The wage freeze we are living through is the longest since Victorian times. The public sector pay cap means that many employees entered 2017 facing cuts to real pay. Nurses, police officers, ambulance drivers and firefighters are all earning less than they did five years ago. And though the gender pay gap for men and women in their 20s has narrowed to 5%, overall women still earn an average of 18% less.
So how can the powerless get their voices heard? Once trade unions were the obvious answer, but 55% of today’s workforce in Britain has never been in a union. Break this down by age, and the picture is even starker. Of those aged 16 to 24, fewer than 10% are unionised; and for 25- to 35-year-olds, the robust and energetic drivers of the economy, it’s only one in five. Although films such as Made in Dagenham, about the 1968 strike by female workers at Ford’s Dagenham car plant, reminded us of women’s role in union history, media coverage more often harks back to the 1970s stereotype of blokes, beer and sandwiches. And the continuing dispute between Southern rail and the unions, which flared up with another strike on Wednesday, does little to dispel this myth.
But something significant has changed: contrary to stereotypes, union membership among women is now higher than it is for men. The average member today is a woman in her 40s in the public sector. Meanwhile, last May’s survey of trade union membership by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills showed growth in both public and private sector membership. The survey also found that the union wage premium – the gap between the hourly earnings of union members and non-members – was 16% in the public sector and 7% in the private sector.
Many unions are working hard to adapt to changes in the economy and the structure of employment. But they are crucial in our age of zero-hours and sessional contracts, tribunal fees and no effective civil legal aid for male and female workers in employment disputes. An age in which the worst workplaces resemble totalitarian regimes where employees are told how to dress, who they are allowed to talk to, and when to use the toilet – and are monitored by robots or wearable tracker devices such as sociometric badges.
Despite the rise of the “gig economy” and job insecurity, and the ideological onslaught against workers’ rights in the government’s Trade Union Act 2016, there have been a number of recent practical victories by unions over the taxi app Uber, the food delivery empire Deliveroo and the delivery firm CitySprint. Similar cases against the courier companies Addison Lee, eCourier and Excel will follow this year.
Democracy is not just about voting in a general election every four or five years. As one senior national union organiser described it, we have lurched into a situation where clocking into work involves clocking out of liberal western democracy. A healthy employment relationship should not involve giving up our rights as citizens within working hours. Being closely timed, micro-monitored and controlled are invasions of human dignity.
The GMB organiser Nadine Houghton, a rising star among women trade unionists, wrote recently that working-class women were the unsung heroes of 2016. Teaching assistants in Derby and Durham, 95% of whom are female, took action against pay cuts of up to 25%. Female hospital workers, cleaners, hostesses and catering staff took on the multinational private contractor Aramark in the South London and Maudsley NHS Trust. TwoEcuadorian cleaners, members of the United Women of the World Union, launched the campaign against Philip Green’s Topshop for a living wage.
And unions are now taking the concerns of their women members on board more than ever. The TUC leader, Frances O’Grady, champions its work on equalities issues. It is also developing a range of policy and campaign work in previously neglected areas, such as tackling discrimination against older women. A recent TUC seminar on the menopause was packed out, and attended by male health and safety officers from the rail and fire brigade unions. Aslef, the train drivers’ union, has negotiated a menopause workplace agreement, and Wales TUC has done a survey on this issue. Work on abortion rights, sexual harassment and violence against women continues to be a priority.
Although most unions are still led by men, there are a number of impressive women deputies; moreover, female trade unionists took Labour seats in parliament in 2015, and have had jobs in Jeremy Corbyn’s shadow cabinet. For example, Angela Rayner, the shadow education minister, was a care worker from Stockport who became a rep and then a senior steward for Unison. Kate Osamor, the shadow international development secretary, and Rachael Maskell, until her recent resignation the shadow environment secretary, both entered politics via Unite.
Theresa May pays lip service to fair play on equal pay; but her government is doing nothing to alleviate the austerity that hits women hardest, and will hit harder still if it fails to protect employment rights when we leave the EU. Commenting on the government’s response this week to the women and equality select committee’s report on the gender pay gap, O’Grady called on ministers to “help parents to share out caring responsibilities more equally and challenge workplace discrimination full on”.
