Tag: employers

Employers will be held liable if they fail to take all reasonable steps to prevent employees from experiencing sexual harassment at work, under new proposals announced by the Government Equalities Office (GEO).

In its response to the 2019 sexual harassment in the workplace consultation, the government committed to four key actions to strengthen protection against sexual harassment in workplaces.

These included introducing a duty on employers to take all reasonable steps to prevent sexual harassment, as well as introducing a requirement to “create explicit protections from harassment by third parties”.

It also said it would support the Equality and Human Rights Commission to produce a statutory code of practice, and that it was considering extending the time limit for bringing Equality Act-based cases to Employment Tribunals to six months, from the current three months.

In a Ministerial Foreword, Equalities Minister Liz Truss said: “The steps we plan to take as a result of this consultation will help to shift the dial, prompting employers to take steps which will make a tangible and positive difference. We want to provide the right legal framework, which supports employees and employers alike.

“We will be providing further protections to employees who are the victims of sexual harassment, whilst also furnishing employers with the motivation and support to put in place practices and policies which respond to the needs of their organisation. We now have a real opportunity to transform the workplace and guarantee everyone an environment in which they can thrive and feel safe.”

The announcement was welcomed by the Trades Union Congress (TUC), which urged the government to bring the changes into law quickly.

TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said: “No one should face sexual harassment at work, but the shocking reality is that most women have. Employers will now have a legal responsibility to protect their staff from sexual harassment.

“And employers must now protect their workers from all forms of harassment by customers and clients as well as from colleagues. This will help stamp out sexual harassment of women workers, and racist and homophobic abuse too. And it will make all public-facing workplaces safer – from shops to surgeries, salons to showrooms.

“If this is to be a genuine turning point, the government must change the law swiftly, put more resources into enforcing the new duties, and make sure victims have access to justice.

“Ministers have taken an important first step – but they must keep up the momentum. Sexual harassment at work is rife and needs tackling now.”

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Employers adopting hybrid working as workplaces reopen need to make sure they are meeting the needs of their youngest workers, according to new research.

A survey of 6,000 European office workers by business technology provider Sharp found that 66% of UK workers aged 21 to 30 had found it challenging to stay connected to colleagues while working remotely.

The majority (57%) also said the ability to meet with colleagues in person had become more important since the pandemic began, and 60% said a dynamic office environment had risen in importance since lockdown.

More than half (53%) said that working remotely blurred the boundaries between their work and home life.

However, while keen for some face-to-face interaction, across Europe Millennials and Gen Z workers overwhelming reported that they also wanted flexibility going forward.

Best of both worlds

Some 40% of respondents said their employer should offer flexible working hours, while 58% said the ability to set their own working hours – as opposed to having fixed hours – was more important to them than it had been pre-pandemic.

The majority (66%) also said the ability to work from anywhere was more important now.

In a report entitled The Future of Workfuture of work psychologist Viola K. Kraus said: “Younger generations accept flexible working options as a given; they simply won’t work for a company that doesn’t offer it.”

However, she added: “21-24-year-olds in particular struggle to remain motivated when working remotely. This is partly because older professionals have more experience, while young people are still learning to navigate the office politics and have a natural need to be sociable and have those human connections.”

She said that those at the early stages of their careers were concerned that remote working could lead to a lack of career progression – some 63% of survey respondents said career progression and training opportunities had become more important to them.

“It is proving a struggle to keep young people motivated and engaged with a fully remote model. This presents a change management challenge, but after nearly a year of working remotely, by the middle of 2021 we will have new ways of working and more clarity over new career progression paths for younger employees.”

Top distractions

A separate study by office equipment supplier Office Needle gave some insight into some of the reasons younger workers find it difficult to stay motivated while working from home.

It surveyed 670 workers between May and June on the main distractions they face while working remotely, with the average age of respondents between 25 and 40.

It found that mobile phones and social media were the top distractions for workers, with 56% saying the former pulled their attention away from work, and 44% admitting the latter did the same.

Respondents also said they were taking significant breaks for entertainment, with 34% saying they spent more than an hour watching Netflix during their shift and 15% playing video games for more than an hour while on the clock.

