Weekly news round-up: from hybrid exclusion to increasing labour market uncertainty

This week’s weekly HR news round-up covers everything from workingmums.co.uk’s survey findings on mental health and flexible working to the latest jobs outlook.

frictionless flexibility


‘Remote and hybrid workers feel overlooked for job opportunities’

Significant numbers of remote and hybrid workers do not feel fully included in the workplace, according to new research from workingmums.co.uk.

Figures from its annual survey of over 2,000 mums show that 43% of mothers who work remotely feel they have been overlooked for promotion and work opportunities, whilst almost a third (29%) say they don’t feel fully included at work.

The research also reveals that whilst pay is now the biggest retention driver for mums, flexible working comes in a close second, significantly more important than both benefits and rights. Almost three-quarters of respondents (73%) say flexible working is a deal breaker in taking a new job, and over half (52%) have turned down a position due to lack of flexibility.

Meanwhile, almost half of all mums (48%) say their mental health has deteriorated in the past year, with almost a quarter of mums (24%) saying their children are also suffering from mental health issues.  More than half (51%) of those questioned said financial pressures contributed to their decreasing mental wellbeing.

Poverty risk of changes to state pension age

Increasing the State Pension age in the UK is likely to leave thousands at risk of falling into or living in poverty for longer, according to new analysis.

The Health Foundation says that the rise in the State Pension age to 67 in April 2026 will coincide with an increase in economic inactivity due to ill health.

It says an additional 235,000 people aged 53–62 – the first cohort who will retire at 67 – were out of work due to ill health in the first quarter of 2023 compared to the first quarter of 2020 – a 34% increase, compared to a 2% rise in the equivalent cohort in the previous three-year period.

The Foundation says those who are out of work due to ill health will be left on Universal Credit for a year longer due to the pension rise rather than becoming eligible for Pension Credit and that this will leave them worse off. For single working people deemed unable to work due to ill health, Universal Credit is currently £27 less per week compared with a single person on Pension Credit.

Read more here.

Bank loses disability discrimination case

Starling Bank has been ordered to pay over £1m in damages to a solicitor who was sacked for not being “a Starling person”.

Gulnaz Raja won a disability discrimination claim against the bank for failing to respond to her health concerns following an earlier ruling that Starling had treated her unfairly. Raja, who suffered from asthma, needed to work from home and have time off during the pandemic, but she was dismissed in March 2020 and told that she was ‘not a Starling person’.

The judge said Raja “lost her job at what would have been the worst possible time in recent history and was presented with grave difficulties in obtaining new work at that extremely stressful and difficult time”.

The employment tribunal ruled that the bank must pay Raja £540,000 for past and future loss of earnings, £15,000 for injury to feelings and an additional payment to account for tax.

Meanwhile, a woman who was left out of a free day off and whose employer failed to send her job adverts while she was on maternity leave has been awarded £50,000 by an employment tribunal in Cambridge.

The tribunal ruled that Ms R Smith’s employer Greatwell Homes Limited had failed to keep her informed of opportunities for career progression while on maternity leave, even though she had been encouraged to apply for promotion before she announced her pregnancy. It said her reputation as a “an effective and useful member of staff” had been “eroded by the knowledge that she had become pregnant and was on maternity leave”.

Labour announces early years review

Labour has announced a review of early years policy, with areas being looked at including more schools-based early years provision, fewer restrictions on local authorities when it comes to running childcare and boosting the status and training for early years workers.

There was also talk about changing employment practices, including banning zero hours contracts and day one basic rights.

Anneliese Dodds, the shadow women and equalities secretary, also backed calls for an extension of the time limit to raise an employment tribunal claim from three to six months, particularly to provide pregnant women more time to seek redress.

Calls for tax relief on occupational health

The Institute of Directors has called for the expansion of the range of occupational health services covered by Benefit in Kind (BiK) exemptions.