Next month’s TUC Women’s Conference begins on International Women’s Day, which emerged over a century ago directly out of the activism of women in the labour movement, demanding better pay and conditions as well as the vote. Today equal pay and the gender pay gap are increasingly at the forefront of trade union campaigning. By finding new ways to support its female members, the movement is growing anew from some of its strongest roots.
Written By: Rachel Holmes
What qualifies as disability? And what legal protection do people who experience discrimination at work have under the Equality Act?
Though many employers are taking steps to improve workplace diversity and increase awareness around mental health, disabled people continue to face discrimination at work.
Over half of disabled people have been bullied or harassed in the workplace because of their impairment, whilst 21% try to hide their disability from their employers, according to new research. However, cuts to legal aid and the introduction of tribunal fees in 2014 has meant a drop in claims, making it an even more challenging climate for disabled people who face unfair treatment.
With the workplace far from equal, it is vital that disabled people – as well as their employers – know their legal rights. Here’s what you need to know:
Under the Equality Act 2010 (“the Act”), the main definition of disability is a “physical or mental impairment which has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on their ability to carry out normal day-today activities.”
“Substantial” means something more than minor, but that could fluctuate and change and may not be present all the time. “Long term” means the effect of the impairment has to last, or is likely to last, for at least 12 months. “Day-to-day activities” means everyday activities for most people, such as using a computer, writing, sitting down, standing up, driving and lifting.
There are some conditions such as cancer, and multiple sclerosis, where you are automatically treated as disabled and entitled to protection as soon as the diagnosis is given, regardless of how the disability manifests itself.
The Act applies to all employees, job applicants, trainees, contract workers, office holders (including company directors and managers), those who are on secondment and the self-employed. All areas of employment are covered, including recruitment, selection and promotion, training, pay and the provision of benefits, retirement, dismissal, redundancy and occupational pensions.
If you are found to have a disability, this amounts to a “protected characteristic” under the Equality Act. This means that you must not be discriminated against because you have a disability or someone thinks you have a particular disability (regardless of whether you do have that disability), known as “discrimination by perception”. You must also not be discriminated against if you are connected to someone with a disability, such as a child or parent. This is known as “discrimination by association”.
The several ways that your employer can be found to have discriminated against you because of your disability.
The first is direct discrimination. This is where you have been treated less favourably because of your disability than someone without a disability would be treated in the same circumstances.
Indirect discrimination when there is a policy, procedure, rule or requirement that applies to everyone, but has a worse impact on you because of your disability, compared to those who don’t have a disability. Indirect disability discrimination can, though, be permitted if your employer is able to show that there is a good reason for such a policy. This is known as “objective justification”, but is often difficult for employers to prove.
Failure to make reasonable adjustments is another form of discrimination. There is a duty on your employer to make reasonable adjustments to help you overcome disadvantage resulting from an impairment. For example, your employer should consider providing nearby parking facilities if available, suitable seating, and flexible working. In other cases, providing a mentor, a piece of equipment, and allowing for regular breaks may be appropriate.
The final form is discrimination arising from a disability. For example, if you are treated unfavourably because of disability related ill-health absence or because of slower typing speeds.
If you cannot resolve the situation informally with your line manager, then it is best to first lodge a formal grievance which is usually with HR. If the matter remains unresolved, you can make a claim in the employment tribunal. You need to commence the process no later than three months less one day from the last act of discrimination – which may be a one off or continuing act. Many employees consider resigning at the same time due to a breach of trust and confidence and bring a claim for “constructive dismissal”.
If you are dismissed, you can lodge a claim for unfair dismissal and/or discrimination in the Employment Tribunal. It is now mandatory to go through ACAS’s early conciliation scheme before you can submit any claim to the tribunal.
If conciliation fails and you need to proceed to tribunal, there is an issue fee of £250 and a hearing fee of £950 which you will need to pay, although you may be entitled to a fee remission.
