Apprenticeship levy divides opinion

The planned apprenticeship levy has divided opinion, according to a survey of large employers by the CIPD.

Two-fifths (39%) of employers are in favour of the levy, 31% said they are opposed and a further 30% are undecided. The levy, scheduled to be introduced in 2017, is designed to increase investment in training and apprenticeships. The consultation on the implementation of the levy closed October 2.

Under one-third (30%) of organisations believe the levy will encourage them to develop an apprenticeship programme to help build key skills, but the same number (30%) think the levy will help increase the quantity of apprenticeships.

Some respondents do not believe the levy will have a beneficial impact on the UK workforce. Almost a third (31%) of organisations think the levy will cause them to reduce their investment in other areas of workforce training and development, and a further 22% believe the levy could encourage employers to accredit training they would be running anyway as apprenticeship schemes. Just one in five (20%) said the levy will drive up the quality of apprenticeship schemes.

CIPD chief executive Peter Cheese said the survey suggests that boosting both numbers and quality at the same time would be a “significant challenge”.

“If the government is serious about raising the quality of our apprenticeship system it is important the levy is weighted towards increasing the number of apprenticeships at or above level three,” he said.

“It’s also important the apprenticeships levy is not regarded as a solution in itself to the skills and productivity challenges facing the UK. Apprenticeships are important, but to ensure that people’s skills are developed and used effectively in the workplace we also need to prioritise investment in organisations’ leadership and people management capability.”

The CIPD suggested that the government should consider weighting the levy funding to encourage organisations to invest more in level three and above apprenticeships. It said this would still enable businesses to use an agreed maximum proportion of their levy funding for level two apprenticeships, but would require them to use the remaining balance for level three and above apprenticeships.

It also recommended an increased focus on encouraging more universities and further education institutes to work with local employers to develop higher-level apprenticeships.

Katja Hall, CBI deputy director-general warned that the levy may not be effective at raising quality. “Levies tend to drive a compliance culture rather than deliver the skills needed on the ground,” she said. “Firms must and do pay their way, but plans on how to fund apprenticeships must go hand-in-hand with raising the quality of schemes.

“Businesses need to be reassured that a levy is not just a new tax, so all funds must be ring-fenced and protected. We must ensure this does not become a box-ticking exercise aimed at simply boosting numbers, without any real thought to the quality of experience for apprentices and firms.

“Employers have a critical role in boosting UK skills, but to do this they need real control. If business is paying politicians must let go of the reins.”

The CBI is calling for the rate to be set by a new Levy Board – independent of government and providers – at a level that is reasonable to achieve the government’s aim. It also wants to ensure that a share of the funding raised by the levy directly supports vocational training and apprenticeships that deliver the higher level skills businesses and the economy need.

National minimum wage rises to £6.70

The national minimum wage has risen from £6.50 to £6.70 per hour for workers aged 21 and over.

The increase comes into effect on 1 October, with the national living wage due to be implemented in April 2016.

The national minimum wage rates are now £6.70 for workers 21 and over, £5.30 for those aged 18 to 20, £3.87 for 16- to 17-year-olds above school leaving age, and £3.30 for apprentices under 19 or 19 and over who are in the first year of an apprenticeship.

The compulsory national living wage will further increase the minimum pay for those aged over 25 to £7.20 per hour. It is different to the living wage – a rate set independently by the Living Wage Foundation and calculated according to the basic cost of living in the UK – which is currently £7.85 per hour across the UK and £9.15 in London. New rates will be announced in November.

Some organisations have already pledged to pay the Living Wage Foundation’s recommended rate or higher. Supermarket chain Morrisons has announced it will pay staff a minimum of £8.20 per hour from March, and Lidl,Oliver Bonas, British Gas, Nationwide and others have committed to matching the Foundation’s rate.

Rhys Moore, director of the Living Wage Foundation, said he was “delighted” that Morrisons will be paying wages that go beyond the legal minimums. “Its commitment to paying a living wage to its staff is a huge move in the retail sector, showing others that they, along with retailers such as Lidl, Ikea and Oliver Bonas, can make better pay a reality on the British high street,” he said.

