The text of the Shared Parental Leave and Pay (Extension) Bill 2017 – 2019, which was introduced into Parliament in February 2018, has been published. This Bill aims to extend shared parental leave and pay to the self-employed. It also provides for maternity allowance to be shared between parents who are self-employed. The second reading debate is expected to take place on 25 January 2019 and the Bill will come into force within 12 months of receiving Royal Assent.

On 22 November 2018, the Department for Work and Pensions and the Department of Health and Social Care jointly published ‘Voluntary Reporting on Disability, Mental Health and Wellbeing’. This sets out a framework which has been developed to help employers record and voluntarily report information on disability, mental health and wellbeing in the workplace. Although it is aimed at large employers with over 250 employees, it can also be used by smaller employers. In relation to disability, the framework recommends that employers report the percentage of workers who consider themselves to be disabled or have a long-term physical or mental health condition, as well as details of how this data was collected. A narrative should also be produced explaining the actions taken to recruit and retain disabled employees including details of progression and pay, workplace adjustments and organisational policies. As regards mental health and wellbeing, employers are encouraged to report on the outcome of staff wellbeing surveys and actions taken to support employees. Employers should also include information about the take up of mental health support, training on mental health issues, the percentage of employees who are comfortable disclosing mental health, and whether a public commitment has been made to adhere to the standards set out in the 2017 Stevenson/Farmer review of mental health.

On 19 November 2018, the Government Equalities Office published the ‘Tailored Review of the Equality and Human Rights Commission’ (EHRC). The EHRC also published its response to this review on the same date. Tailored reviews are designed to provide assurance to Government and the public on the continued need both for the functions and form of public bodies. Whilst acknowledging that the EHRC has had some successes and has taken some actions to improve its performance, the review found that it lacks a clear set of priorities, is not seen as a robust regulator or enforcer of the law, has limited engagement with stakeholders, and does not always explain or measure its impact. The review recommends that the EHRC should be retained and that it should remain a non-departmental public body. In order to ensure that it is fit for purpose going forward, the review also recommends that the EHRC should integrate its equality and human rights remit and focus on a smaller number of priorities and key functions, such as well-targeted enforcement and regulation. The EHRC should also set out clearly in its plans and reports how it intends to achieve change and deliver on these priorities.

The Office for National Statistics has released its ‘Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings’. As well as analysis of levels of employee earnings, this includes statistics on differences in pay between women and men by age, region, full-time and part-time work and occupation. The data shows that the gender pay gap among full-time employees fell from 9.1% in 2017 to 8.6% in 2018. The gap for all employees is higher (17.9%), driven by more women working in lower paid part-time jobs. For full-time employees, the gender gap is close to zero for those aged between 18 and 39 years. It then widens due to an increase in part-time working as people get older. Since 1997 the gap has closed most markedly among the 40-49 age group. This is in contrast to the figures for the over 60s which show that, for this age group, the gap has increased over the past 10 years and is still rising. The gender gap has fallen in all regions since 1998, most notably in Northern Ireland where the pay gap is now in favour of women. London has the widest pay gap at 13.7%.

The Sutton Trust, a social mobility foundation, has published a report on internships. Almost half of employers report offering internships, with large employers twice as likely to offer them as small businesses. The report reveals that of the employers offering internships, 48% reported offering unpaid placements, 27% offer expenses only, and 12% no pay or expenses whatsoever. Although awareness of issues around pay has improved, unpaid internships remain common. 56% of internships undertaken in the past two years were unpaid, falling from 69% of those undertaken five years ago. There also appears to be substantial confusion on the law relating to unpaid internships, both amongst interns and employers. The report makes a number of recommendations for employers and Government, including a ban on unpaid internships of longer than four weeks; paying interns the national minimum wage or living wage; advertising positions publically rather than filling them informally; and extending HMRC’s information campaign to ensure that employers and young people are aware of their rights and obligations.

Acas (The Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service) has published new advice on performance management following its research which revealed that only one in four employers adapt their performance management systems for workers with special needs, disabilities and conditions such as dyslexia and autism. This research also found that 10% of employers believe their performance management systems are demotivating for staff, and only 10% use their systems for planning and monitoring training and development. The new guidance emphasises the need to take into account the diversity of the workforce and ensure that processes are fair to all staff, for example, by adjusting performance measures which may disadvantage disabled employees. It also stresses the importance of addressing problems as they arise, rather than leaving concerns until the end of year performance meeting. Areas covered in the guidance include measuring staff performance, creating and maintaining performance management systems, developing staff, case studies and research.

The Parental Bereavement (Leave and Pay) Bill received Royal Assent on 13 September 2018, creating a new statutory right to two weeks’ leave for employed parents who lose a child under 18 or suffer a stillbirth after 24 weeks of pregnancy, with pay if eligibility requirements are met. On 2 November 2018, the Government published its response to the public consultation on the details of the new requirements. The response confirms that the right will apply to primary carers and those whose relationship with the child was parental in nature. The Government has also confirmed that leave can be taken either in one block or as two separate blocks of one week, within 56 weeks from the date of the death. Although no notice will be required for leave taken immediately after bereavement, one week’s notice will be required after an initial period. As regards evidence requirements, a written declaration of eligibility must be provided where requested by the employer and in order to claim statutory bereavement pay. The Government will now prepare draft regulations setting out the details of the new right, which are expected to come into effect in April 2020.