Employment and pensions

Employment Law Coffee Break | Menopause, labour market inquiry and the four-day week trial

Published on 9th Jun 2022

Welcome to our latest Employment Law Coffee Break in which we look at the latest legal and practical developments impacting employers.

 

Why menopause is a workplace matter

There has been a notable rise in the number of menopause-related discrimination claims in the Employment Tribunal with a recent analysis published this week of court records by the Menopause Experts Group finding that 23 cases cited menopause in 2021 (a 44% increase from 2020) and of these 23 cases, 16 included claims for disability discrimination, 14 included claims for unfair dismissal and 10 included claims for sex discrimination. We are currently awaiting the outcome of the Women and Equalities Select Committee Inquiry into the menopause and the workplace but, against this backdrop and with employee wellbeing, diversity and retention of talent high on agendas, employers should not use this as a reason to sit back and wait for any formal recommendations.

This week, we talk to Danielle Kingdon, Employment Partner and diversity specialist, on why menopause is a workplace matter, how raising awareness reduces unnecessary loss of talent and legal risk, and what practical support and adjustments you can consider in your workplace.

You can listen to the podcast here

New inquiry into the UK labour market: is current employment law fit for purpose?

We previously commented on the new Future of Work review announced following the Queen's speech in May. Following on from this, the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) Committee has launched an inquiry into the UK Labour Market. The Committee wishes to understand whether the UK has enough workers with the right skills in the right places to do the jobs required in our economy, including issues related to an ageing population, migration changes and the impact of technology. The committee also seeks to understand whether current employment law is fit for purpose or requires reform.

The areas for comment are:

The state of play in the UK labour market post-Brexit and the impact of the covid-19 pandemic on recruitment, skills shortages and the growth of the labour market

  • Do we have enough workers with the right skills in the right places?
  • What impact has the UK’s departure from the EU had on the flow of workers into and out of the UK? Are there particular sectors or skill sets that are most impacted?
  • Which sectors are experiencing the most acute shortages of workers since the pandemic? Have there been structural changes in the labour market post-Covid?
  • What more can the government do to ensure that employers are able to recruit people with the right skills for the job, including the effective use of apprentices?
  • To what extent is long covid contributing to economic inactivity due to long-term levels of sickness absence and early retirement?
  • What are the skills and training needs of different sectors over the coming months and years? Are there particular case studies that underpin priority policy objectives from the government (for example, in the energy industry)?

Artificial intelligence (AI) and technology in the workplace

  • How is AI currently being used in the workplace? Is it more prevalent in some sectors than others?
  • Is AI improving productivity in the workplace?
  • How are companies monitoring workers and setting performance targets through algorithms? Is this practice widespread? To what extent are employers using algorithms in recruitment? How well does existing regulation protect workers from the risks posed by AI and algorithms in the modern workplace
  • Will well-paid skilled jobs be lost to AI, as well as routine manual tasks that already have?
  • How should the government protect workers and prepare them for this new future
  • How will workers be supported to adapt to the changing skills that growing use of AI will require of them?
  • Are there specific technologies that we need to consider, beyond AI generally, that warrant updates to employment law?

Workers’ rights and protections

  • How can the government improve employment rights, following Brexit and the Covid-19 pandemic?
  • How can the right balance be struck between the flexibility the UK economy needs and protections for workers?
  • What can the government do to improve protection for people in low-paid work and the gig economy?
  • What opportunities should be taken to capitalise on the UK’s departure from the EU to differentiate between the EU and UK standards in some areas of workers’ rights and protections?
  • The government announced, but has not yet published, a new statutory code to prevent unscrupulous employers using fire-and-rehire tactics. What should this new code include to be an effective deterrent against that practice?
  • Are updates to employment law required to match the increased amount of work being undertaken from home?

Employment status and modern working practices five years on from the Taylor review

  • How are working patterns changing in the UK? To what extent is the gig economy growing and permanent full-time employment contracts in decline?
  • What should the government be doing five years on from the Taylor review of modern working practices to address the issues raised in that report?
  • Are current legal definitions of employment status, in light of recent judicial rulings, still fit for purpose?
  • How have employee demands and employer offers of flexible working been affected by the pandemic? How should this affect government plans and commitments around flexible working?
  • Are there particular types of work, for example night-time or shift work, which warrant further consideration in respect of the impact of that work on workers?

The impact of an ageing population on the labour market

  • What impact is the ageing population already having on employment rates and labour productivity?
  • How is the UK’s ageing population exacerbating the labour shortage that can already be felt in some sectors, e.g. hospitality, hair and beauty, social care?
  • How can the government help maintain the employability of older workers who wish to remain in work? What are the barriers facing older people in the workplace, including pension aged workers, and how should these be addressed?

Submissions are welcomed up to 8 July 2022 which will ideally address the challenges currently facing both UK employers and workers and identify potential solutions and actions required by the government, businesses and employers to support effectively the UK labour market, while boosting productivity, equipping a skilled labour force and protecting workers’ rights. The committee won’t be able to consider every aspect of the economy in depth and so is particularly welcoming data rich case studies which might exemplify national trends.

Will a four-day week trial yield 100% productivity in 80% of the time?

This week a coordinated, six-month trial in the UK of a four-day working week, with no loss in pay for employees has commenced and is running alongside similar pilot schemes taking place in Ireland, the United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. The pilot is being coordinated by 4 Day Week Global in partnership with the UK think-tank Autonomy, the 4 Day Week UK Campaign and researchers at Cambridge University, Boston College and Oxford University. The pilot provides a number of supporting initiatives including workshops, mentoring, networking and wellbeing and productivity assessment to support participant employers through the pilot which will be used by researchers to analyse how employees respond to having an extra day off, in terms of areas including stress and burnout, job and life satisfaction, health, sleep, energy use and travel.

Companies involved in the pilot span a cross-section of sectors including education, workplace consultancy, housing, skincare, building and construction recruitment services, food and beverages, and digital marketing. With many employers now competing to attract talent and employees now often prioritising wellbeing, green credentials and other ethical and lifestyle factors, above who offers the best remuneration package, the results of the pilot will make interesting reading for employers and particularly those in sectors with tough competition for available talent.

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* This article is current as of the date of its publication and does not necessarily reflect the present state of the law or relevant regulation.

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