Andrew Chamberlain, chief economist at job review website Glassdoor, warned that minimum wage rises can have harmful effects. “The Office for Budget Responsibility recently estimated that increasing the national living wage could lead to 60,000 job losses, and lower GDP by 0.1% by 2020,” he said. “The larger plan to implement a national living wage of £9 per hour by 2020 could also have a material impact on retailers, likely resulting in price rises and fewer low-skilled jobs across the UK.”

“Most studies find that minimum wages kept below 50% of the median UK wage are harmless and mostly benefit workers,” he continued. “However, by 2020 the £9 minimum wage is expected to be 60% of the median UK wage. Labour economists will be watching closely for signs of unintended effects on the economy in coming years.”

Reporting will help to close the gender pay gap

Almost nine in 10 workers (87%) think that mandatory gender pay reporting will help to close the gender pay gap, according to research by Business in the Community (BITC).

The gender pay gap: what employees really thinkreport found that 93% believe employers should have to publish their overall gender pay gap, and 90% think that the data should be broken down for each pay grade or job type.

The pay gap is currently 19.1%, meaning that on average a woman earns 81p for every £1 a man earns. When asked to explain the pay gap women were most likely to cite individual choices, suggesting many believe it is their fault if they do not receive the same salary as their male counterparts.

However, BITC has identified three key structural and organisational factors that contribute to the difference between men’s and women’s pay.

  • Horizontal gender segregation – Women are more likely to be employed in sectors and occupations associated with low pay and status.
  • Vertical gender segregation – Women are underrepresented in senior positions. Gendered family roles and lack of flexible working arrangements prevent them from working full-time and accessing more skilled, high responsibility and higher-paying jobs.
  • Gender discrimination – Women are more likely to encounter discrimination in recruitment, training and promotion, as well as through pay and benefits systems.

BITC recommends that organisations measure their overall gender pay gap, their pay gap broken down by grade and job type, and their pay gap for full-time and part-time employees, then investigate the causes and write a contextual narrative to explain the figures.

Kathryn Nawrockyi, gender equality director at BITC, told HR magazine that most businesses will discover they have a gender pay gap. “It is a complex figure, influenced in large part by occupational segregation – the concentration of women in particular jobs, functions and industries that are lower level or lower paid,” she said. “Closing the pay gap is not simply a question of fixing unequal pay, though this is still a problem in the UK; some survey respondents cited examples of pay inequality in their own organisation.

“Therefore any public reporting of pay data should be accompanied by a narrative to help people understand the context behind an organisation’s pay gap, as well as a clear plan of action to close the gap.”

Adam Turner, managing director of UK board practice for executive search firm Norman Broadbent, said organisations need to realise that diversity is not only a key component of good corporate governance but also of business success.

“Executive teams need to have the right balance of skills, experience, independence and knowledge,” he said. “If firms consider this process carefully and appoint those who are most able to add value to the company business success will follow.”

Why boards need a head of human governance

Is the HRD no longer enough? Do boards need a head of human governance?

This article was written before the recent VW corporate scandal, which serves as yet another timely reminder of how people management systems create the most serious business risk for all stakeholders and wider society, and for which most organisations remain completely unprepared.

Last month, the FT reported how global consumer goods firm Unilever found itself having to deal with a major environmental problem that had allegedly caused serious health outcomes for both employees and the local community. The severity of the problem gave rise to questions about the credibility of Unilever’s well-publicised global business strategy called ‘sustainable living’.

Unilever’s problem is far from an isolated one for the business world. It provides yet another page in a fairly constant narrative of corporate problems and major crises arising since the Enron scandal. It also highlights how these crises are almost always rooted in people management. From bribery to trading to accounting, and in myriad other ways, it is an organisation’s human capital – how it is led, managed, and then how it acts – that typically creates its single biggest area of risk.

It is evident that sustainably successful companies understand that their organisation comprises a whole human system, and is managed accordingly. That system includes all the people connected to it in the production and supply of goods and services. For example, the human capital value and risk that arises from corporate supply chains. Simply put, an organisation cannot maximise its value if it fails to maximise the value created by all the human capital connected to it.

Yet, in the analysis of companies in our global human capital management index, we have found virtually no organisation with someone at board level that has responsibility for the business risk and value creation that arises from its human capital. In fact, the closest person we found having any responsibility for this job was actually the CEO, and there are only a few who have articulated the importance of their people in this context.