There is no ceiling on tribunal awards in disability discrimination cases – unlike in other kinds of unfair dismissal cases. Awards can therefore be very costly for employers who get it wrong.
Written By: Philip Landau
Apprenticeship Diversity Champions Network of employers aims to boost take-up among people with disabilities and from ethnic minorities
The Department for Education has today announced that a group of businesses have come together to help promote diversity within apprenticeships.
The Apprenticeship Diversity Champions Network (ADCN) is comprised of 23 employers, including Rolls-Royce, the BBC, BAE Systems and a number of small- and medium-sized employers.
The network has been established to champion apprenticeships and diversity among employers and encourage more people from underrepresented groups, including those with disabilities, women and members of black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) communities, to consider apprenticeships.
It will support the government’s commitment to increase the proportion of apprenticeship starts by people from BAME backgrounds by 20 per cent by 2020.
Data published in December revealed that the proportion of those participating in further education and skills who have a learning difficulty or disability had risen steadily over the past six years. In 2008-09, the figure stood at 11.5 per cent, while by 2014-15, it had increased to 17 per cent. However, that was not mirrored in apprenticeship participation. While in 2008-09 around one in 10 participants were recorded as having learning difficulties or a learning disability, that had decreased to 8.6 per cent by 2014-15.
Apprenticeships and skills minister Robert Halfon said: “I am passionate about ensuring that everyone, no matter their background or age, can use apprenticeships to get on the ladder of opportunity to a successful career.
“Although last year saw record numbers of people with a disability or from disadvantaged backgrounds start on a high-quality apprenticeship, we need to do much more. That is why it is vital that so many diverse employers have come together to pledge to do more to ensure apprenticeships are truly open to everyone.”
Nus Ghani MP, chair of the ADCN, said: “I am determined that anyone from anywhere, whatever their background and whatever their story, is able to access the life-changing opportunities that apprenticeships can offer. The benefits of earning while you are learning, coupled with professional certification, will help enable apprentices to achieve a competitive edge in the labour market. Our whole society benefits when aspiration and opportunity is extended to all, and those benefits encompass the economy, community cohesiveness and national pride.”
Written By: Stephen Exley
The increase in diverse nominees at the Brit Awards is cause for cautious optimism, the chair of a music diversity taskforce has said.
Wednesday night’s ceremony could see just the fourth black winner of the British male solo artist prize in the awards 40-year history, with four of the five nominees from a non-white background.
Grime artists Skepta and Kano, singer-songwriter Michael Kiwanuka and comeback star Craig David are all up for the prize.
They will compete with bookies’ favourite and two-time winner David Bowie.
The last black, Asian or ethnic minority background artist to win the award was Dizzee Rascal who was victorious seven years ago.
Before his win it had been 12 years since Scottish musician Finley Quaye had taken the trophy and another six before that when Seal became the first non-white winner in 1992.
In the female solo artist category, Emeli Sande’s 2013 win is the only one from a non-white musician in the past 13 years.
Organisers faced fierce pressure to increase diversity at the 2017 awards after last year’s “Brits So White” protests, which saw a number of high-profile, successful musicians left off shortlists.
The chair of UK Music’s diversity taskforce, Keith Harris, who helped to produce the inaugural survey into diversity across the industry in January, praised the move but said he feared it may be a “short-term reaction”.
Lauding the work of Brits chairman Ged Doherty in reforming the voting academy, Harris told the Press Association: “I’m not going to say it’s down to one person, but it’s certainly down to one person at the top, and that’s Ged.”
He said this year’s line-up of nominees was “really good”, adding: “The black music community are pleased to be involved.
“There is some genuine involvement rather than looking nose pressed against the glass knowing you’re not going to win anything.
“People feel there might actually be a breakthrough. The question is whether this is going to be long-term or short-term. That’s my concern.”
“As long as it’s not just a reaction to the publicity given last year, as long as it’s genuine.
“I don’t think people actually want to be hearing in five years the same embarrassing questions being asked.”
