HR news round-up: From hybrid working benefits to addressing economic inactivity

This week’s HR news round-up covers everything from research showing the benefits of hybrid working to a new report on addressing rising economic inactivity.

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Hybrid workers ‘are happier, healthier and more productive’

Three quarters of workers say their stress and risk of burnout has significantly lowered as a result of the implementation of a hybrid model of working, according to a new poll.

The survey of more than 1,000 people by hybrid working firm International Workplace Group says that 72 percent of those polled experienced burnout at work before moving to a hybrid model. 86 percent say the hybrid model has given them a better work-life balance, 54 percent say it has allowed them to do more exercise, 58 percent say they have healthier meals and 68 percent say they sleep better. More than two thirds of workers (68 percent) said their physical health had improved due to hybrid working.

They also report feeling less stressed, less drained and less anxious. 86 percent say they feel like they can cope with day-to-day life better when working in a flexible model.

Three quarters say returning to a central office five days a week would negatively affect their wellbeing while 74 percent say they are more productive when working in a hybrid model. 76 percent say they are more motivated and 85 percent say their job satisfaction has improved.

Meanwhile, the largest study to date of hybrid work arrangements among knowledge professionals suggests that a three-day in-office schedule performs as well if not better than fully in-office work. The study,  led by Stanford University work researcher Nicholas Bloom, covered workers at’s Shanghai office.

It found that resignations fell by as much as a third, and employee performance and satisfaction were equal to or better than the traditional pre-Covid work schedule.

Report estimates cost of two-child benefit cap

The number of children affected by the two-child limit is set to increase by a third over the next five years, with many working families affected, according to a new report which says the limit has been a significant contributor to child poverty among larger families.

The report by the Institute for Fiscal Studies [IFS] finds that the two-child limit represents a significant income cut for affected families and that, when fully rolled out, the average affected household will lose £4,300 a year (10% of their income). 57% of households currently affected by the limit have at least one person in work.

It estimates that, when fully rolled out, it will affect one in five children. The report says the-two child limit on benefits, brought in in 2017, is one of the biggest drivers of the increase in child poverty in recent years. In 2014–15, 35% of children in families with three or more children were in relative poverty. By 2022–23, this had risen to 46%. When fully rolled out, the IFS expects the two-child limit to have raised relative poverty among large families by around 500,000 children (4% of all children). Over the same period, child poverty among families with one or two children fell from 26% to 22%.

The IFS estimates that removing the two-child limit would cost £3.4 billion a year in the long run, roughly 3% of the total working-age benefit budget or the cost of freezing fuel duties for the next parliament. It adds, however, that previous studies have found that investments in young children can sometimes partly or even entirely pay for themselves by causing better outcomes for those children in later life.

Labour to create watchdog to enforce employment rights

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, 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.”

Understand what’s driving high economic inactivity rates, says report

Addressing rising incapacity and disability benefit spending will be a key task for whoever wins the next election, according to a new Resolution Foundation report, and it is vital that whoever gains power seeks to understand the underlying causes of this increase rather than just to cut benefits and throw more people into poverty.

The report notes that real-terms spending on working-age incapacity benefits increased by a third over the past decade (2013-14 to 2022-23), and disability benefits by 89 per cent. And this rise is forecast to accelerate over the next six years. It says this is driven by a rise in the number of claimants rather than in benefits packages.

Lindsay Judge, Research Director at the Resolution Foundation, says: “The underlying increase in ill-health and disability poses a major challenge to policy makers, and to the millions of people whose living standards are affected by their conditions.

“There are no easy fixes to this problem. This isn’t down to people gaming the system, or support somehow being easier to claim. Nor is it the case that a so-called ‘benefits clampdown’ would produce easy, pain-free savings.

“Instead, the growing health-related benefit spend reflects the fact that Britain is becoming older, sicker and experiencing more disability, and that previous reforms have often been poorly designed. We therefore need to focus more on enabling people to enjoy longer, healthier working lives – a goal that requires an integrated strategy involving the NHS and employers, as much as the Treasury and DWP.”

Read more here.

Charity programme publishes initial findings

A pilot programme to help people in midlife transfer skills gained in the commercial sector to the charity world is celebrating success and looking for more recruits.

An impact report on the Well Placed pilot shows that before the pilot had concluded, four of the six associates who took part had secured roles in charities and have tangible examples of their impact of their commercial skills in a charity setting.

Their confidence has been boosted and they have a better understanding of the charity sector and what hiring managers are looking for. They also feel able to explain how their skills are transferable and for those who did not secure permanent posts, they felt able to apply for roles they considered unattainable before the pilot.

The programme, previously called Charity Interns, has just relaunched as The Well Placed and is now a community interest company. It is looking for new recruits, particularly those with transferable marketing skills eager to contribute to marketing or fundraising initiatives.

The programme offers a six-month placement with a UK charity, with interns getting at least the living wage and receiving training on the charity landscape and culture along with leadership skills training for line managers. During the programme, interns get monthly peer-to-peer learning sessions and benefit from ongoing mentoring support.

Read more here.

WM People launches its Best Practice Report 2024

The 2024 Best Practice Report has been published this week, highlighting employer best practice in everything from flexible working, family support, age diversity and talent attraction and outreach.

The Report, which begins with an overview of developments in family friendly and inclusive working over the last year, aims to show what the most progressive employers are doing, how they are doing it and what the impact is on their employees and on the business.

The Report includes interviews with all the winners of this year’s Top Employer Awards who talk about what they have done to affect culture change as well as individual employee case studies which demonstrate the difference they make.

The employers represented are ServiceNow, AMS, Murphy, 4PS Construction Solutions Ltd, AtkinsRealis, Financial Services Compensation Scheme, Lloyds Banking Group, Harper James, Phoenix Group, Aviva, Vistry Group and Motel One.

Read more here.

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