Technology aside, household tasks also proved to be taking up significant amounts of workers’ time during working hours. The majority (67%) of those surveyed said they cooked during work hours, while 30% of dog owners said they walked their pet every day during their shift.

Other key distractions were doing chores (77%), taking care of children (31%), working out (32%) and having people over at their house (34%). Worryingly, 11% admitted to getting high or drunk on work time.

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Workers across Britain are missing out as the UK lags the rest of the world when it comes to public holidays, with the lowest number in a comparison of more than 170 nations.

This was the finding of research by digital coaching firm Ezra, which cross-referenced the number of public holidays on offer with average daily net income to work out where workers received the most amount of money per year for not working on public holidays.

Taking both measures into account, the UK moved significantly up from the bottom of the table, but it still failed to make it into the top 30, with workers having an average income of £570 for bank holidays.

Switzerland, on the other hand, offers the biggest benefit to workers. With the average person in the country earning a net income of £130 per day and with 24 public holidays per year, the average public holiday pay check is an impressive £3,131.

Luxembourg came in second, with its 15 public holiday days per year and average earnings of £120 per day equating to £1,802, while in Israel, the 24 days of public holiday led to a total of £1,796 in earnings for time off.

Commenting on the findings, Nick Goldberg, Founder of Ezra, said: “Public holidays are a great way to boost national sentiment and offer an opportunity to come together and celebrate as a nation, whether it be in memory of a historic moment or simply a long weekend.

“It’s interesting to see that those nations offering some of the highest levels of income also offer a good level of public holidays and it goes to show that motivation and productivity aren’t solely dependent on working all hours of the day.”

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Covid outbreaks seem to be deterring jobseekers from applying for new roles, with new data showing employers are having to offer higher salaries to attract applicants in areas where cases of the Delta variant are rising sharply.

According to job board CV-Library, there is a “clear pattern” of pay increases in areas where infection levels are high, such as the North West and the Midlands.

Liverpool topped the table for increases in the average pay offered in June compared with the same period last month, with salaries up 10.3%. Wolverhampton, Derby, Coventry and Nottingham also featured in the top 10, with increases of 4.7%, 4.7%, 4.6% and 2.6%, respectively.

Portsmouth, where Delta variant cases increased sevenfold between June 2 and June 9, recorded the second highest salary increase at 7.5%.

Lee Biggins, CEO and founder of CV-Library, said: “Businesses are fighting harder than ever to make it to the end of lockdown restrictions. Recruitment is the cornerstone of both survival and longevity and it’s clear to see that, in the most competitive areas, businesses are rising to the challenge and stepping up their efforts.

“With news that restrictions will continue for an additional four weeks, offering enhanced salaries and the most competitive packages will do much to entice the many jobseekers that remain hesitant in these uncertain times and give businesses the chance to hit the ground running on 19th July.”

Other factors at play
However, it’s clear that while Covid is one issue leading employers to have to work harder to attract new talent, it’s not the only one.

According to Alex Fourlis, Managing Director at job boards network Broadbean Technology, there are a number of factors at play.

“We’re experiencing a talent drought at the moment that is being impacted by multiple issues. An ongoing reluctance to leave the security of current roles is certainly one factor that’s hitting application numbers, but for industries like retail where job losses were reported during the height of the pandemic, the reality is many people have left for other, more secure, sectors.

“What we’re also seeing is the impact of Brexit really playing out across those industries that have historically relied on international talent. The decline in applications for logistics, for example, will no doubt have been exacerbated by the UK’s exit from the Bloc.”

Broadbean reported a further fall in application numbers in May, despite an increase in job vacancies during the same month. The retail and logistics sectors were especially impacted by  mismatches between supply and demand.

According to the Broadbean data, vacancies across retail increased by 55% in the three months to May, but over the same period the number of applications per vacancy fell by 52%.

The number of openings across logistics, distribution and supply chain were up 79% in May compared to pre-pandemic levels in January 2020, but the number of people applying for these roles fell 76% over the same time frame.

Broadbean said that this reflected a consistent trend seen in 2021 so far, with vacancy numbers more than doubling (up 133%) since January this year, but the number of applicants falling further each month since then.

