WEC inquiry – Older People and Employment

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The Women and Equalities Select Committee (WEC) launched an inquiry into older people and employment in March 2017. The inquiry considers Government policies to help people extend their working lives, and further steps to tackle issues such as age discrimination.

The deadline for submissions is 9 May 2017.

Chair Maria Miller MP said:

“The problems facing older people at work rarely make the headlines yet last year nearly 10 million people over 50 were in work. We know that many others in this age group who would like to be working are not in employment. Helping people over 50 to tackle age discrimination is good for the economy, for employers, and for individual employees.”

Call for Written Submissions

The Committee has called for written submissions on:

  1. Is the Fuller Working Lives strategy a comprehensive response to the issues identified in the Altmann Review?
  2. What progress has been made to date by the Government’s employer-led approach, and what are its strengths and limitations?
  3. What further steps should the Government consider in order to reduce barriers to later-life working?
  4. What further steps need to be taken to reduce age discrimination in recruitment, and what evidence is there that an employer-led approach will be effective?
  5. How successful are Government policies on re-training and re-entry likely to be in helping people stay in work or find new employment? Have relevant recommendations on reforming Jobcentre Plus and welfare-to-work services been implemented? Is there a place for employer incentives?
  6. How should Government and employers respond to and improve age diversity in the workforce? How could the Independent Review of Employment Practices in the Modern Economy most effectively contribute to improving the prospects of older workers?
  7. Is the Government’s approach addressing the different needs of women, carers, people with long-term health conditions and disabilities and BME groups among the older workforce?

Read the background to the inquiry, the terms of reference or submit evidence.

Children’s Commissioner submission to UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

The Children’s Commissioner for England submitted evidence (PDF) to the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in February 2017.  This included recommendations to inform the Committee’s examination of the UK Government’s progress towards implementation of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

The Commissioner recommended:

  • Better monitoring of violence against disabled children;
  • That the Government take action to improve public attitudes toward disabled children and to tackle related hate crimes; and,
  • That disabled children have a consultative role in developing policies which will affect their lives.

EHRC inquiry and Call for Evidence: Housing for Disabled People

The EHRC launched an inquiry into housing for disabled people in December 2016, and called for evidence in February 2017.  Submissions from disabled people and relevant organisations should be made by 18 April 2017.

Housing and associated support is an important part of independent living. Without appropriate housing it is much harder to access employment, education, leisure and recreational opportunities and the risk of illness and disability is increased.

According to one housing report, there are 1.8 million disabled people whose housing needs are not met. Another report estimated that there is only enough funding to pay for one in every ten people who want to adapt their homes.

The Commission will look at whether the availability of accessible and adaptable housing, and the support services around it, is fulfilling disabled people’s rights to live independently.  More information is available in the inquiry terms of reference.

WEC Report and EDF Response – Ensuring Strong Equalities Legislation After Brexit

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The Women and Equalities Select Committee published a report on ensuring strong equalities legislation after Brexit in February 2017, after an earlier inquiry.

The report recommended that the Government should:

  • introduce an amendment to the Equality Act 2010 to empower Parliament and the Courts to declare whether legislation is compatible with UK principles of equality, comparable to similar provisions in the Human Rights Act;
  • include a clause in the Great Repeal Bill that explicitly commits to maintaining the current levels of equality protection when EU law is transposed into UK law;
  • develop a cross-government equality strategy in order to ensure that all government departments take action on equality, and to provide a platform for linking into civil society organisations; and
  • map the extent of research and other equality projects currently receiving EU funds and to replace and ring-fence these funds to allow research on equalities to continue undisrupted.

Our Chief Executive, Ali Harris, said:

EDF warmly welcome the report from the Women and Equalities Select Committee on ‘Ensuring strong equality legislation after the EU exit’.  The Committee agreed with many witnesses that the government needs to take active steps to embed equality into domestic law and policy.  The Committee considered not just the case for maintaining existing rights, but also what provisions are needed to enhance and expand protections after exit from the EU.

EDF view this as essential as key concepts in equality and discrimination law are not static. It has only been ten years, for example, since age discrimination was outlawed. Before that job adverts commonly stipulated a maximum age limit for applicants, often as low as forty. Changes in the law ended this discriminatory practice.

We welcome the four positive recommendations made by the committee which seek to embed equality into the UK legislative and policy framework, specifically aided by civil society organisations.”

Maria Miller MP, Chair of the Women and Equalities Committee, said:

“If the Government wants to maintain the current level of equality protection for vulnerable groups including pregnant women and disabled travellers, it must take active steps to embed equality into UK law. Our recommendations would go a long way to ensuring that the UK retains a strong and undiminished record of equality after it leaves the EU.”

Read a summary, recommendations, or the full report.

