Changes to flexible working and redundancy protection?
The Government has published its response to the report of the Women and Equalities Committee report “Unequal Impact? Coronavirus and the gendered economic impact.”
The report highlighted how “existing gendered inequalities in the economy have been ignored and sometimes exacerbated by the pandemic policy response”. It found that Government policies had overlooked women’s caring responsibilities and the employment inequalities experienced by them. It expressed concern that the Government’s priorities for recovery are “heavily gendered in nature” and that investment plans are skewed towards male-dominated sectors. It made wide-ranging recommendations, many have which have been rejected by the Government in its response.
However, some of the accepted recommendations include that the Government:
- is considering making amendments to the Flexible Working Regulations. In particular, it is considering removing the 26-week service requirement for making a flexible working request. The Government has stated that it “wants to make it easier for people to work flexibly” and is “committed to further encouraging flexible working by consulting on making it the default unless employers have good reasons not to.” Consultation will be issued “in due course.” Making flexible working the default was previously mentioned in the Queen’s Speech in 2019;
- is committed to bringing forward an Employment Bill. The recommendation had been that a draft Bill should be published by the end of June 2021. However, the Government response is that this will be done “when Parliamentary time allows”. The Government response states “We are clear that any reforms require us to consider the needs of the labour market today, taking into account the impact of the pandemic, including that on women. As part of this we will consider the recommendations in this report.” However, the Queen’s Speech on 11 May 2021 contained no mention of an Employment Bill. Details of the proposed Employment Bill that had been included in the earlier Queen’s Speech in 2019 can be found in our separate post here;
- will extend the redundancy protection period afforded to mothers on maternity leave. The protection will apply to pregnant women and for six months after a mother has returned to work. It will also apply to those taking adoption leave and shared parental leave. Again, the only timescale provided is “as soon as Parliamentary time allows.” These measures were mentioned in the Queen’s Speech in 2019. Our separate post on earlier Government commitments on this issue can be found here;
- is considering proposals to require large employers to publish their parental leave and pay policies. The Government will publish a formal response to the consultation on that issue “in due course”.
The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) had announced in February 2021 that as a result of the pandemic, the deadline for reporting gender pay gap information for 2020/2021 had been extended for a period of 6 months until 5 October 2021. A recommendation in the report for disability pay gap reporting was rejected. The Government is considering the issue of Ethnicity Pay Reporting and will respond to consultation on that issue “in due course”.
Sources of information:
26 May 2021
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