Young the key to filling ‘vacancies vacuum’?
One solution offered up to alleviate the skills shortages in industries such as logistics and also hospitality – where the dearth of workers has been widely reported in recent months – is to bring more young people into the workforce.

That was the suggestion of West Midlands-based recruitment specialist Pertemps last week, which called on the government to take action to encourage young people into the jobs market.

Carmen Watson, Chair at Pertemps, said there had been a rise in both permanent and contingent vacancies, especially in sectors such as hospitality, food manufacturing and logistics.

However, she added there had been a “sea change in candidates’ career choices as a result of the pandemic” and that a change in strategy was needed.

“An ongoing concern is the economic inactivity rate of young people and we would urge employers to consider greater use of apprenticeships and traineeships to grow our future talent. This will undoubtedly need support from central government if we are going to fill this vacancies vacuum.”

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Goldman Sachs is not the only business keen to get its staff back into the office as soon as possible if the results of a new survey are anything to go by.

Even since the bank’s CEO David Solomon told a conference in February that he rejected the idea that remote working was the “new normal” and instead described it as an “aberration”, there’s been an undercurrent of unease about the future of flexible working.

Now a study by accountancy, finance and HR recruiter Wade Macdonald has laid bare the extent to which employers are planning for a return to the pre-Covid way of working.

According to research for its report Employee Expectations 2021, which surveyed 395 employees, one in five employers had already rejected any form of flexible working, while a further 12% had not yet clarified whether any flexibility would be offered.

But employers’ desires for a return to office working were at odds with employees’ wishes, with only 9% of workers wanting to be in the office full-time. The majority (69%) wanted some form of hybrid working, while 22% wanted to work from home all the time.

Chris Goulding, Managing Director for Wade Macdonald, said: “Employers not willing to at least meet staff halfway must be prepared to see a significant decrease of staff loyalty, employee numbers and brand reputation.”

Putting loyalty to the test
This emerging disparity between employers and employees on flexible working threatens to roll back some of the recent gains make in terms of employee loyalty in particular, which by a number of accounts had increased during the pandemic.

For example, the latest edition of Randstad’s Employer Brand Research report found that businesses’ responses to the pandemic had led 68% of employees to feel more loyal towards their employer, with only 6% reporting they felt less loyal.

However, the research, which surveyed 190,000 people across 34 markets in the first quarter of this year, also found that non-financial factors had become almost as important as salary and benefits to workers.

While 62% cited the latter as the most important factor in their choice of employer, 58% cited a desire for a proper work-life balance.

Any unwillingness by employers to meet this demand by offering flexible work patterns could therefore see the newfound employee loyalty quickly dissipate.

London not calling

Indeed, this could prove particularly true for companies in London, with separate research from Guidant Global warning of a talent exodus from London.

It analysed the UK cities losing and gaining talent, and found that the capital was losing more highly skilled professionals than it was gaining as people sought to leave the “rat race” behind.

In particular, the smaller towns and cities these professionals were moving to were cited as Epsom, St Albans, Royal Tunbridge Wells, Maidstone, Welwyn Garden City and Leigh-on-Sea.

This could leave London employers with little choice but to accept at least some form of remote working, said Simon Blockley, CEO of Guidant Global.

“One of the side effects we’re seeing of the pandemic is a migration of talent from previously popular and crowded cities to other, more remote destinations that often offer better value for money when it comes to living costs as well as a better quality of life.

“The simple fact is, remote working has been proven to be feasible in many cases, so people are now more eager to make those permanent relocation moves of which they have dreamed. The challenge for employers now is to not only broaden the geographical scope of their workforce solutions, but also re-evaluate where top talent is now located. For those with a London base, the resources you need are unlikely to still be in the same place.”

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Employers are significantly under-reporting the number of people who have died after being exposed to Covid-19 at work, according to the Trades Union Congress (TUC).

The union said there was a large discrepancy between the number of people of working age who had died from Covid-19 and the number of reports of work-related deaths by employers.

It pointed out that while Office for National Statistics figures showed that between April 2020 and April 2021 15,263 people of working age had died of Covid-19, employers had reported just 387 deaths from workers contracting the disease at work.