WEC Call for Evidence: the Gender Pay Gap

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The Women and Equalities Select Committee has called for evidence on responses made by the Government to the following three recommendations made in the Committee’s March 2016 report:

  1. All jobs should be available to work flexibly unless an employer can demonstrate an immediate and continuing business case against doing so
    Data from 2016 shows that just 8.7% of jobs paying a full-time equivalent of £20,000 are advertised as available to work flexibly or part-time. This creates a significant bottleneck to women’s employment, promotion and progression opportunities. The Government response argued that the right to request flexible working which is in place “strikes a balance between giving employees the flexibility to combine work with other responsibilities and allowing employers to plan effectively. Employers can also advertise jobs on flexible terms or offer flexible working arrangements to their employees outside the statutory scheme if they wish – and many employers already do so.”
  2. A more effective policy on shared parental leave
    The Committee recommended that fathers and second parents should be entitled to three months’ well-paid, non-transferrable paternal leave in addition to current parental leave benefits. They also recommended equalising the payments for the first four weeks of maternity and paternity pay. The Government rejected these proposals for reforming parental leave on the grounds that Shared Parental Leave is “still a very new policy”; it also pointed to the additional cost of well-paid paternity leave and argued that the proposals would offer less flexibility.
  3. A National Pathways into Work scheme for harnessing the skills and experience of women over 40
    This scheme would give women a clear entry point into a support system offering careers guidance; retraining where necessary; and information on local skills shortages and job opportunities. The Government rejected this recommendation on the grounds that it “already provides advice and support to help women over 40 through the National Careers Service.” It also pointed to evidence for its Advanced Learner Loans, Mid-Life Career Review, and work experience and training programmes for benefit claimants aged 45 or older.

Deadline for submissions

Evidence should reach the Committee by 12 April 2017.

 

 

 

WEC Report and Government Response: the Gender Pay Gap

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The Government is complicit in a system that is undermining productivity and perpetuating the gender pay gap, found a March 2016 report by the Women and Equalities Select Committee.  Evidence shows the gender pay gap will persist unless Government policy changes.

The Government responded in February 2017, rejecting the majority of the report’s recommendations.  It highlighted gender pay gap reporting as “key to accelerating progress,” and maintained that current policies on shared parental leave, flexible working, and supporting women back into work were adequate.

The Committee called for further evidence on three recommendations; this should reach the committee by 12 April 2017.

Background

The Women and Equalities Select Committee launched its inquiry into the gender pay gap in November 2015. The Equality and Diversity Forum (EDF) warmly welcomed the announcement of the inquiry.

Ali Harris, Chief Executive of EDF said:

The Women and Equalities Committee has a vital role to play holding Government to account for progress on equality, and informing and strengthening Government strategy. This inquiry will bring an important and timely focus onto the specific pay gap issues faced by women over 40 – and importantly, what can be done to address them.

Ministry of Justice Consultation – Help with Employment Tribunal Fees

Ministry of Justice

The Ministry of Justice has launched a consultation on proposals to provide more support with employment tribunal (ET) fees for people on lower incomes.  The consultation closes on 14 March 2017.

The Government’s review of ET fees noted that that the introduction of fees broadly met its objectives:

  • users are contributing between £8.5 million and £9 million a year in fee income, in line with expectations, transferring a proportion of the cost from the taxpayer to those who use the tribunal;
  • more people are now using Acas’ free conciliation service than were previously using voluntary conciliation and bringing claims to the ET combined; and
  • Acas’ conciliation service is effective in helping just under half the people who refer disputes to them avoid the need to go to the tribunal, and where conciliation has not worked, most people go on to issue proceedings in the ET.

However, the  fall in claims has been significantly greater than was estimated when fees were first introduced.

The Equality and Diversity Forum responded to a previous consultation in March 2012, and responded to the Justice Committee inquiry into ET fees in 2015.

EDF and Government response – NHS charging proposals

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A consultation on proposals to further extend charging for overseas visitors and migrants who use the NHS was launched in December 2015, closing in March 2016.  The Government responded in February 2017.

The government’s response included plans to:

  • require NHS providers to obtain charges upfront and in full before a chargeable overseas visitor can access non-urgent treatment;
  • bring out of hospital secondary care services and NHS-funded services provided by non-NHS organisations, within the services that chargeable overseas visitors will have to pay for; and
  • remove assisted reproduction services from those that a person who has paid the immigration health surcharge can access without charge.

The Equality and Diversity Forum published our response in March 2016.

Responses from EDF Members and Associates

Royal College of Nursing, April 2016.

TUC, March 2016.

Responses from other organisations

The Race Equality Foundation, supported by the Coalition of Race Equality Organisations and others, March 2016.

Home Affairs Select Committee inquiry into asylum accommodation

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The Home Affairs Select Committee conducted an inquiry into accommodation for asylum seekers and published their report in January 2017.

The Committee identifies problems including:

  • Vermin – infestations of mice, rats and bedbugs were the second biggest source of complaint of people living in dispersed accommodation
  • Unclean conditions – including families unable to put their children down on dirty carpet and rotten sofas
  • Inadequate support for vulnerable people – for example women in the late stages of pregnancy being placed in rooms up several flights of stairs or being made to share a bedroom.