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25th January 2023
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'Menopause leave' trial is rejected by ministers
UK government ministers have rejected a proposal to introduce "menopause leave" pilots in England, arguing it could be "counterproductive," and have also dismissed a recommendation to make menopause a protected characteristic under the Equality Act. In July 2022, the Women and Equalities Committee published a report which warned that the impact of menopause was causing the UK economy to "haemorrhage talent," and said a lack of support was pushing women out of work. In its response to the report, the government rejected outright five of the committee's 12 proposals, including a recommendation for the government to work with a large public sector employer to "develop and pilot a specific menopause leave policy." A cross-party group of MPs had argued this could stop women being "forced out of work by insensitive and rigid sickness policies." The government said it was focused on encouraging employers to implement workplace menopause policies, adding: "We are concerned that specific menopause leave may be counterproductive to achieving this goal." It also said it would not launch a consultation on amending the Equality Act to introduce a new protected characteristic of menopause "including a duty to provide reasonable adjustments for menopausal employees," saying such a move could have "unintended consequences which may inadvertently create new forms of discrimination, for example, discrimination risks towards men suffering from long term medical conditions or eroding existing protections." Conservative MP Caroline Nokes criticized the government response to the Women and Equalities Committee, which she chairs.  “This is a missed opportunity,” said Nokes in a letter to the Minister for Women Maria Caulfield. “The evidence to our inquiry was crystal clear that urgent action was needed across healthcare and work settings to properly address women's needs, yet government progress has been glacial and its response complacent.”
HR leaders versus employee views on the cost-of-living crisis revealed.

With the cost-of-living crisis at its peak, employees are more stressed, absenteeism is on the rise – and productivity is taking a hit. A recent YuLife survey in partnership with YouGov and HR Ninjas survey found that 66% of workers don't feel comfortable enough to talk about their financial struggles with their managers. All the while, 91% of HR managers believe it’s their responsibility to improve employees’ sense of financial wellbeing beyond paying salaries. But if you feel like your workplace is fostering an open, supportive environment for all of your workers, what more can you do? 

Download our latest ebook: HR leaders versus employee views on the cost of living crisis revealed.

