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13th October 2021
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Job vacancies hit record high
Office for National Statistics (ONS) figures show that job vacancies hit a record high of almost 1.2m in September. The data also reveals a 207,000 increase in the number of people on payrolls, with the total hitting a record 29.2m. This is 120,000 above pre-pandemic levels and up 207,000 on the previous month. The report shows that vacancies grew across most sectors in the three months to September. While unemployment continued to fall, hitting 4.5% in September on the back of a 0.4% decline, the rate is likely to increase due to the furlough scheme winding up at the end of last month. The analysis found that average weekly earnings in the June-August period were 7.2% higher than in the equivalent three months of 2020, down from the previous reading of 8.3%. Excluding bonuses, earnings rose by 6.0%. Chancellor Rishi Sunak said: “The number of expected redundancies remained very low in September, there are more employees on payrolls than ever before and the unemployment rate has fallen for eight months in a row." Darren Morgan, director of economic statistics at the ONS, said: “The jobs market has continued to recover from the effects of the coronavirus, with the number of employees on payroll in September now well exceeding pre-pandemic levels." Reflecting on the ONS data, Yael Selfin, chief UK economist at KPMG, said the end of the furlough scheme “could briefly raise the headline unemployment rate, which could average 4.9% for 2021 as a whole, representing a smaller impact than originally expected.”
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FCA staff in union petition
The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) may soon be a unionised workplace, with Unite launching a formal petition to gauge interest having seen a significant increase in FCA staff joining the union. Staff are said to be unhappy with chief executive Nikhil Rathi’s transformation plans, which they believe will see wages cut. Dominic Hook, Unite national officer, said staff at the City watchdog are “demoralised by the consultation launched by the CEO in September and feel it is a poor way to reward FCA staff who worked tirelessly throughout the pandemic.” Unite members are reportedly angered that Mr Rathi has proposed allowing the highest paid FCA staff to be paid more to avoid caps on the tax breaks for the largest pension pot holders.
ScotRail workers offered 4.7% pay deal to stop strikes
Workers at ScotRail have been offered a 4.7% pay deal in a bid to halt a series of strikes that threaten to disrupt the COP26 climate conference. The Scotsman reports that staff have been offered an initial 2.5% increase backdated to April 2021, with a further 2.2% increase promised in April 2022, along with a £300 bonus payment for ensuring that the UN conference is fully supported. The RMT said the offer "has been received" and is being discussed by union reps, with a statement to be issued "in due course".
Regulator to test firms' remote working arrangements
The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) is to evaluate firms considering remote or hybrid working on a case-by-case basis, saying firms will be required to prove that the remote working does not - or is unlikely to - cause detriment to consumers, damage the integrity of the market, increase the risk of financial crime and reduce competition. The watchdog said firms should be able to prove that a hybrid working model will not prevent the FCA receiving information about a company, nor will it reduce the accuracy of the Financial Services Register. Firms must also prove there is appropriate governance and oversight by senior managers under the Senior Managers regime. The FCA notes that under Principle 11 of the its Principles for Businesses, any material changes to how a firm intends to operate may require the company to notify it first.
Private equity salaries rise to £152k
The salary for junior staff at private equity companies has risen to £152,000, a jump of 52% compared to two years ago. Data from headhunters firm Heidrick & Struggles show that in 2019, private equity professionals across Europe with only two years in the industry were paid, on average, just under £100,000 in salary and bonus. For those with two to four years of experience, a salary of around £181,000 has become the sector’s average, a jump of 42% over the past two years. Senior private equity professionals are taking home more than £512,000, an increase of 21%. The leap in salaries illustrates the intensifying war on talent in the financial services space, City AM reports.
Lego to remove gender bias from toys
Lego has announced it will work to remove gender stereotypes from its toys after a global survey found that while girls were becoming more confident and keen to engage in a wide range of activities, the same was not true of boys. Just over 70% of boys surveyed feared they would be made fun of if they played with what they described as “girls' toys” – a fear shared by their parents. “Parents are more worried that their sons will be teased than their daughters for playing with toys associated with the other gender,” says Madeline Di Nonno , the chief executive of the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media, which conducted the research. “But it's also that behaviours associated with men are valued more highly in society,” says Di Nonno. “Until societies recognise that behaviours and activities typically associated with women are as valuable or important, parents and children will be tentative to embrace them.” “We're working hard to make Lego more inclusive,” says Julia Goldin , the chief product and marketing officer at the Lego Group. Since the start of 2021, the Geena Davis Institute has been auditing Lego and consulting to “address gender bias and harmful stereotypes”, and the company has promised to remove gender bias from its lines.
Obie criticised for praising disgraced ex-boss
Nationwide has criticised the Open Banking Implementation Entity (Obie) after the regulator commended former trustee and chairman Imran Gulamhuseinwala for his contribution to the organisation. He resigned after a report found the unit suffered from a "toxic workplace culture" and "bullying was commonplace". It also found Mr Gulamhuseinwala did not ensure that the organisation was properly managed. Nationwide has made its concerns known in a letter to the Competition and Markets Authority, Obie's parent organisation. The Telegraph’s Simon Foy says Nationwide’s complaint raises further questions about the CMA's oversight of the unit, which it set up in 2016 to promote open banking reforms in a state-backed effort to increase competition.
Virgin Atlantic hunts new chairman ahead of IPO
Virgin Atlantic is working with headhunters at Korn Ferry on a search for new directors as it prepares to float for the first time since it launched in 1984. Sir Richard Branson's flagship company is also looking for a replacement for chairman Peter Norris who has been in post for nearly a decade. The appointments are efforts to ensure that a robust corporate governance framework is in place if it does pursue an IPO in London.
Asos issues profit warning as chief executive departs
Asos has confirmed its chief executive Nick Beighton is to depart with immediate effect as the online fashion retailer warned that that its profits would be hit by increased costs and disruption to the supply chain. His departure came as Adam Crozier prepares to step down as chairman next month.

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