Zero-Hours Contracts Falling Out of Favor Among UK Employers

Zero-Hours Contracts Falling Out of Favor Among UK Employers

The controversial practice of zero-hours contracts, in which employees are not guaranteed work in any given pay period, is showing signs of rapid decline in the UK, Hayley Kirton reported at People Management this week, citing new official figures:

Data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), published this morning, showed there were 1.4m employment contracts that did not guarantee a minimum number of hours in use in May, down a third (33 per cent) from a peak of 2.1m in May 2015. …

The [Labour Force Survey] found 883,000 people, or 2.8 per cent of all people in employment, had a zero-hours contract role as their main job between April and June 2017, compared with 903,000 people, or 2.9 per cent of all those in employment, between April and June 2016. The number of zero-hours contracts in use has also fallen by 17.6 per cent from 1.7m in May 2016, while the proportion of organisations using zero-hours contracts has dropped from 8 per cent to 6 per cent in the same time period.

Although the ONS also found that the typical zero-hours employee worked an average of 25.7 hours a week, it also found that over a quarter of them wanted more hours than they were getting. Another recent report highlighted the insecurity of employees on these types of flexible contracts, whose home lives and mental health suffer due to inconsistent schedules and incomes, and found that many of them ended up “begging” their managers for schedule changes or more hours.

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Fewer Than 9,000 UK Parents Took Shared Parental Leave Last Year

Fewer Than 9,000 UK Parents Took Shared Parental Leave Last Year

The UK’s Shared Parental Leave law was intended to encourage working parents to more evenly split up the burden of caring for infant children by allowing new mothers (or “lead parents” in same-sex couples) 50 weeks of leave and 37 weeks of statutory pay to divide between themselves and their partners in any proportion they choose. Since being enacted in April 2015, however, the SPL policy has failed to garner much uptake: The latest research shows that even though plenty of parents are taking leave, just a few took advantage of this policy last year, Emily Burt reports at People Management:

[F]igures published by law firm EMW found that, while 661,000 mothers and 221,000 fathers took maternity and paternity leave in the year to March 2017, only 8,700 parents took SPL. “Many new parents are unclear about how the system will work for their families and careers,” warned Jon Taylor, principal at EMW. “Fathers in particular could be concerned about coming across as less committed to their job if they ask for greater flexibility, deterring them from looking into it.” …

Separate figures obtained by People Management in June revealed that fewer than 7,500 men had taken SPL in the past year, with experts suggesting that they had been deterred by the ‘complexity’ of the rules. Meanwhile, CIPD data from December 2016 found that just 5 per cent of new fathers had opted to take SPL.

Previous studies have shown persistently low take-up of this benefit, which has left architects of the policy and advocates of mainstreaming paternity leave scratching their heads as to why it hasn’t caught on. The hundreds of thousands of fathers taking parental leave suggests that the problem is not one of insufficient demand.

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As US and UK Look Inward, Foreign Students Look Elsewhere

As US and UK Look Inward, Foreign Students Look Elsewhere

The influx of foreign students to US universities is slowing down and many are opting to study in Canada instead, Laura Krantz reports for the Boston Globe, in a trend driven partly by perceptions of growing hostility toward immigrants in the US since the election of President Donald Trump:

At the University of Toronto, the number of foreign students who accepted admissions offers rose 21 percent over last year, especially from the United States, India, the Middle East, and Turkey. Other universities across the country also saw record increases in the last year. … The increase is not all because of Trump. Canada has made international student recruitment a national goal to spur economic growth. It now has 353,000 international students and wants 450,000 by 2022. But the political uncertainty in the United States — as well as in the United Kingdom — has given Canada’s effort an unexpected boost.

Overall, the number of international students in Canada has grown 92 percent since 2008. They now make up 1 percent of the country’s population. By comparison, the United States has about 1 million foreign students and a population ten times that of Canada. The number of foreign students in the United States has been growing for years, but last year it grew at the slowest rate since 2009.

Seeing a potential advantage over the US and UK, Canada has been making a significant push to lure international talent away from competitor countries, advertising itself as a more welcoming destination for immigrants, and expressing a full-throated defense of diversity and multiculturalism. The campaign is beginning to show results, with some tech startups and talent choosing to set up shop or look for work in Canada rather than the US.

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UK Study: Many Managers Struggle to Recognize Mental Health Issues

UK Study: Many Managers Struggle to Recognize Mental Health Issues

New research released by a UK healthcare provider finds that over one third of managers would have difficulty identifying mental health problems among their staff, People Management’s Emily Burt reported on Thursday:

The report from Bupa also found that a similar proportion (30 per cent) of those with line manager duties would not know what to do if somebody in their team did have issues with mental health. … Research published this week by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development revealed that people in the UK are among the most depressed in the developed world, thanks in part to job dissatisfaction. According to the data, 10 per cent of 25 to 64-year-olds in the UK are suffering from depression, ranking the UK in joint seventh place out of 25 European and Scandinavian countries.