In a survey of business leaders on employer occupational health provision, the IoD has found that SMEs are significantly less likely than large employers to provide occupational health services to employees, with 42% of microbusinesses offering occupational health services compared to 95% of large employers.

For employers who do not provide occupational health services, the main reasons cited were occupational health not posing issues for the business (49%) and costs being prohibitive (43%). 41% of business leaders stated that expanding BiK exemptions is the policy most likely to increase investment in occupational health.

Alexandra Hall-Chen, Principal Policy Advisor for Employment, said:  “Increased employer investment in occupational health provision has the potential to reduce economic inactivity against a backdrop of persistent skills and labour shortages in the UK.

“Our research clearly shows that bringing additional occupational health costs into scope of tax relief under the BiK exemption is the policy mechanism most likely to incentivise businesses to increase their investment in occupational health.”

Perceived ageism puts older workers off hospitality jobs

Nearly three quarters (70%) of over 50s said they would consider a career in hospitality, but 88% also think that hospitality businesses prefer hiring younger people, according to a new report from Rest Less.

The survey of 1,000 older jobseekers also looked at what appealed to them about working in the hospitality sector.  More than two thirds (68%) said they thought their life skills would be useful and 68% also said that the social aspect was appealing.  Nearly two thirds (62%) said the opportunity to work with people of all ages would encourage them to apply.   However, when asked for the reasons why they wouldn’t apply for a role in the hospitality sector, 68% of respondents worried the hours would be too anti-social and that the role would be too physically demanding (46%).

Petition on career breaks for parents of sick children

A petition calling for employers to offer career breaks for parents of seriously ill children has gained over 91,000 signatures.

The petition was started by Christina Harris from Essex whose daughter was diagnosed with leukaemia. She says she became a full-time nurse overnight. As her employer was unable to keep her job open she had to leave. She had been there fore 19 years.

She says: “Employers should be required to grant special breaks for parents in this situation enabling them to return to their jobs afterwards. Parents shouldn’t face losing their jobs on top of dealing with the possibility of losing their child.”

Christina says she has spoken to many parents in her situation who are struggling financially and she feels it is down to the Government to take action so that employers have to grant career breaks in these situations. Currently, parents can only use carer’s leave, which is one week’s unpaid leave per year.

A Government spokesman says: “The Government understands the difficulties and worry faced by parents of seriously ill children. We have no plans to introduce a right to take a career break in these circumstances.”

CFA Institute introduces diversity code

The CFA Institute, the global association of investment professionals, has launched the UK edition of its voluntary Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Code for the Investment Profession (“DEI Code”).

The DEI Code has six metrics-based principles, ranging from building the pipeline and promotion and retention to leadership and a commitment to provide regular reporting on DEI metrics to senior management and board members as well as the CFA Institute.

“CFA Institute is seeking to build a more representative and resilient industry, and we recognise that far more needs to be done across all aspects of DEI,” said Margaret Franklin, CFA President and CEO of the Institute.

Firms hit by shortage of skilled staff

More than two-thirds (71%) of businesses have been impacted by labour shortages over the last year and nearly 8 in 10 believe that access to skills is a threat to labour market competitiveness, according to a new survey.

In its annual Employment Trends Survey with Pertemps Network Group, the CBI reports that labour shortages are having a material impact on firms’ ability to invest, respond to demand and grow. Nearly 7 in 10 businesses (69%) are trying to narrow the gap by investing in training to upskill current workers while 60% are investing in technology and automation to improve productivity and reduce reliance on labour.

Meanwhile, the latest KPMG and REC, UK Report on Jobs survey, compiled by S&P Global shows uncertainty over the economic outlook and rising costs continued to affect hiring decisions in September. Permanent placements continued to fall, although the rate of decline was the weakest in three months. That was balanced by improved demand for short-term staff.

The availability of workers improved, with recruiters often linking this to redundancies while pay pressures continued to weaken, with rates of starting salary inflation and temp wage growth edging down to 30- and 31-month lows respectively.

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