We start this month with a look at the latest quarterly tribunal statistics which cover the period January to March 2018. The headlines are that the number of single claims continues to rise, this time by 118% compared to the same time last year. Not surprisingly the outstanding caseload has also risen - by 21% - something that the recent round of recruitment for employment judges will hopefully start to address towards the end of this year and into 2019.
A survey by Prospect - a union that represents skilled workers - has highlighted once again the unacceptable working environments faced by many women in the UK. 32% of female respondents reported being sexually harassed with that figure rising to over 60% in women under 30. With complaints ranging from suggestive remarks through to inappropriate touching and job loss there is clearly still a lot of work to be done in this area.
Another story that made the headlines related to Akbar Al Baker, chief executive of Qatar Airways, who did the airline's PR no favours by stating the company has to be led by a man "because it is a very challenging position". This was made at the International Air Transport Associations annual meeting where one of the big themes was improving diversity…
PwC have hit the headlines for the right reasons having chosen to ban all male job shortlists - a move specifically aimed at increasing the number of women in senior roles at the firm. The company had previously reported a 43.8% gender pay gap and are proactively taking steps to improve the position. They are also looking at how career defining roles are awarded.
So while some good is coming form the gender pay gap reporting requirement the next proposal is that listed public businesses with more than 250 employees will be required to publish the gap between the pay of their chief executive and an average worker. The requirement to publish the pay gap is intended to improve transparency and boost accountability, things which are key parts of corporate governance reform.
Meanwhile Uber, who have been at the sharp end of the well publicised gig economy/employment status claims over the past couple of years has introduced illness and injury insurance cover including access to sick pay, parental leave and bereavement payments for its drivers. The move, which requires drivers to pay £2 per week, has been met with cynicism by the GMB union who have questioned whether this is an attempt to "make themselves look caring".
It seems that times are challenging for unions with the number of people under 30 who are members falling significantly. Frances O'Grady, general secretary of the TUC, admitted unions have a problem reaching young people, describing them as looking "male, pale and stale".
Those problems may go some way to explain the fall in strikes in the UK to the lowest levels since records began in 1893. There were 79 stoppages in 2017, 39 of them over pay, which involved 33,000 workers. The Trade Union Act 2016 which introduced new requirements for strike ballots with effect from March 2017 may also have impacted.
And finally, one of the issues focused on by the press since Brexit has been the difficulty in attracting fruit pickers, 99% of whom reportedly come from outwith the UK. The answer may now be at hand with the development of a robotic arm that is competitive with humans in terms of cost and speed of picking. Farmers claim this is not an example of replacing willing workers with robots - the experience in the US where a good picker can earn $50 an hour is that they still can't recruit enough people to do the work - but it may be a case where AI can solve a resourcing problem.