The Equality Act 2010 works to protect people from discrimination in the workplace (as well as in wider society). The act pushes for a consistency across the business world so that employees and employers all comply with the laws to create fairer workplaces up and down the country. Under the Equality Act, it is illegal to discriminate against someone because of “protected characteristics”.

These are a set of identifying traits that are protected by law and include age, disability, religion, race, sex and sexual orientation among others.

The UK’s general election has been set for July 4, with the polls strongly leaning towards a Labour government. What will the implications of a Labour government be for the Equality Act?

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The EHRC issued guidance for employers on making adjustments for menopausal women. But a Labour government has committed to doing even more, including statutory menopause leave

The UK is going to the polls on Thursday, July 4 in what is anticipated to be a defining election and projected to be a landslide victory for the opposition Labour Party. That could mean changes in many sectors, but for employers of women who are in or close to menopause, it is clear that they will need to implement new policies and procedures to stay in compliance.

It is not surprising: Menopausal women are the fastest-growing demographic in today’s workplace. In the UK alone, 60% of women have taken time off work due to menopause symptoms, 900,000 women have left their jobs due to menopause, and 67% of women with experience of menopausal symptoms say they have had a ‘mostly negative’ effect on them at work, according to data from CIPD. 

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The UK’s general election on 4 July is expected to deliver a landslide victory to the opposition Labour Party. One of their key pledges around corporate governance concerns closing the gender pay gap, and expanding the ability of other groups affected by pay disparities, such as ethnic minority workers and disabled workers, to bring equal pay claims.

What is the current law around equal pay?

Under the Equality Act 2010, which incorporated the Equal Pay Act 1970, if an employee’s contractual terms, such as those relating to pay, are less favourable than a colleague of a different gender doing equivalent work, such terms are automatically modified to be no less favourable. This would come after the result of an equal pay claim. Where an employer is in breach of the sex equality provisions, an employee can bring an equal pay claim to an employment tribunal under different rules than a standard discrimination claim. Successful equal pay rulings mean people can claim arrears of pay going back up to six years in England and Wales and five years in Scotland. 

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The Carers Leave Act (2023) taking effect on April 6th is a positive step, recognising the critical role unpaid carers play in society. However, a new VinciWorks poll found a significant gap between the Act’s provisions and the needs of working carers.

The Carers Leave Act, which applies to all businesses and industries, offers a week of unpaid leave – a start, but one that falls short of the significant support working carers require. VinciWorks, a leading compliance eLearning and software solutions provider, surveyed over 150 HR and compliance professionals. Its findings show that 70% of respondents believe the Act doesn’t go far enough.

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Neurodiversity is the term that describes the idea that there is naturally occurring variation in the human brain, which can impact a series of brain functions such as how we interact with one another and how we process information.

The word neurodiversity is short for neurological diversity. Neurological or neurology is a word that describes the biological functioning of the nervous system, and in particular the brain. Neuro- is a prefix that can be applied to other words to discuss things relating to the nervous system or brain.

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Neurodiversity is becoming more understood as a workplace issue.

As many as 1 in 7 people in the UK are neurodivergent, meaning that organisations that fail to meet the needs of their neurodivergent staff and clients are neglecting a significant demographic. Although there are challenges associated with these differences, there are also many strengths.

At the same time, failing to make workplaces inclusive of neurodiversity is an increasing risk. Over a hundred cases of neurodiversity discrimination were taken to employment tribunals last year, with almost none the year before.

Organisations that fail to put in place the right policies and procedures to support neurodivergent staff are at risk of losing talented staff, as well as the risk of legal action. Making a workplace that is neurodiversity friendly doesn’t have to be complicated or expensive.

In this webinar, we examined neurodiversity, strategies for supporting neurodivergent staff at work, and the policies and procedures organisations should have in place.

This one-hour session covered:

– What is neurodiversity, and what are different neurodivergent conditions?
– The challenges faced by neurodivergent staff at work
– Strategies to support and encourage diversity of thought at work
– Short workplace scenario clips on how organisations can support neurodivergent people
– Supporting neurodivergent staff in the workplace
– Creating policies and procedures inclusive of neurodiversity

The UK’s Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) has issued guidance to inform firms they could be liable for being taken to an employment tribunal if they do not make reasonable adjustments for staff experiencing menopause.

Adjustments can include time off, flexible hours, relaxed uniform policies and rest areas. Failing to make reasonable adjustments can amount to disability discrimination, as menopause symptoms can have a long term and substantial impact on a person’s ability to carry out usual day-to-day activities.

