The UK Government has insisted that it does not plan to reduce workers' rights post Brexit despite announcing a post-Brexit consultation on employment rights protections. A report by the Financial Times had suggested that protections given to workers under EU law, such as the 48-hour limit on the working week, among others, would be scrapped. Labour described the leaked proposals as a disgrace, with Downing Street apparently giving the go-ahead for the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy to draw up new deregulatory measures. However, within a week of the consultation being announced the business secretary, Mr Karteng, repeated the UK Government's stated intention to protect and enhance rights, before confirming the consultation was being scrapped.
With increasing concerns over employee mental health and well-being, one company believes they have found a solution to monitoring remote workers' moods. Moodbeam have created a wearable wristband which allows employers to track employee mental health. It consists of a silicone wristband with two buttons, one blue and the other yellow with the purpose being that employees click the yellow button when they are feeling happy and the blue one when they are feeling sad, as they see fit. The wristband connects to a mobile phone app and web interface which then allows managers to log in online and see how their employees are feeling. This is hoped to supplement the physical check in managers were previously able to do with employees. Trials of this wristband showed that people were happy to be identified when reporting their feelings in this way. In addition, a company using this technology reported positive results as they managed to identify an employee who was struggling when, previously, this would not have been possible.
Chief executives of FTSE 100 companies are currently paid 115 times more than the average UK worker according to data collected by the High Pay Centre think-tank. The average wage for a chief executive in Britain's largest companies amounted to £3.6m a year while full time UK workers remain on a yearly average wage of £31,461. This means that FTSE chief executives only had to work 34 hours to earn more than the average worker's annual pay.
The Irish government recently released its first National Remote Work Strategy, which is set to change future working practices in Ireland and marks a commitment to ensure that remote working becomes a permanent feature of working life post-pandemic. Notably, the strategy plans to implement legislation by September 2021, giving employees the right to request to work remotely on a long term basis. Other proposals include introducing a Code of Practice on employees' "right to disconnect" from responding to phone calls or emails outside their normal working hours, as well as committing to significantly invest in infrastructure for remote working hubs and reviewing how remote working will be treated for tax and expenditure purposes. It is also looking at rolling out a National Broadband Plan to accommodate the technology which enables remote working. Whilst those developments are being proposed in Ireland at present, it may well be a sign of things to come in the UK and beyond.
On 14 January, Business Minister, Paul Scully, published an open letter to employers on how they can support survivors of domestic abuse. The letter outlines several practical steps employers can take to build awareness of domestic abuse including raising awareness of domestic abuse, ensuring warning signs are not missed and helping workers access the support they need. This letter followed the publication of the UK Government’s final report from its Review into Workplace Support for Victims of Domestic Abuse, launched in June 2020. The report considers three aspects of help for victims:
- Employers being able to identify instances of domestic abuse affecting their staff
- The positive role that employers can play in providing support through the development of best practice such as having a domestic abuse policy, the use of Domestic Abuse Champions and providing access to specialist services
- The role of employment rights, in particular flexible working.
It should be noted that the non-legislative measures set out in the report concern England, while any legislative proposals would apply across Great Britain. ACAS responded on 14 January, welcoming the Government's publication. It also updated its guidance, Working from home during the coronavirus pandemic, to include a section on domestic violence and abuse.