Our monthly employment law round up.

Menopause in the workplace

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Health and Social Care provided an update on the UK Government's work to improve menopause care on 27 October. It was noted that provision of a supportive environment was crucial with a number of organisations, including the CIPD producing helpful guidelines on how to achieve that. Responses were encouraged to the UK Government's consultation on flexible working and a roundtable with organisations, including the British Chambers of Commerce and the Federation of Small Businesses, is to take place with further recommendations to follow. In England, a new menopause taskforce is to be established to encourage a better approach to improved support for those going through the menopause.

Portuguese employers risk fine for contacting employees outside working hours

Portugal is introducing a range of measures to improve work-life balance following the expansion of home working during the pandemic. As well as a ban on employers texting or emailing staff outside working hours, parents are to be allowed to work at home indefinitely until their child turns eight without prior approval from bosses. Employers may also have to contribute to higher household bills incurred as a consequence of being home-based.

Real living wage increases to £9.90 per hour

Increases to the real living wage have been announced with the new hourly rate being £9.90 (previously £9.50), or £11.05 (previously £10.85) in London. Unlike the statutory living wage, the real living wage is voluntary with employers signing up to pay it. The statutory national living wage is due to increase to from £8.91 to £9.50 in April so there is a narrowing of the gap between the real living wage and the statutory living wage.

Monitoring of homeworkers

According to a poll carried out on behalf of trade union Prospect, 32% of remote workers are now being monitored, up from 24% in April 2021. Use of camera monitoring in people's homes has increased from 5% in April to 13% now. The same poll found that the majority of workers believed monitoring by camera should be banded or heavily regulated.

An All-Party Parliamentary Group have published a report calling for new legislation to counter the negative impact of surveillance technologies used to monitor workers. A duty to carry out Algorithmic Impact Assessments would be created along with updated digital protections for workers and additional collective rights.

Majority of job adverts still not offering flexibility

As we await the UK Government's response to the consultation on making flexible working the default position, new research by flexible working consultancy firm Timewise has shown that only 26% of employers are including some offer of flexibility in job adverts. The analysis covered 5 million job adverts. Some sectors fared better than others with medical and health roles leading the way with a third of adverts offering flexibility while manufacturing/resources roles brought up the rear with only 6% offering flexibility.

ONS gender pay gap data published

The ONS released its annual statistics on the gender pay gap in the UK. These figures differ from those collated in compliance with the statutory requirement for larger employers to report their pay gap, as the ONS use a broader base of businesses in their assessment. It also looks at the gap in April 2021 whereas the most recent statutory figures relate to a snapshot date in April 2020. The ONS figures also include furloughed workers. They concluded that the full-time gender pay gap was 7.9% which is a downward trend from 9% in April 2019.

2021 gender pay gap analysis shows narrowing of gap

PwC's analysis of the figures arising from this year's statutory reporting of the gender pay gap by larger private companies and voluntary organisations has shown a slight narrowing of the gap from 13.3% to 13.1%. Unlike the ONS figures (see above) this used a snapshot date of April 2020 and PwC based their analysis on companies that have reported consistently since the requirement to report was introduced in 2018. Both organisations confirm comparisons with previous years need to be treated with caution given the impact of furlough. What is clear is that any improvement is slow and more needs to be done.

Holiday pay for workers with irregular hours

Harper v Brazel was heard by the Supreme Court in November. The case concerns calculation of holiday pay for workers with irregular hours who only work for part of the year. The Court of Appeal judgment held that employers must calculate holiday pay in accordance with the statutory calculation (even though this may result in a windfall for them) and not simply pro-rata the days worked against full-time hours. The Supreme Court judgment is likely to be handed down in 2022 and will have implications for employers who engage staff for only part of the year.

Number of gig economy workers triples in five years

New TUC research has found that the number of people in England and Wales that work in the gig economy has tripled in five years. Currently 4.4 million people (14.7% of working adults) work for gig economy platforms at least once a week, up from 5.7% in 2016. This increase is greater when looking only at delivery and driving "gigs" with the number increasing from 1.9% to 8.9%. The TUC is calling for better employment rights and a ban on zero hours contracts.