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Many people turn to religion when confronted by grief or going through a mourning process. Even if someone is not very religious, cultural traditions for coping with loss are often relied upon when going through a period of bereavement.

But it can also be tricky for workplaces to know how to best support their employees who are mourning, given the wide diversity of religious beliefs, practices and traditions. 

Should you send flowers, or food? Will the funeral be straight away, or days and weeks later? Is it appropriate to say Rest in Peace? Does the religion believe in an afterlife?

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Our latest survey has exposed a stark reality: 44% of compliance officers and managers feel unprepared for the compliance challenges that lie ahead in 2024. Only 7% feel fully confident in tackling the challenges in the year ahead, signalling a potential industry-wide gap in readiness to address the ever-changing regulatory landscape. 

The survey gathered 212 responses from industry leaders across the UK, USA, Spain and Germany, and gauged professionals’ confidence levels and preparedness in managing compliance issues. The findings underscore a critical need for robust compliance training programs as organisations navigate an increasingly complex regulatory environment. 

Beyond the headline unpreparedness, the survey explored various dimensions of compliance readiness:

1. Fraud Prevention Training

While 27% have implemented failure to prevent fraud training and an additional 27% are planning to do so, a concerning 46% revealed they have not yet rolled out failure to prevent fraud training, are undecided or have no plans to in the near future. This lack of preparation and preventive measures leaves businesses at an increased risk of fraudulent activities.

The new “failure to prevent fraud” offence comes into the UK as part of the Economic Crime and Corporate Transparency Act, which marks a significant shift in how businesses will be held accountable to combat corporate fraud and protect victims. Failure to provide adequate training can leave organisations susceptible to financial losses and reputational damage.

2. CSRD Compliance Preparedness

Only 2% of compliance professionals claimed to be fully prepared for Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (CSRD) compliance despite 50,000 companies worldwide being expected to be impacted by it. In comparison, almost half (47%) expressed uncertainty or deemed CSRD irrelevant to their operations.

As 2024 sees the first published reports from many large companies on their CSRD compliance, the global implications will ripple through supply chains, demanding a proactive approach.

3. Neurodiversity Training

In an era witnessing a quadrupling of neurodiversity discrimination cases from 2018-2022, compared to the number of cases from 2003-2017, organisations risk legal repercussions and employee well-being concerns without proactive measures for the fair treatment of neurodivergent employees to create a work environment that values and respects differences. 

Despite these figures, only 8% of businesses polled incorporate neurodiversity training into their yearly programs, and a notable 28% have no plans to do so, potentially hindering the creation of an inclusive work environment and causing an escalation of neurodiversity discrimination cases.

4. Gifts and Hospitality Registers

With 2023 witnessing a nearly quarter-billion pound fine against mining giant Glencore for flying suitcases stuffed with cash to local public officials, getting a handle on gifts and hospitality is crucial for businesses to get right in 2024. Worryingly, when questioned on the types of gift registers in place, 43% of compliance professionals admitted relying on outdated spreadsheets, while 18% admitted to not using any tools for this purpose at all, despite a legal requirement to implement procedures to prevent bribery.

Given the prevalence of digital solutions, the reliance on manual tools poses a risk to accurate and comprehensive compliance tracking. Organisations should consider investing in modern systems and technologies for more efficient and accurate compliance management.

5. Internal Policies on the Role of AI

Finally, the survey explored internal policies on the role of AI. While 23% have established policies, 37% have not considered AI policies in the workplace.

As AI integration becomes more commonplace, organisations must proactively develop and update policies to ensure responsible and ethical use. Neglecting this aspect may expose organisations to legal and moral concerns.

“As the compliance landscape undergoes rapid evolution with various regulations coming into force, this survey reveals a glaring gap in preparedness among compliance professionals,” said Nick Henderson-Mayo, Director of Learning and Content at VinciWorks. “The findings emphasise the critical need for proactive compliance procedures and new initiatives, including training. There are solutions out there for busy compliance professionals, including new technologies and automation. Being prepared is half the battle, and businesses can buffet against global headwinds by investing in proactive compliance and risk mitigation.”

To support compliance professionals in understanding the compliance challenges that lie ahead, VinciWorks is offering a free guide on Compliance Trends 2024.

In a recent study carried out by VinciWorks, a global compliance eLearning provider, 212 compliance professionals were surveyed on Compliance Trends 2024.