Harris said there needed to be a “higher level of consciousness across the business”, adding: “Until that happens, I’m not sure how sustainable it is.”
After last year’s criticism, organisers increased diversity among the 1,000 people from across the music industry that helped to select the nominees following a review.
The issue had earlier been highlighted at the 2015 ceremony when Kanye West invited on stage a group of British grime MCs including Skepta and Stormzy – who are both up for this year’s breakthrough artist award.
Skepta completes a hat-trick of nominations with a nod for best album for his Mercury Prize-winning Konnichiwa, alongside Kano’s Made In The Manor, The 1975′s I Like It When You Sleep For You Are So Beautiful Yet So Unaware Of It, David Bowie’s Blackstar and Michael Kiwanuka’s Love & Hate.
The Brit Awards take place on Wednesday at the O2 Arena and will be broadcast on ITV.
I believe characters in stories should be as diverse as the people who read them, but only a very small handful of children’s books feature a deaf character.
There are more than 45,000 deaf children in the UK. Most are born to hearing parents and go to mainstream schools where they may be the only deaf child, so they can feel quite isolated.
I’m proud to be Chief Executive of the National Deaf Children’s Society, which works tirelessly to change and challenge this situation.
That’s how Daisy and Ted’s Awesome Adventures came about. The book follows a deaf girl and her hearing friend as they travel through time and space, meeting everyone from monsters and magicians to dragons and dinosaurs.
Daisy’s deafness sometimes poses challenges, but she always finds a creative solution – for example, using sign language on board a noisy pirate ship and asking aliens to tuck their tentacles away from their mouths when talking so that she can lip-read!
Having been deaf from the age of four, I would have loved to have something like this when I was growing up. In all the stories that I read, there was never a character quite like me.
Regrettably, I no longer fit into the 4-7 age bracket of the book’s target audience, so feedback from Surrey Deaf Children’s Society and Whitehall Primary School in Chingford was invaluable in this project.
Who better to say what makes a great book than the children you want to read it? Their thoughts and ideas helped shape the storyline and illustrations, so that even before the book was published we knew it had a stamp of approval from deaf and hearing children.
Gruffalo author Julia Donaldson made it her mission as Children’s Laureate (2011-13) to promote stories for and about deaf children. When we told her about Daisy and Ted, she said: “It’s great to see a fun, entertaining picture book which will help to raise awareness of deafness and inspire self-confidence in deaf children.”
Like Julia, I have a lot of ambitions for Daisy and Ted’s Awesome Adventures. I hope that when deaf children see a character like themselves in a book, it will help them to feel included and understood. I also hope it gets hearing children to think about what deafness might be like and different ways of communicating.
I don’t think my ambitions are unrealistic. The book became an Amazon #1 best seller in its first week on sale and got really positive reviews on social media, so clearly there is demand for more disabled role models in children’s stories.
As a deaf mother with two hearing daughters, I would love to have been able to read this to my girls when they were little; it would have been a great way of showing them how to communicate well with me, my partner and our deaf friends.
Storytelling is a very powerful thing, and I truly believe this book can make a real difference – but ultimately, it’s a fun adventure story every child can enjoy.
You can find out more at ndcs.org.uk/daisyandted and the book is out now onAmazon. All money raised through book sales will help the National Deaf Children’s Society to create a world without barriers for every deaf child.
Written By: Susan Daniels OBE
A well-known London girls’ school has introduced new measures that allow pupils to define their own gender identity.
St Paul’s Girls’ School, whose alumni include MP Harriet Harman andVogue ‘s departing editor-in-chief Alexandra Shulman, says it “takes a neutral stance, neither encouraging nor discouraging” a student’s decision to identify either as a boy or gender-neutral.
“We consulted the pupils to find out what the issues were. Their main preoccupation has been to look after people who don’t want to identify as one gender or another,” the school’s high mistress Clarissa Farr told The Sunday Times.
When SPGS students reach the age of 16, they can now submit a written request to be known as a boy or gender-neutral while at school. St Paul’s says in its new “gender identity protocol” that parents will ideally be “fully involved in such discussions.”
