CBI calls for “committed leadership” to tackle sexual harassment

  • By 0016811658
  • 07 Nov, 2017

Business body describes incidents as "totally unacceptable"


One of Britain’s most influential business bodies has urged employers to take steps to tackle sexual harassment.

The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) said this week that harassment was “totally unacceptable” and that firms needed to work together to address the problem.

Concerns about the difficulties that many employees face in the workplace have grown, following a number of allegations made about misconduct in the film industry and latterly at Westminster.

In recent weeks, concerns have been raised about a system which makes it difficult for those employed by MPs to complain if they have been the victim of inappropriate behaviour.

While the press coverage has focused on the corridors of power, Carolyn Fairbairn, the CBI’s Director General, made clear that sexual harassment was something that needed to be confronted across a whole range of sectors.

“Businesses take the wellbeing and welfare of their employees very seriously,” she said.

“But sexual harassment is often hidden and can come in many guises. Only committed leadership will ensure the workplace is free from sexual harassment and that, when it does happen, there are robust processes to deal with it.”

Ms Fairbairn’s intervention comes hard on the heels of research which suggested that around half of women and one in five men have suffered some form of sexual harassment either in the workplace or at their place of study.

Common problems include inappropriate comments and jokes, unwanted sexual advances and various forms of sexual assault.

But there are concerns that many cases still go unreported and pressure is growing on businesses to ensure they have put thorough procedures in place to ensure that victims have the proper means to report instances of inappropriate behaviour.

The CBI has also advocated firms producing a “code of conduct” to ensure that all members of their workforce are aware of what will and will not be tolerated.

Bowsers

By 0016811658 15 Dec, 2017

The Home Office has been found to have acted unlawfully after it deported EU citizens sleeping rough on Britain’s streets.

The High Court said the measure was “discriminatory” and broke freedom of movement rules.

The Home Office had argued that sleeping rough is an abuse of EU free movement rights, but indicated that it would not appeal the decision.

Campaigners Public Interest Law Unit (PILU) and North East London Migrant Action (NELMA) brought the case against the Government on behalf of two Polish men and a Latvian.

Mr Justice Lang said: “There has been a significant increase in rough sleepers of all nationalities.

“The policy discriminated unlawfully against EEA [European Economic Area] nationals and rough sleepers.”

He added that even offences such as begging, drinking, and being a nuisance did not warrant deportation.

A Nelma spokesman said: “In reality, many homeless people targeted by the Home Office have fallen on hard times and are working but unable to afford accommodation.

“The numbers of European nationals sleeping rough have been steadily increasing since 2010. But rather than making substantial or systematic attempts to provide solutions to homelessness through accommodation and employment support, local and national authorities have opted to add enforcement measures to austerity policies. We hope this decision will put an end to a social policy which used imprisonment and deportation as solutions to eradicate homelessness.”

By 0016811658 14 Dec, 2017


Opposite-sex couples who have been lobbying for a change in civil partnership laws have been given hope that change may be on the horizon.

A Private Members Bill has been brought forward by backbench MP Tim Loughton, setting out proposals to make the partnerships available to all – regardless of their sexual orientation.

The Bill is set for a Second Reading in the House of Commons in February and crucially it looks set to receive the support of the Government – without which legislation of this kind is unlikely to progress.

Mr Loughton has this month hinted he is optimistic that the proposals will complete their passage through Parliament.

The latest developments at Westminster follow several years of debate about the future of civil partnership laws.

The Government had said it would consider its options following the introduction of gay marriage.

Since then the number of civil partnership ceremonies being arranged has fallen dramatically, with some suggesting that the unions have effectively been made redundant.

At the same time though, some couples have continued to insist that legislation should be updated so that the partnerships are open to anyone who wants one.

One such couple, Charles Keidan and Rebecca Steinfeld, have been fighting a long-running legal battle to force a change in the law.

They argue that the Government’s current position goes against the spirit of equality laws and they have been supported in their fight by we
By 0016811658 13 Dec, 2017

Average UK property prices will begin to rise steadily in the New Year, particularly at the lowed-end of the market, new forecasts suggest.

Leading property body Rightmove has said that the average value of a UK property at the lower-end of the market will increase by approximately three per cent over the course of 2018.

The group says that recent changes to Stamp Duty Land Tax (SDLT) announced in the Autumn Budget, which saw the tax cut on properties up to £300,000 for first-time buyers, will push up values at the bottom-end of the market.

