake their day-to-day activities had been “limited a lot”.

Of those who self-reported Long Covid and provided a date, 87.3% had experienced symptoms at least 12 weeks previously, 71.1% one year previously, 51.3% at least two years previously and 30.6% at least three years previously.

Those in the youngest (aged 3 to 17 years) and oldest (65 years and over) age groups were the least likely to test positive for COVID-19 during the study period. Participants in the oldest and youngest age groups who did test positive in the study period were also less likely to report symptoms consistent with “influenza-like illness” compared with those in the middle age groups. Those aged 45 to 54 were most likely to report Long Covid, with those aged 55 to 64 close behind. Women were more likely than men to report Long Covid and Long Covid sufferers were more likely not to be in employment or self-employment.

Read more here.


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