So did anyone see Gig Economy at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe? With an 18+ restricted entry the musical comedy was hopefully one of the more entertaining developments in the new world of work this year - and by all accounts it was free to get into. The beginning of the Fringe also brought the news that Summerhall, one of the well known fringe venues, had agreed with Unite the union that staff recruited for the festival would be offered minimum contracts hours of 30 hours per week and be guaranteed to be paid at least the minimum wage. It was hoped that the announcement would increase pressure on other venues to do the same thing.
The GOV.UK website has reported that nearly 4 months after the deadline for reporting on the gender pay gap expired, 100% of UK employers identified as being within the scope of the gender pay gap regulations have now published data. The website also contains a useful link through to new "What Works" guidance aimed at helping companies improve the recruitment and progression of women and close the gender pay gap.
One year after the introduction of the Employment Tribunal fees refund scheme it has been reported that 80% of refunds remain unpaid with only £6.6m of an anticipated £33m having been paid out. This is despite around 10,000 letters per month being sent out to those eligible for refunds.
There have been multiple reports this month of the fact that sickness absence rates have fallen to the lowest in 24 years. The figures published by the Office for National Statistics show employees took an average of 4.1 sickness absence days in 2017, down from 4.3 days the previous year. However, this is not all as rosy as it might seem with "presenteeism" being on the rise suggesting people are more regularly attending work while unwell. Our full report on this can be found here.
To sit or to stand, that is the question. If a report from Australia is to be believed the answer is very definitely to stand. A recent report suggests that one thing that could positively impact on sickness absence is wider use of standing desks. The report goes as far as to suggest that the standing desks could increase life expectancy. Unfortunately a study carried out closer to home undertaken in 2015 by British academics found that sitting was no worse for you than standing casting doubt on the benefits of the standing desk but being sedentary generally had an adverse impact on health.
Perhaps then the answer is to no longer work the traditional 9 to 5 working day. The good news on that one is that a recent YouGov survey has found that working 9 to 5 is now the norm for only 6% of people in the UK. The survey also showed that for those who did work full-time the most popular working hours would start at 8am and finish at 4pm.
It seems that working in an open plan office has health benefits however. Recent research suggests workers tend to be more active and less stressed than those in private offices and this is connected to higher activity levels, possibly because of the need to move away from the desk to have private conversations. Other ways to increase activity levels in the office included location of meeting spaces, and the accessibility of stairs and lifts.
The threat of artificial intelligence in the workplace seems to be being felt more and more widely with reports that over 6 million workers now fear being replaced by machines. But is everyone being too pessimistic? For the alternative view see how silly it is to be worrying about such things…..
One thing you are unlikely to ever be able to do with a robotic colleague is have a cuppa - bad news for the office collegiality. A recent study in America which compared those drinking caffeinated coffee with those drinking decaf found that the former ranked themselves and their teammates more positively, talked more (surprise surprise), stayed more on topic and were more likely to say they would be willing to work with their coworkers again than those who drank the decaf.
Meanwhile, employers are spending more on benefits than ever before according to new figures from HMRC. In 2016/17 the total taxable value of benefits provided by UK employers reached £8.1bn. However, with new rules meaning tax advantages have been removed from many popular perks such as gym membership and company cars this is unlikely to be a continuing upward trend.
And, as we get to the end of holiday season, have you ever been the recipient of a funny out of office reply. Everything from parodying Rick Astley hit Never Gonna Give You Up to the brutal honesty of stating you are off to play with your kids while they are still prepared to be seen with you has been used (admittedly how "funny" any of this is is a matter of personal opinion). But perhaps companies like Daimler have got it right, setting up a service for workers going on holiday which just automatically deletes new emails - that might just beat that last night of the holidays dread….