Sue Sanders of Schools Out UK, an organisation which works towards achieving LGBT equality in education, hailed the new measures as “sensible and smart.”
“The gender fluidity of young people has become more pronounced in the last three to four years; there is a growing confidence in young people to challenge binary constraints,” Sanders told The Guardian. “This is really about organisations keeping up with how people are perceiving themselves – this is part of the whole process of exploding those gender boxes.”
The Sunday Times reports that up to 10 students have already used the new protocol so they can be known at school either as boys or gender-neutral.
Written By: Nick Levine
Too many people with disabilities are being prevented from working because employers are unwilling to make reasonable adjustments, a charity has said.
Citizens Advice Cymru found people with long-term health conditions had also faced bad practice and discrimination.
In a report, it called for more help and support for people in work.
The UK government said the Access to Work programme could help employers pay for workplace adjustments.
Between 2015 and 2016, Citizens Advice Cymru collected data which showed just 43% of working-age people with a disability or long-term health condition were in employment.
This compared to 79% of non-disabled people, representing an employment gap of 36% compared to a UK-wide figure of 32%.
The organisation’s policy officer Lindsey Kearton said lack of workplace support could have a “huge impact” on the mental and physical health of those affected.
She also said some feel they have no choice but to leave their position voluntarily while the cost of employment tribunals meant fewer were pursuing that option.
However, the Federation of Small Businesses diversity chairwoman Helen Walbey said some employers simply did not know how to get help or information, and could be fearful of getting things wrong.
“Small businesses are proportionally better at employing people with disabilities than large businesses – we tend to be more agile, tend to be quite inclusive, perhaps less formal than large businesses,” she added.
She said the Access to Work scheme – which offers practical support for starting and staying in work – was a good provision.
However, Ms Walbey described it as “overly bureaucratic” with not enough businesses knowing they are able to access it.
“It would be really good if the Welsh Government developed a national employability strategy so that it was able to concentrate its efforts so everyone can find out the information they need to best support businesses, community and staff – and get the best of out of everybody,” she added.
One person affected is mother-of-two Samantha Broome, 31, from Barry, Vale of Glamorgan, who developed a chronic pain condition last year and is still waiting for a diagnosis from doctors.
She was dismissed by her employer after taking sick leave and, despite attempts to resolve the situation, is now taking them to an employment tribunal on the grounds of discrimination.
“It’s massively knocked my confidence,” she said. “I’ve never been out of work or been dismissed from a position, I’ve never had a disciplinary.
“I feel a lot of employers would think twice about employing someone if they had to make adjustments for them. I feel really negative about the whole situation.”
A spokesman for the Department for Work and Pensions said the number of disabled people in work had increased by almost 600,000 since 2013 and it was “committed to going further”.
He pointed to funding available through Access to Work, while employers are being encouraged to sign up to the Disability Confident campaign, where they can make the most of opportunities provided by employing disabled people.
“But more needs to be done, which is why we’re consulting on a range of ways to improve opportunities for disabled people,” the spokesman added.
A Welsh Government spokesman said it welcomed and supported the conclusions of the Citizens Advice Cymru report.
“Business Wales provides a one-stop shop for business information and advice in Wales with the Skills Gateway the single access point for those seeking skills and employability support,” he added.
“Working with the expert Business Wales strategic board, which includes representation from the Federation of Small Businesses, we will be reviewing the guidance available for businesses to help them make their business more inclusive and ensure it is easily accessible.”
Written By: Jenny Rees
London Fashion Week is always an exciting time because of the way it pushes boundaries, giving us a glimpse of what the future could look like. That’s why I was thrilled to see the Teatum Jones design duo include visibly disabled models Jack Eyers and Kelly Knox in their catwalk show.
This is fashion at its best- driving forward visible cultural change, and proclaiming the truth that disability isn’t something to hide. Fashion’s impact reverberates through our society, which is why it is so important that it celebrates diversity and champions inclusivity.
