The government’s response to the Women and Equalities Committee report on the gendered economic impact of COVID-19 rejects many of the Committee’s recommendations. This includes recommendations for a review of the adequacy of statutory sick pay, amendments to Form HR1 to capture protected characteristic information, the funding of training schemes aimed at women in certain fields and the publication of a gender equality plan for apprenticeships.
However, it does say:
- Amendments to the Flexible Working Regulations to remove the 26-week service requirement for making a flexible working request will be considered. The government wants to make it easier for people to work flexibly and is committed to encouraging flexible working. It will consult on making flexible working the default position in due course.
- The government is committed to bringing forward an Employment Bill “when parliamentary time allows”. However, there was no mention of an Employment Bill in the Queen’s Speech of 11 May 2021. Consequently, the government will not publish the draft Employment Bill by the end of June 2021 as the report recommends.
- The government does still intend to extend the redundancy protection period afforded to mothers on maternity leave. This protection will apply to pregnant women and for six months after a mother has returned to work and will also cover those taking adoption and shared parental leave. The measures will be brought forward “as soon as Parliamentary time allows” – no specific timeframe is given. The government is also considering proposals to require large employers to publish their parental leave and pay policies, and its formal response to a consultation from July 2019 is awaited.
Key Action Points for Human Resources and In-house Counsel
On other equality issues, while calls for introducing disability pay gap reporting have been rejected, the government has said that it will respond to the ethnicity pay gap consultation in due course.