For most public companies, human capital issues are often categorised, considered, and reported through the lens of a separated ‘corporate responsibility’, rather than mainstream corporate strategy. It is perhaps unsurprising then that such firms view effective people management as peripheral to day-to-day ‘business’. HCM measures tend to be simplistic and aligned with improving PR, rather than linked to true value creation. Company reports often contain information on areas such as diversity & inclusion demographics, health & safety, and employee engagement scores but only in rare cases provide any insight into how human capital management drives innovation, quality, productivity and financial performance.

A new role that focuses on holistic human governance is absolutely critical and is needed now. It is also increasingly recognised by many other stakeholders that human governance issues must become a priority.

For the Maturity Institute this human governance role has emerged from work with both the corporate world and the investment management sector. It is neither conventional HR nor that of a conventional executive, but a broader role that should appeal to people who have a particular interest in and exceptional understanding of the human dimension of organisational management.

The role of ‘head of human [capital] governance’ is one where the post-holder would chair a board-level committee of the same name. Given that human capital can only be managed effectively on a whole system basis, the role should also assume responsibility for remuneration and work closely with the corporate risk committee to facilitate better understanding and management of people risk. The head of human governance should also be tasked with producing a cohesive and meaningful human capital report – something that is currently absent from annual corporate reporting.

Such dramatic changes cannot happen overnight. However, this will not stop us striving to move companies in this direction. Many stakeholders are desperately calling for a new direction and substantial change from organisations. There is also room for optimism that some organisations are ready for this kind of change.

The Maturity Institute’s view is that, regardless of experience, there are precious few HRDs immediately capable of doing such a job. However, with the right development and support, they should be able to grow quickly into the role and fulfil all requirements.

This article is published courtesy of HR magazine and was written by Stuart Woollard (pictured), managing partner at OMS LLP and council member at the Maturity Institute.

The UK’s most flexible and family-friendly employers revealed

The UK’s most flexible and family-friendly employers have been revealed by work/life balance charity Working Families.

The annual list features organisations that have completed a benchmark survey that examines in detail their flexible and family-friendly working policies and practices.

The Top 10 Employers for Working Families (A-Z)

  • American Express
  • Barclays
  • Centrica
  • Citi
  • Deloitte
  • DWF
  • EY
  • Lloyds Banking Group
  • Ministry of Justice
  • Southdown Housing Association

Top 11-30 (A-Z)

  • Addleshaw Goddard
  • Aimia
  • Chelsea & Westminster Hospital NHS Foundation Trust
  • Computershare
  • Hogan Lovells
  • iCrossing
  • KPMG
  • National Assembly for Wales
  • Oliver Wyman
  • Pinsent Masons
  • Royal Mail Group
  • Santander UK
  • Simmons & Simmons
  • Sysdoc
  • The London School of Economics and Political Science
  • The Scottish Government
  • The University of Lincoln
  • UBS AG
  • Wales & West Housing
  • Westfield Europe Limited
  • Employers with up to 250 employees could opt to enter a tailored Small Employer Benchmark.

The Top 10 Small Employers for Working Families (A-Z)

  • Brand Learning Group
  • Bristol Students’ Union
  • CiC Employee Assistance
  • Edison Investment Research
  • Effective HRM
  • iCrossing
  • Parental Choice
  • Sacker & Partners
  • Solve HR
  • Workpond

Top-scoring Small Employer Benchmark entrant Sacker & Partners will be named as the overall Top Small Employer for Working Families.

Sarah Jackson, chief executive of Working Families, extended her congratulations to the winners. “In a working environment where the right to request flexible working and shared parental leave is now a reality, these employers have shown leadership and innovation in their policies and practices and will reap the rewards of attracting the best talent and having a loyal and engaged workforce,” she said. “As flexible working becomes embedded in more organisations, Working Families is calling on employers to adopt a ‘flexible by default’ approach to continue the rise in flexible working and help everyone to achieve a work/life balance that works for them.”

Julian Foster, managing director at Computershare, said that flexible working has benefits for both employer and employee. “The best employees have rounded existences, and the best employers do not force their staff to compromise their commitment to their families, so congratulations to all the winners of these important awards.