However, its latest forecasts also suggest that mid-value or ‘second stepper’ homes will also welcome house price growth in 2018, with such properties expected to increase in value by around two per cent.

The figures suggest that now might be an ideal time to invest in such properties, particularly as Rightmove’s data for October and November suggests that values are currently falling in the run-up to Christmas.

Last month, the average price of a mid-range property newly-listed for sale was down by just over £8,000, Rightmove’s data reveals.

By 0016811658 12 Dec, 2017

A former shadow cabinet minister – who found himself accused of sexual harassment – has been cleared of wrongdoing.

Norwich South MP Clive Lewis was among a number of Parliamentarians to have been caught up in allegations of inappropriate behaviour.

In the case of Mr Lewis, a party supporter alleged last month they had been groped during an event which took place during Labour’s conference in Brighton during the autumn.

The MP, who had quit the frontbench earlier this year ahead of an EU vote, had always denied the allegations made against him.

“I am very pleased to be able to put this behind me and move on,” he said.

“I believe it right and proper that the Labour Party treats all allegations of bullying, harassment and sexual misconduct seriously.

“I want to express my gratitude to my wife, friends and constituents who have supported me during recent weeks.”

In a statement this week, a Labour Party spokesman said: “After consideration of statements provided by the complainant and the respondent, the National Executive Committee's sexual harassment panel has ruled that on the balance of the evidence the matter should not be referred to a full hearing of the National Constitutional Committee.”

Investigations into the conduct of a number of other MPs are ongoing. In light of the fact that several allegations are said to relate to Parliamentary staff, it has been suggested that Parliament’s employment model may need to be reviewed to provide better protection for employees.

By 0016811658 11 Dec, 2017

Both businesses and individuals have been urged to remind themselves of the laws which apply during wintry weather.

Large parts of the UK have been hit with heavy snowfall, with the difficult conditions causing disruption for many people trying to get to work this morning (Monday).

The challenges of battling through ice and snow to complete a commute obviously throw up a number of questions as to where employees and employers stand legally.

From an employee’s perspective, it should be noted that if a workplace is closed by bad weather, the employer cannot ordinarily deduct pay. The business may, however, ask their workforce to work from another office or – if possible - at home.

If a business is open, but an employee is unable to get in because of the adverse conditions, then they are not automatically entitled to be paid. The Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS) offers guidance on how to proceed in these circumstances.

On their website the organisation notes: “There is no legal right for staff to be paid by an employer for travel delays (unless the travel itself is constituted as working time or in some situations where the employer provides the transport).

“However, employers may have contractual, collective or custom and practice arrangements in place for this. Discretionary payment for travel disruption might also be of use.”

If an employer wants to request that staff take paid holiday then they must ensure that they give the appropriate notice.

An ‘amber’ weather warning will remain in place for many regions until later today and although freezing conditions will continue into tomorrow in many parts of the country, temperatures are expected to turn milder on Wednesday.

By 0016811658 08 Dec, 2017

More than 260 British firms have been “named and shamed” for not paying staff the National Minimum Wage (NMW).

The most common reasons include failing to pay for travel between work, not covering overtime, and deducting cash from wages for essential equipment such as uniform.

The NMW increased to £7.50 for workers over the age of 25 in April this year.

Among the listed companies, Primark has been forced to repay more than £230,000 after charging staff for uniforms.

Sports Direct was also heavily fined, paying more than £1.1 million in wages owed to workers.

The research, published by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), suggests a serious lack of understanding of employment law.

Business Minister Margot James said: “There is no excuse for not paying staff the wages they’re entitled to and the government will come down hard on businesses that break the rules.

“That’s why today we are naming hundreds of employers who have been short changing their workers; and to ensure there are consequences for their wallets as well as their reputation, we’ve levied millions in back pay and fines.”

Bryan Sanderson, Chairman of the Low Pay Commission, added: “The Low Pay Commission’s conversations with employers suggest that the risk of being named is encouraging businesses to focus on compliance.

“Further, it is good to see that HMRC continues to target large employers who have underpaid a large number of workers, as well as cases involving only a few workers, where workers are at risk of the most serious exploitation. It is imperative that the government keeps up the pressure on all employers who commit breaches of minimum wage law.”

The maximum fine for not paying the NMW was increased to £20,000 per worker in 2014.

By 0016811658 07 Dec, 2017

In recent days, HM Courts and Tribunals Service (HMCTS) has confirmed that divorce cases and lengthier financial disputes will be ‘de-linked’ and heard in separate Courts under a new scheme due to be rolled-out in February next year.