The TUC said it believed the true number of work-related deaths was much higher, and highlighted sectors such as food production and transport as having been particular guilty of under-reporting.

In a report published last week the union pointed out that between March and December last year, more than 600 people working in the transport sector died of Covid-19, but between April 2020 and April 2021 just 10 work-related deaths were reported in the sector.

Similarly, while 63 food production workers died from Covid-19 over the same period, just three were reported as work-related.

Frances O’Grady, General Secretary of the TUC, said: “Everybody deserves to be safe at work. But this pandemic has exposed a crisis in health and safety regulation and enforcement.

“Employers have massively under-reported Covid work-related deaths and infections.”

‘Letting bosses off the hook’

“This has made it much harder for regulators to track where outbreaks are happening and allowed bad bosses to get away with flagrant labour rights abuses,” she continued.

O’Grady said the pandemic had highlighted deficiencies in the way workplace deaths were reported, and added, “the current system is letting bosses off the hook”.

At present, employers are required by law to report deaths, injuries and illnesses that take place at work or are in connection with work through the Health and Safety Executive’s (HSE) Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 2013 (RIDDOR) mechanism.

However, it is up to employers to decide whether a Covid-19 infection is the result of workplace exposure or transmission outside work and as is clear from the data, in most cases employers have decided on the latter and not reported the death.

The TUC said this has prevented the HSE from carrying out inspections and making sure employers take action to keep workers and the public safe.

Better enforcement needed

It also called on the government to provide more funding for the HSE, which the TUC said had had its funding cut by more than 50% in real terms over the past decade, leading to a sharp fall in workplace inspections.

“Ministers must fund enforcement bodies properly so they can recruit and train qualified workplace inspectors, inspect more workplaces, and prosecute companies who don’t keep their workers safe,” said O’Grady.

This view was echoed by Darren Hockley, Managing Director at training provider DeltaNet International: “The government needs to ensure companies understand the consequences of not following protocols and guidelines, by prosecuting those who continually fail to keep their employees safe.”

He added that the problem went beyond accurate reporting of deaths. “Not only does the report reveal that employers are not reporting the number of Covid-19 infections, but it also suggests that employers are not putting in place the right health and safety procedures to protect their workers.

“Organisations have a responsibility to protect their employees. Health and safety responsibility doesn’t stop at fire safety policies, with Covid-19, it’s ensuring employees work socially distanced, there is a one-way system in the workplace and there is easy access to ensure workstations are continuously sanitised for starters.”

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Employers believe they are doing a good job at supporting their workers’ retirement savings but recognise they are lacking when it comes to other areas of their financial wellbeing.

This was the finding of a study of 171 UK organisations conducted by Willis Towers Watson between February and March of this year.

According to the company’s Future of Financial Wellbeing study, 76% of employers believe that their employees want them to be more proactive in helping improve their financial standing, while 36% thought the pandemic had had a negative impact on their employees’ finances.

Richard Sweetman, financial wellbeing lead at Willis Towers Watson, said: “Organisations realise employees are currently facing a wider array of financial challenges and are looking to evolve from a focus on helping employees save for retirement, to adopt broader financial wellbeing programmes that provide the help they need.

“Many employers are now accelerating their focus on financial wellbeing in response to COVID-19, and the associated economic impacts.”

Looking beyond retirement

Although 47% of employers acknowledged that their employees face challenges saving for retirement, more than half (61%) were confident their retirement savings provision was sufficient.

However, there was widespread recognition than when it came to helping employees build emergency savings and manage day-to-day costs and debt, there was a lack of support. About half of the employers surveyed said they intended to provide assistance in these areas over the next two years.

“Debt and the ability for employees to make ends meet should be a particularly important area for employers to focus on, with almost a quarter of employees seemingly affected. We know from employee research that when these issues do come up, they have a particularly detrimental impact on mental health and wellbeing,” said Sweetman.

Specifically, employers said they were planning to introduce at least one extra workplace savings option within the next two years. At present general savings or investment accounts, corporate ISAs and Lifetime ISAs are only offered by a small number of employers.

More comprehensive financial education is also on the agenda – online educational resources are already provided by more than half of employers, with a further third likely to introduce these in the next two years.

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