“Flexible working creates happier and healthier workforces that are hardworking, committed and loyal, and it’s great to have had another chance this year to share ideas and reward those organisations that empower their employees.”

Lack of flexible working forcing mothers out of work

A lack of childcare options and inflexible employers are forcing some mothers out of the workplace

More than four in 10 (41%) working mums say the childcare options available are not flexible enough, according to research from

The survey of more than 2,300 mothers found childcare for school-aged children was a problem for 57%, with 45% relying on assistance from their children’s grandparents to cope. Inflexibility on the part of employers was also found to be an issue.

Some women are being forced to resign from jobs they love:

Anne*, a former retail buyer from Essex, was forced to leave her job after being refused flexible working options when she returned after maternity leave

“When I went back to work, I felt quite strongly that I didn’t want to work full-time as I was keen to also spend quality time with my new son. When I applied for flexible working on the basis of three days a week, however, my request was unfortunately turned down, and I had no choice but to leave the job that I loved and had trained seven long hard years in.

What is most frustrating for me is the fact that I have spent nearly seven years of my life learning many skills to be a great retail buyer, only to have these skills and this experience go to waste just because I decided to have children.

It is a sad thing for me to admit, but I don’t think I will ever be able to work in retail buying again.”

Ishita* worked at a global pharmaceutical company as a technical documentation writer. After having a child she had to leave her job because the organisation would not give her a flexible working/part-time work arrangement

“It was a bit of a shock when my company did not grant me part-time hours. I knew the company well, had undergone ongoing training for more than three years, was consistently commended for my work and enjoyed every moment of what I was doing. I thought I had a strong future with the firm, especially when I survived a large-scale redundancy programme in 2011 when the business lost more than a quarter of its UK workforce.

I would have loved to have kept working at the company, but from day one my priority has always been my daughter. My husband and I have put our plans to buy a house on hold until I can secure some reasonably well-paid work. Unfortunately I keep being told that I am over-qualified for the part-time jobs I am currently applying for, such as shop work. It is really frustrating.”

*Names have been withheld to ensure anonymity

Achieving gender equality in technology workplaces

Workplace gender equality is often sensationalised, which detracts from the root cause of the problem

With polarising views that further separate men and women into two camps — us vs. them – it’s much harder to stop and take a deeper look into the solutions that will help us close the gap.

Even in a progressive and innovative environment such as Silicon Valley these issues still exist. Tech companies with higher male-to-female ratios greatly outnumber those with a more even distribution. In 2014 women in the US held only 26% of professional computing occupations and 6% of CIO positions.

Levelling the playing field when it comes to gender isn’t simply the right thing to do — it can set the stage for a more differentiated and competitive company. But for women to crack the glass ceiling in tech everyone must rally behind a shared goal.

Uniting around a common objective

Women bring new perspectives to the tech world, and passion is a language both sides can understand. In the end, uniting around mutual enthusiasm and a strong belief in an idea, product or disruptive innovation will funnel energies toward a common understanding and help close the gender gap.

Tracy Chou was the first to collect and openly disclose stats on workplace diversity at startups in 2014, shedding new light on the astounding lack of women in tech startups. Isis Wenger’s #iLookLikeanEngineer campaign also paved the way for more transparent conversations regarding stereotypes in tech, along with Sheryl Sandberg’s challenge to women in her TED talk and book Lean In.

The tech landscape is on the brink of gender redistribution. But to push the industry over the edge then it – and its human resource departments – must take a stand.

Forces of change

Based on earlier statistics, men are more frequently in a position of power to drive change for women in tech. And to make a dent in these numbers, they can’t be excluded from the conversation. Selecting a male mentor is a simple way to build mutual empathy. Seeking out opportunities to address gender perceptions head-on is beneficial to both sides.

The government is also a stakeholder in gender equality issues. While government should play a role in carving out more opportunities for women (by improving education and serving as positive reinforcement for women in tech) pigeonholing it as an issue for government to resolve isn’t the answer. Forcing laws and quotas on companies and creating the stigma that women have to be employed by law will only breed resentment. This may actually prove to be retroactive because it is influencing decisions for the wrong reasons, rather than merit and achievement.