Fire and rehire should be ‘absolute last resort,’ UK warns
Employers should use “fire and rehire” tactics only as an “absolute last resort” when they change staff contracts, the UK government has said, as it published a draft code of practice intended to strengthen workers’ rights.  The new statutory code is intended to prevent a repeat of what happened last year at P&O Ferries. The company deliberately sought to evade the law by sacking 786 seafarers without due consultation. Plans for a new statutory code will give courts the power to apply a 25% uplift to an employee’s compensation in certain circumstances if an employer doesn’t follow the new Code. Business Secretary Grant Shapps said: “Our new code will crack down on firms mistreating employees and set out how they should behave when changing an employee’s contract.” But TUC general secretary, Paul Nowak, said the rules don't go far enough. Mr Nowak said: "This is a reheated, repeated announcement. A statutory code of practice is not going to stop another P&O-style scandal from happening, and it won't deter bad bosses from treating staff like disposable labour. If the government really cared about workers' rights it wouldn't have abandoned its much-touted employment bill."
Workers aged 18-24 are most likely to seek a job linked to ESG
New research by KPMG finds a third of Gen Z workers claim to have rejected a job offer because a company’s environmental, social and governance (ESG) commitments were not in line with their values. One in five adults claim to have turned down a job offer due to a company’s ESG credentials, but this rises to one in three for people aged between 18 and 24 years old. John McCalla-Leacy, head of ESG at KPMG in the UK, said: “It is the younger generations that will see the greater impacts if we fail to reach [climate change reduction targets], so it is unsurprising that this, and other interrelated ESG considerations, are front of mind for many when choosing who they will work for . . . By 2025, 75% of the working population will be millennials, meaning [companies] will need to have credible plans to address ESG if they want to continue to attract and retain this growing pool of talent.”
Amazon workers take strike action for the first time
Amazon workers in Britain are striking for the first time. Nearly 300 members of the GMB union, out of the 1,000 who work in the company's warehouse in Coventry, are walking out in a dispute over pay. The union is asking workers to be paid as much as their colleagues in the United States, who receive $18 an hour, or £14.65, rather than the 50p-an-hour pay rise that Amazon proposed in an August pay review, which would take the lowest-paid employee to £10.50 an hour. The GMB noted that this would mean workers were paid less than employees at Asda, Disney and Primark, which also operate warehouses in the area. Stuart Richards, GMB senior organiser, said: "Today, Amazon workers in Coventry will make history. They've defied the odds to become the first ever Amazon workers in the UK to go on strike. They're taking on one of the world's biggest companies to fight for a decent standard of living."
High rental costs price workers out of London
Eight in ten workers renting accommodation in London are struggling to keep up with the soaring cost of accommodation, according to the affordable housing charity Dolphin Living. The average rent in the capital has risen by 16.1% over the past year to £2,343 per month, according to the latest data from Rightmove. If rents were to rise by another 7%, “well over half” of tenants would not be able to afford them. A quarter said that they would be priced out by a rise of 3%. Rightmove said there were 24% fewer homes available to rent in the capital in October than in the same month of 2021, with investors forced out by higher taxes and other reforms. Olivia Harris, chief executive of Dolphin Living, has called on the government to adopt policies to encourage developers to build more affordable housing.
Cost of labour in Britain up by 30% since referendum
Research by the UK Trade and Business Commission (UKTBC) reveals that Brexit has been one of the main drivers of a sharp rise in material and labour costs for the UK’s construction sector. D’Maris Coffman, the director of the Bartlett school of sustainable construction at University College London, said the energy crisis had equal weight to Brexit in terms of impact on costs (40%) while the pandemic accounted for the remaining fifth. The UKTBC said the research would deepen growing concerns over labour shortages in the UK.
Jeremy Hunt set to bring forward hike in retirement age
The Chancellor is understood to be poised to announce that he is bringing forward the raising of the state retirement age to 68 by up to a decade. Jeremy Hunt is said to want to make the change, which is currently pencilled in for 2046, from as early as 2035 to save billions more for the Exchequer.
Remote work saves global commuters 72 minutes a day, study finds
Remote work saves commuters around the world 72 minutes a day, according to a new study from the National Bureau of Economic Research. Working from home is saving the most time in China, freeing up 102 minutes a day. Workers in Serbia saw the smallest savings of 51 minutes; those in the US had a comparatively low 55 minutes spared. UK workers saved 73 minutes; workers in Germany saved 65 minutes. The study nevertheless shows that businesses are the biggest beneficiaries of the travel time savings, with workers devoting 40% of their saved time toward primary and secondary jobs. About a third of saved time was directed toward leisure activities and 11% went to caregiving, the study found.
3M to cut 2,500 manufacturing jobs as consumer demand slows
Industrial giant 3M has announced plans to cut 2,500 manufacturing jobs worldwide as it predicts last year’s fourth quarter slowdown will persist through the first half of this year. The company, which has been battling with higher labour and energy costs, said it would continue to adjust its manufacturing levels and maintain spending discipline until sales volumes bounce back following slowing demand for consumer and electronic items.
Redundancies often leave companies worse off
Writing for Bloomberg, Sarah Green Carmichael considers how job cuts often leave companies worse off, alienating customers and sapping the morale of those employees who are left to pick up the slack. An organisation which finds that it is slightly overstaffed should consider what to do with that capacity rather than letting go people they have worked hard to hire, say management experts. “The research has been incredibly consistent that layoffs are not good,” warns Angie Kamath, dean of the New York University School of Professional Studies.
Capricorn Energy directors quit en masse in victory for activist
The longstanding chief executive and chair of Scottish oil and gas group Capricorn Energy have resigned, along with seven directors, following a campaign by activist investor Palliser Capital. Capricorn's third-largest shareholder has been leading a charge to force the company to abandon a merger with Israeli group NewMed, arguing it does not sufficiently compensate investors.
Arcadia Group close to funding deal with Aviva
Aviva is reportedly close to an agreement with the trustees of the Arcadia Group pension scheme that will guarantee retirement pay-outs to thousands of former Topshop, Burton and Dorothy Perkins employees. Sky News reports that a formal agreement is likely within weeks, with Aviva understood to have seen off competition from rival insurance companies, including Pension Insurance Corporation. The precise structure of the deal between the Arcadia trustees and Aviva remains unclear; however, one insider told Sky News it was expected to involve members receiving full benefits - albeit potentially with more limited future increases than current inflation levels would justify. Arcadia members are certain to receive superior pay-outs to those they would have got through the Pension Protection Fund lifeboat, which effectively guarantees benefits worth 90% of pension pots to unretired members.
Banks call for major changes to UK's accountability rules
Banks are lobbying UK regulators to drastically overhaul the Senior Managers and Certification Regime in order to help boost the City of London's global appeal after Brexit. City Minister Andrew Griffith expects a consultation to begin within weeks, and financial services firms are preparing a case for scrapping the FCA Register altogether and ditching the requirement to certify senior officials below the top ranks as "fit and proper" to hold roles. "It is the right time for government and regulators to review the regime," said Simon Hills, director of prudential regulation at bank lobby group UK Finance.
Australian Treasury threatens to stop briefing tax multinationals after leak
Australian Assistant Treasurer Stephen Jones has threatened to end confidential briefings with the country's largest consulting firms after a former PwC partner was banned by the Tax Practitioners Board for leaking confidential government tax plans - including new rules to stop multinationals avoiding tax - to other staff and partners at the firm. “The tax advice profession is now on notice,” Jones said, adding “When the integrity of that process is breached, we may need to rethink our approach.” Peter-John Collins, the former head of international tax at PwC Australia, was deregistered by the Tax Practitioners Board for leaking confidential government information and banned from the profession for two years. The Treasury had briefed Mr Collins in confidence on measures to prevent multinationals avoiding tax by shifting profits from Australia to tax and secrecy havens. But a probe found Mr Collins leaked the confidential information to PwC partners and staff.
Employment website finds places for French hijab-wearers
JobHijab is a new website that is designed to help hijab-wearing women in France find employment. Yasmine Derrouaz, co-founder of JobHijab, said it is not always clear which companies allow prospective Muslim employees to continue wearing their headscarves. Companies in France are not required to state their policy on religious neutrality in job adverts and are “free to inform staff of this at their convenience,” Valérie Duez-Ruff, an expert in French employment law, said. The website lists only companies that are known to be open to workers wearing religious symbols. The information is obtained by the website through word of mouth or from the companies’ human resources departments.

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