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20th November 2023
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Employees can sue employers for work-related stress, judge suggests
People who suffer work-related stress can now sue their employers for disability discrimination, according to a judge's ruling. The ruling could lead to a surge in disability discrimination claims related to stress at work. An NHS worker, Debra Phillips, successfully sued her employer, Aneurin Bevan University Health Board, for disability discrimination. The judge found that Phillips had clear medical records showing she suffered from stress. The ruling highlights the duty of employers to make reasonable adjustments for employees experiencing disabilities, including mental health problems. The ruling also emphasizes that a formal diagnosis of a mental illness is not required for a tribunal to consider an employee as disabled. Phillips's case will proceed to a full tribunal. The ruling has significant implications for employers and the tribunal system.
The big global benefits trends in 2023 and beyond

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Brexit has boosted wage growth in the UK, economists say
A crackdown on uncontrolled immigration from the EU has boosted wages for UK based workers, economists have said. Figures last week showed that wages, excluding bonuses, were growing at a near-record pace of 7.7%. Mabrouk Chetouane, the head of global market strategy at French investment bank Natixis, explained that labour supply has been cut massively due to Brexit. “It creates an imbalance that continues to fuel wage growth and this situation is here to stay.” Jack Kennedy, a senior economist at hiring website Indeed, said he believed Brexit was “certainly likely to be a contributory factor” towards faster than expected wage growth for lower-skilled jobs. “A lot of the lower paid sectors are seeing pretty strong rates of wage growth of between 7% and 10% in our data.”
Female doctors earn less than male colleagues in NHS
Women working in medicine in the UK earn on average 5.5% less than men, analysis by the King's Fund think tank has found. Office for National Statistics figures show that the average full-time female doctor earns £30.93 an hour while a male doctor earns £32.74 an hour. The gender pay gap is particularly stark in general practice, where male doctors earn 50% more than female doctors. Annual NHS figures show that male GPs took home £146,000 on average last year, while female GPs earned £97,500. This is largely because men are more likely to run their own practices. The vast majority of lower-paid NHS roles are held by women, including nursing, where nine in ten staff are female, although female nurses earn marginally more than male nurses on average.
Civil servants can now apply to work from abroad
Public sector staff will be allowed to work from the beach after ministers caved in to pressure from the FDA union, which represents senior civil servants, the Telegraph reports. The union argued that many of its members have connections outside the UK and should be allowed to work overseas “for personal reasons” rather than having to take annual leave. The Telegraph reports that applications would be subject to “stringent legal and security requirements,” so how lenient ministers are in practice remains to be seen. The change comes just days after the Cabinet Office told senior managers to work from the office more than 60% of the time to promote “strong visible leadership” to junior staff and boost productivity.
Office refurbs bounce back
A record number of office refurbishments were begun in London this summer as landlords rushed to improve the state of their buildings. Between April and September, renovation work began on 34 office blocks totalling 3.3m sq ft of workspace, according to Deloitte. “Occupiers’ focus on premium space, coupled with addressing the anticipated [minimum energy efficiency standard] deadline and drive to net zero, are continuing to provide a strong stimulus to refurbishment activity,” Philip Parnell, partner and real estate valuation lead at Deloitte, said. “This is a trend that is countering the backdrop of an otherwise challenging macro-economic environment.”
Lack of desk space stymies public sector work guidance
Civil servants have been given permission to ignore new government guidance requiring them to work in the office at least three days a week due to a lack of desk space. Advice issued last week said all Whitehall staff must now spend 60% of their working time 'face to face' in the office. But new guidance issued to Whitehall departments that saw office space sold off during the pandemic says staff are needed in only for 40% of the working week – or two days out of five. Managers are currently considering whether three days a week is viable due to the “pressures on our estate,” officials from the Department for Business and Trade said.
FCA targets businesses over churn of reporting officers
The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) targeted hundreds of businesses last year in a crackdown on money laundering reporting officers, according to Financial News. The regulator was concerned about the high turnover of these officers, which could indicate a deficient work environment or a lack of resources. The FCA wrote to 643 companies, requesting an explanation for the short lengths of time employees held the role.
AI executive quits over copyright row
A senior executive at London-based artificial intelligence start-up Stability AI has resigned in protest because the company uses copyrighted work to train its models without paying for it or getting permission from the holder. Stability previously responded to the US copyright office with the argument that “AI development is an acceptable, transformative and socially beneficial use of existing content that is protected by fair use.” But Ed Newton-Rex, the company’s head of audio, said: “Companies worth billions of dollars are, without permission, training generative AI models on creators’ works, which are then being used to create new content that in many cases can compete with the original works. I don’t see how this can be acceptable in a society that has set up the economics of the creative arts such that creators rely on copyright.”