Unveiling the new ‘financial remedies’ Courts, which will begin to crop up across the country early next year, Sir James Munby, President of the Family Division, said that calls to separate such hearings had been “persuasively argued” by local authorities and family law bodies.

He confirmed that financial remedies Courts would initially be set-up in London, South East Wales and the West Midlands in February 2018 – with other regions expected to follow later in the year.

Earlier this week, Mr Munby said that ‘financial remedies hubs’ would be established all across the country as part of the roll-out of a wider pilot scheme – the timescale of which is yet to be officially confirmed.

In a circular, the President of the family Courts also indicated that he himself fully supported the move, which comes amid concerns surrounding the time taken to resolve complex divorce-related financial disputes.

Research highlighted in the press in recent days suggests that the average divorce case now takes approximately 49 weeks to resolve – but experts believe that this timeframe will be cut significantly under the proposed new system.  

By 0016811658 06 Dec, 2017

The latest official figures from the Bank of England (BoE) have revealed mixed news for mortgage approvals across the UK.

The number of mortgages approved for house purchases fell to 64,575 in October – indicative of a shocking 13-month low. However, in that same month, remortgaging approvals jumped to a new high of 51,593 – the highest figure on record since the same month in 2008.

Overall net lending was £3.4 billion during October, the figures reveal.

Experts have suggested that homeowners rushed to remortgage their properties in order to take advantage of attractive fixed-rate deals ahead of a predicted interest rate increase, which was subsequently announced at the beginning of November.

In an historic move, the BoE increased its base rate from 0.25 to 0.5 per cent – a move which many feared would mean the end of ultra-low rate mortgages.

Despite these concerns, however, many commentators have so far been keen to point out that this is not necessarily the case.

Mark Harris, of mortgage lender SPF Private Clients, for example, said that deals “remained competitive" throughout November.

“As we head towards Christmas, the mortgage market continues its steady progress, which is very encouraging. Mortgage rates continue to be competitive despite the base rate rise… and with a further interest rate increase not likely anytime soon, we can’t see this situation changing.”

However, other commentators have voiced concerns that it may still be too early to tell exactly how the interest rate hike will affect the market.

By 0016811658 05 Dec, 2017

A trade union has confirmed it has launched legal action on behalf of dozens of construction workers who found themselves” blacklisted” by some of the industry’s biggest names.

Unite wants to secure compensation for those who were blacklisted over a period which is understood to have stretched back some 30 years.

In 2016, more than £10million was paid out to 250 individuals in the building trade, who had found themselves locked out of jobs after they were deemed “troublemakers” for raising legitimate concerns about working conditions.

The new claim involves workers who were not party to the previous case.

Unite alleges unlawful conspiracy, breach of privacy, defamation and Data Protection Act offences against individuals involved with an organisation known as the Consulting Association – accused of monitoring thousands who worked in the industry.

Howard Beckett, Unite’s assistant general secretary for legal affairs, said : “Unite is determined to ensure that the people directly responsible for blacklisting workers and ruining their lives are brought to justice and have to answer for their actions.

“Since 2009, the individuals who were the controlling minds behind the systematic blacklisting of workers have sought to avoid taking responsibility for their actions. The workers who had their lives ruined deserve to see the leading blacklisters in court.”

 

By 0016811658 04 Dec, 2017

Britons are paying considerable sums of money towards subscription services they want to bring to an end.

Last week, Citizens Advice warned that a significant number of consumers are signing up to appealing packages which they later find are rather difficult to cancel.

The organisation carried out a wide-reaching investigation into the policies in place for some of the country’s most popular subscription services, including gym memberships and online steaming platforms.

Analysing close to 600 cases it has dealt with in the three months to August this year, Citizens Advice found that the typical individual was paying more than £50 a month for services they no longer wanted.

More troubling still, nine out of 10 of those who had attempted to cancel had been told by the provider that they would not be able to do so. In one particularly unpleasant case, a person had tried to bring a service to an end after being made redundant. The provider had responded by asking for proof from their former employer that they were indeed out of work.

Gillian Guy, who heads up Citizens Advice, said: “Subscriptions are very easy to sign up to but can be difficult to get out of.

“People are wasting time and energy trying to cancel [them] while paying out of pocket.”

The situation has led to fresh calls for individuals to check terms and conditions carefully before they sign up to services.

The Government’s Consumer Minister, Margot James, said: “The UK’s consumer prot­ection regime is one of the world’s strongest but there’s always more to do to tackle the issues that could cause the greatest harm.”

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