Weekly news round-up: from SMEs and flexi working to curbs on executive pay

This week’s HR news round-up covers everything from lack of monitoring of flexible working by SMEs to calls for changes to curb executive pay.

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Survey highlights lack of monitoring of flexible working among SMEs

Over two fifths of small and medium-sized employers don’t monitor the impact of their flexible or hybrid working policy in any way, according to a new survey.

The survey by Pregnant Then Screwed of 250 HR managers for SMEs found 41.8% of HR managers do not monitor the impact of a flexible working/ hybrid policy at all. Just 40% of HR managers said that they have had training for supporting teams in a hybrid working world.

The survey also found that 67% of respondents do not have a fertility treatment policy and just 9.6% of HR managers are happy with the support they offer to employees who are undergoing fertility treatment. Only one in 10 said they provide resources/training to line managers to help them manage reproductive health issues in the workplace. Moreover, only a third have a pregnancy loss policy in place, with just 13.5% of managers saying they are happy with how their workplaces support employees facing pregnancy loss. Over a third don’t enhance paternity leave.

Hybrid workers ‘the most engaged’

Hybrid workers feel the most connected to their workplace, above fully remote and office-based workers, according to a US survey.

The survey by Gallup shows that, despite concerns about the impact of new ways of working on culture and collaboration and media headlines about the damage to these of remote working, it is hybrid workers who are the most engaged, followed by office-based workers and then, closely behind these, remote workers. Gallup cautions that having people work on site “does not guarantee a stronger connection to workplace culture”.

The survey also showed that six in 10 US employees at all job levels anticipate that if remote work becomes the norm at their organisation, it will not have a long-term impact on their culture. Leaders are more likely than managers and individual contributors to be concerned about remote work flexibility hurting their workplace culture: 27% of leaders believe their workplace culture would get worse if many employees work remotely long term, but just 13% of individuals say the same – compared with 24% who think it will improve workplace culture.

Gallup says: “These insights highlight a need for greater awareness of the advantages and challenges of remote work flexibility, as well as training to work more effectively in a hybrid environment.”

Job postings up

New job postings are significantly up on last year, with employers seeming to have greater hiring confidence and labour shortages remaining a problem in some sectors, according to the Recruitment & Employment Confederation (REC) and Lightcast’s latest Labour Market Tracker.

Their figures show there were 189,888 new job postings in the week of 7-13 August 2023 – 3.5% higher than the week before (31 July-6 August 2023) and 28.8% higher than the year before (8-14 August 2022). New job postings have remained stable above 140,000 since January 2022.

Last August was the onset of a slowdown in hiring that coincided with peak inflation and rises in cost of capital for firms. Over the past few months, the REC says its JobsOutlook survey has suggested firms were gaining confidence in their hiring plans.

The number of active postings in the week of 7-13 August 2023 was 2,303,479 – a 7.2% increase compared to the previous week (31 July- 6 August 2023) but 60% higher than the year before (8-14 August 2022) when there were 1,439,819 active job adverts.

Neil Carberry, Chief Executive of the REC, said: “Over the course of the last year, we have seen hiring slow gently in many sectors, while labour shortages persist in others. Businesses have been more cautious about hiring in light of high inflation and cost of capital, as well as wider economic concerns. Client feedback for the past couple of months has been more positive, however, and we can see this reflected in today’s job advert numbers. Firms are ready to recruit for the future and more confident in their plan – a stark contrast with the more cautious and concerned view of August 2022.

“The high level of live job adverts remains a signal of hiring difficulties firms are experiencing in some markets, due to a range of factors including skills shortages, job design and access to candidates. It emphasises again the need for firms to get their approach to the market right, working with professional recruiters. While growth has been slow, labour supply is still constricted, and candidates have choices.”

Call for changes to curb executive pay

Companies should be required to have at least two elected representatives on the committees that set pay and should provide more detail on remuneration for top earners beyond the executives, according to the High Pay Centre.

Its research shows median pay for chief executives of FTSE 100 share index companies grew to £3.91m in 2022, the highest level since 2007. The figure is up from £3.38m in 2021, marking a 16% pay rise.

Meanwhile, pay deals awarded by British employers cooled for the first time this year in the quarter to July, falling to 5.7% from a record 6%, according to a survey by XpertHR.

Labour changes wording on single worker status pledge

Labour has confirmed reports that it intends to row back on commitments to workers’ rights after the Financial Times reported that the party had diluted its pledge to extend rights and protections to people in the gig economy.

But Angela Rayner, the party’s deputy leader, insisted that Labour still intended to ban zero-hour contracts, tackle bogus self-employment and end qualifying periods for rights in the “biggest levelling-up of workers’ rights in decades”.

Labour had been planning to create a single “worker” status for all but the genuinely self-employed, ensuring the same rights for everyone regardless of sector, wage or type of contract. However, the party’s policy forum in July changed the wording of the pledge to allow for more flexibility. This has led the Unite union to accuse Labour of rowing back on its plans in order to “curry favour with big business”.

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