Rugby players sue authorities over head injuries
Dozens of rugby players are taking legal action against the Rugby Football Union, World Rugby, and the Welsh Rugby Union over the long-term effects of head injuries. The case involves 234 players, with a hearing scheduled for December 1st to determine the test cases. The players' lawyers have submitted extensive medical records detailing brain injuries. The claim also includes players from Wales, Scotland, and Ireland. Richard Boardman, The lawyer leading the case, alleges a failure by the rugby governing bodies to protect players from concussions and subconcussions. The rugby authorities have yet to submit their defences.
Dozens of councils face equal pay challenges
The GMB union is looking to bring equal pay claims against dozens of local authorities after spearheading legal action in Birmingham. A 2012 ruling from the UK Supreme Court found a group of mostly female staff at the council were not given bonuses handed to employees in traditionally male-dominated roles. This cost the city £1.1bn and the GMB’s action resulted in additional claims worth up to £760m. This tipped Britain’s second-biggest city into bankruptcy and with local government finances already in jeopardy the chance of further action thrusting councils into bankruptcy is high.
Hitachi Rail warns of 10,000 job losses after orders cancelled
Hitachi Rail’s chief director in the UK, Jim Brewin, has warned that over 10,000 jobs are at risk across Britain’s train manufacturing sector as orders dry up following the scaling back of rail projects such as HS2. Brewin’s comments, made during a “Rail Summit” hosted by the Northern Powerhouse Partnership and the TUC last week, will stoke fresh fears about the fate of Hitachi Rail’s vast train manufacturing works in the northeast of England - just days after Alstom, the French engineering giant, confirmed it was consulting on job cuts at Britain’s largest train manufacturing site.
KPMG UK partnership shrinks to half the size of rival PwC
KPMG UK has reduced its number of equity partners to less than half of PwC's, after shrinking its top rank for a fourth straight year. The number of equity partners fell by 7% to 467, the first time it has dropped below 500 since 2002. PwC has 1,057 equity partners, while EY and Deloitte have 930 and 714, respectively, after expanding their partnerships in the past year. Earlier this year, KPMG cancelled promotions for auditors and stated that attrition levels had stabilised. However, the firm recently promoted 56 new salaried partners, bringing the total to 359. Last month, it was revealed that KPMG was planning job cuts and salary freezes in its UK deal advisory division as CEO Jon Holt attempts to boost profits.
Interview: Hywel Ball – EY UK Chair
Hywel Ball, the UK Chairman of EY, is interviewed by the Sunday Times’ Jill Treanor. Ball says the government’s failure to overhaul the regulation of auditors with a new regulator, the Audit, Reporting and Governance Authority, is a missed opportunity to bolster investor confidence in British companies. "It is disappointing to see the lack of progress. I hear the political statements about no red tape and less regulation but I personally think we need smarter regulation, not no regulation. To deliver deep capital markets, I think it is really important."
Misconduct scandal left CBI facing disproportionate scrutiny, says boss
CBI chief executive Rain Newton-Smith says the group has come under disproportionate scrutiny after a misconduct scandal that pushed it to the brink of collapse this year as companies cut ties.
UK bank employees face higher taxes, threatening London's status as a financial centre
UK bankers are facing higher taxes due to the government's policy of freezing income tax thresholds and increasing National Insurance contributions. This has led to a significant jump of 11.2% in the average tax collected per UK bank employee in 2022 compared to the previous year. The survey conducted by UK Finance reveals that the UK is becoming less competitive as a location for banks compared to other financial centres. The tax burden on UK bank employees is now £42,420 per employee, including income taxes and National Insurance contributions. PwC warns that London's status as a global financial center is at risk. The freeze on income tax and national insurance thresholds, known as fiscal drag, allows the government to extract more revenue without policy changes. The report projects a higher total tax rate for London-based banks in 2024 compared to other major financial centres. Andy Wiggins, tax transparency leader at PwC, emphasized the importance of maintaining the competitiveness of the UK banking sector for economic growth and investment.
Hilton encourages Gen Z jobseekers to submit TikTok resumes
The Hilton hotel chain in Australia is encouraging jobseekers, particularly Gen Z workers, to submit TikTok videos as job applications. The company posted a video on TikTok, urging potential employees to create a short video showcasing their skills and how they would make a day for Hilton guests. Traditional written CVs are also being accepted. Mary Hogg, regional human resources director for Hilton Australasia, stated that the TikTok pilot was aimed at attracting candidates with strong interpersonal skills. Legal experts have noted that employers can request TikToks as part of job applications, but they must ensure that the requirements do not discriminate or have unreasonable impacts. In 2021, TikTok launched a similar program called #TikTokResumes.
Ed Sheeran’s wife takes role at Deloitte
Ed Sheeran’s wife Cherry Seaborn has switched jobs to become a sustainability advocate at Deloitte, the Sun reports. Cherry describes herself as: “An entrepreneur with a love for nature and genuine concern for the health of the planet – environmentally, socially and economically.”

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