Mental health concerns are also having a growing impact on the British workforce: A study published this month by NHS Digital showed that the number of UK employees who had taken sick leave or been put on restricted duties due to mental and behavioral health problems had increased substantially in the past two years, with these issues accounting for nearly a third of all fit notes issued since late 2014.

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Studies Reveal UK Minorities’ Perceptions of Discrimination at Work

Studies Reveal UK Minorities’ Perceptions of Discrimination at Work

A new survey of ethnic minority business leaders in the UK from the consultancy Green Park shows that racial discrimination remains a serious challenge in the British workplaces, while UK businesses are not making sufficient progress toward meeting diversity and inclusion goals. The survey’s headline findings include that 18 percent of these leaders have personally experienced workplace discrimination in the past two years and that 82 percent of them do not trust their organizations and believe that there is institutional prejudice against minorities in the UK, People Management’s Emily Burt reports:

Meanwhile, just 2 per cent of companies surveyed by Green Park reported that they were meeting their targets for ethnic minority board-level representation, while more than a tenth (13 per cent) said they had an ethnic diversity target but no strategy for meeting it. …

However, nearly three-quarters (73 per cent) of those surveyed felt most workplace prejudice was unconscious. In light of this, the researchers recommended that changes in attitudes towards institutional racism must come from the top and not just left to HR to “sort out”. But while 60 per cent of the surveyed ethnic minority leaders said they believed tackling institutional racism had moved up the organisational agenda in recent months, two-thirds of these respondents said workplace language around racism was emotive and made people uncomfortable.

Burt also points to a study published earlier in the year by the University of Manchester, which reviewed 25,000 incidents of racism in the workplace and came to the conclusion “that workplace racism was increasingly normalised,” with nearly 30 percent of surveyed employees saying they had “either witnessed or experienced racism from managers, colleagues, customers or suppliers.”

Meanwhile, the BBC reports on another new study conducted by the Trades Union Congress, which also found that more than one third of black or minority ethnic workers have experienced racism in the workplace:

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BBC Announces Independent Audit to Tackle Gender Pay Gap

BBC Announces Independent Audit to Tackle Gender Pay Gap

A few months after a public disclosure of high-earner compensation data revealed a significant pay gap between male and female stars at the BBC, the UK’s national broadcaster has announced a series of investigations into its pay practices and gender pay gap. BBC Director General Tony Hall revealed on Wednesday that he had commissioned PwC and the law firm Eversheds Sutherland to conduct an independent equal pay audit of the company, which will also produce an internal report on the gender pay gap and conduct a review of pay and diversity among its on-air talent:

Speaking to staff on Wednesday, Lord Hall said the BBC report on gender pay would cover the whole corporation and be independently audited, adding that he is “determined to close the gap”. … He said [the external audit] would “make sure that, where there are differences in pay, they’re justified”, adding: “If it throws up issues, we’ll deal with them immediately.”

The review of on-air talent will focus on presenters, editors and correspondents in BBC News and radio, he said. “Of course, we’ll be looking at pay – but also representation,” he said. “As I hope you know, we’ve set really ambitious targets – not just on gender, but on diversity more broadly.

In response to Hall, several leading women at the BBC circulated a statement on Twitter under the hashtag #BBCWomen, in which they stressed that the director “must be in no doubt about how serious an issue equal and fair pay is for women across the organisation,” and suggested that the target date he had previously set of 2020 for closing the gender pay gap was not soon enough:

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UK Employers Concerned After Brexit Immigration Plan Leaked

UK Employers Concerned After Brexit Immigration Plan Leaked

A leaked draft of the UK Home Office’s plans for a post-Brexit immigration policy has caused a stir among employers in the country, the Guardian reports, with some industries, including building, agriculture, and hospitality, saying they could face “catastrophic” labor shortages if the plan is enacted as written:

About 2.2 million European Union nationals work in Britain – roughly 7% of the overall workforce – with some subsectors of the economy almost totally reliant on migrants, official figures show. … The hotels, retail and hospitality industries, in particular stand to lose from the reforms. Some 75% of waiters and 25% of chefs working in the UK come from other EU nations. “If these proposals are implemented it could be catastrophic for the UK hospitality industry,” said Ufi Ibrahim, the chief executive of the British Hospitality Association.

Hospitality firms need at least 60,000 new EU workers a year in order to fill vacancies, according to research for the BHA by the accountancy firm KPMG.

UK businesses were already worried about the impact of Brexit on the UK’s already tight labor market and their ability to meet their staffing needs and grown. The Home Office’s plans, which cater strongly to the demands of “hard Brexit” advocates who favor a crackdown on immigration from the EU, are unlikely to allay those concerns. The 82-page document, which the Guardian outlined when it emerged on Tuesday, proposes to end the free movement of labor between the UK and the EU as soon as Brexit comes into effect, and thereafter to phase in a new immigration system that end the right of most European immigrants to settle in the UK:

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