The UK fashion industry is internationally renowned, and our brands and designers influence trends all over the world. It contributes £28 billion to the economy every year. London Fashion Week showcases the best of British creativity and style, attracting an estimated £100 million in orders alone.
This is a fantastic achievement and something to be proud of. But we should all be asking ourselves: what does the industry need to do to embed inclusivity and diversity into its DNA?
The response to the Teatum Jones show has been overwhelmingly positive. If that single show could make such a difference, imagine what it would be like if all of our catwalks and magazine pages truly reflected the diversity of our society. Fashion has the power to shift attitudes and change perceptions, and we should not underestimate its influence.
Embedding diversity and inclusivity, particularly with regards to disabled people, would help push the fashion and retail industry to be even more creative, more innovative, more radical and more forward-thinking.
Disabled people often face a lack of representation in media, art and culture, despite the fact that there are over 11million people with disabilities or long term illnesses in the UK alone. This is something that we all have the power to change.
And I’m not just talking about models. There are almost 800,000 jobs in the fashion industry, in sectors including media, education, creative, retail and many more. It makes business sense to recruit from as wide a talent pool as possible.
I hope this London Fashion Week marks the start of a change in the visibility of disability. I’m proud to live in a country where our differences are celebrated- and if we continue to embrace them, then there will be no limit to our creative success.
Written By: Penny Mordaunt
Women in the UK may have to wait another generation before finally seeing the gender pay gap close, boosting female earnings by around £85bn a year or an average £6,100 per working woman.
Published on 21 February, the annual PwC’s Women in Work Index finds that despite progress made in increasing female participation in the workforce and a narrowing of the pay gap, at the current rate of progress equality with take another 24 years to achieve, in 2041.
If that may not look like rapid progress, women in the UK still have it better than women in other countries, such as Germany and Spain, where the gender pay gaps may not close for over 200 years if underlying structural factors aren’t addressed.
The research points to job segregation between men and women across industries and job roles as one of the biggest factors contributing to the gap in earnings.
For instance, women are more likely to work in sectors and jobs relatively lower paid given the skills they require, such as health and social work and education roles – industries in which more than 60% of the workforce is female.
The highest-earning sectors such as financial services, mining and quarrying and electricity and gas have a much smaller proportion of female workforce. Financial services emerge as the industry with the largest gender pay gap at 34%, while public administration and support services have the lowest, at 15% and 13% respectively.
To this list, the Fawcett Society, an organisation aiming at fighting inequality, adds factors such as workplace discrimination – particularly as a result of pregnancy, unequal caring responsibility, and unequal representation at the more senior levels.
“It’s not just about getting more women working, but also about getting more of them into high quality jobs that offer career progression and flexibility,” said Yong Jing Teow, economist at PwC.
The PwC research also takes into account geographical differences. The West Midlands has the largest gender pay gap at 21% and over half (52%) of women in the region are employed in lower-paying sectors such as wholesale and retail trade, and health services. Northern Ireland records the smallest pay gap, falling from 22% in 2000 to 6% now, partly thanks to a higher than average share of women working in public administration, a sector with a smaller pay gap.
According to a cross-party committee of MPs, the government will fail to meet its goal of eliminating the gender pay gap in a generation. The Women and Equalities Committee, chaired by Conservative MP Maria Miller, issued the warning after ministers responded to the group’s 2016 report into tackling the gender pay gap, which sees women earn 80p for every £1m a man makes.
The government policies in this regard include introducing a shared parental leave and supporting women over 40 in the workplace, as well as requiring employers from April to publish their gender pay and gender bonus gaps.
Laura Hinton, executive board member and head of people at PwC, said: “While it’s encouraging that the UK is making progress on closing the gender pay gap, it is depressing that it will still take around a generation to close it completely. Pay reporting requirements should help speed up change as businesses will face greater accountability. But merely reporting numbers without any concrete action, won’t change anything.
“We know that women are ambitious – we now need to create workplaces that support their ambition, and enough skilled and senior roles that have the flexibility to accommodate work and caring responsibilities.”
Written By: Sofia Lotto Persio