Instead of pawning the issues off on government, we must change the conversation. The severe lack of women in tech isn’t an issue; it’s an opportunity for companies to sharpen their competitive edge by diversifying their talent.

Why HR should take an active role

HR leaders need to gain full company buy-in by encouraging and developing supportive men in the workplace, which will lead to results on a broader scale. By rallying entire teams around diversity efforts HR leaders can champion a more inclusive tech environment.

Although the stats paint a bleak picture for women in tech, that doesn’t mean we can’t break the chain by asking men to help lead the change along with us. Then we can effectively change things faster and on a bigger scale. As more HR leaders recognise the profitability in balancing out the gender ratio and invite more perspectives into open dialogues, these issues will naturally dissolve.

And with the entire industry on board, women can rise above the odds and spearhead a more diverse face of technology with the full support of their male counterparts.

This article is published courtesy of HR magazine and was written by Isabelle Guis (pictured), chief marketing and strategy officer at Egnyte

One in eight workers would have to be hospitalised before calling in sick


More than one in eight (13%) workers would have to be hospitalised and have no other choice before calling in sick, according to Canada Life Group Insurance.

The researchers found that almost nine in 10 UK workers (89%) have come into work while sick, with nearly a third (32%) saying their workload is too great for them to take time off for illness. Around a fifth (21%) worry about the financial implications of calling in sick and 13% didn’t feel secure enough in their job to take time off. More than one in 10 (13%) said colleagues and senior members of staff make them feel guilty for taking time off when unwell.

Additionally, nearly three-quarters (71%) of employees said they have become ill after another colleague came into work when unwell, with 14% saying they experience this at work ‘all the time’.

The survey also found 36% would not take time off if they had a stomach virus, even when experiencing symptoms of sickness and diarrhoea. Almost half (49%) would not take time off if they had the flu.

Paul Avis, marketing director at Canada Life Group, said that presenteeism shows no sign of letting up. “At a time when recruitment and retention are increasingly crucial, ensuring employees feel valued and secure is a vital element to this. Employers should have a clear sickness absence system in place to assure employees they will not be penalised or face any recrimination for taking time off when they are genuinely unwell,” he said.

He added: “Particularly concerning is the seemingly low value employees place on mental illnesses, with far too many willing to come into work while suffering from this. Recent research found the number of workers seeking help for depression has risen by 40% in the last year, highlighting the need for employers and staff alike to recognise the importance of treating mental illness as an important issue.”

Kate Nash, founder of networking services Purple Space and Kate Nash associates, told HR magazine that company networks can help foster a better attitude around ill health.

“Networks foster the sharing of good practice about managing ill health and disability while at work,” she said. “With a growing culture of presenteeism it is more difficult than ever to take time out when you genuinely need time off due to sickness, treatment or rehabilitation. Being part of an employee network can help to build your confidence to ask for the adjustments you need, and that includes time off when ill.”

Racism, joint smoking and lies: 10 astounding jobseeker social media blunders


The 10 most astonishing social media faux pas have been revealed by job website CWJobs, which found that almost six out of 10 (57%) hiring managers Google their candidate’s name before offering them a position.

The blunders are:

  • A candidate who regularly tweeted and shared racist sentiments
  • An applicant who admitted on Facebook to enjoying ‘duvet days’ instead of going to work
  • A candidate who chose a photo in which they were smoking a joint as a profile picture
  • A potential hire who managed to hide the fact they were a neo-Nazi at their interview, but discussed their views on the internet
  • A candidate with a job offer who boasted on social media that he had got the role by exaggerating his CV
  • An applicant whose LinkedIn history totally contradicted their CV
  • Several candidates who had given themselves inappropriate online monikers, including ‘Bitch Kate,’ ‘Queen Bitch’, and ‘Full-Time Dickhead’
  • An applicant who had a social media presence that identified them as a misogynist
  • A candidate that liked to express extreme right-wing views online, and was fond of fox hunting.
  • A supposedly successful lawyer who only had a string of losses appear when their name was searched.

The survey of 638 business decision makers found that 43% specifically looked at social media profiles, and more than a quarter (26%) scoured blogs and forums for information on their applicants.

Employment tribunal cases drop by 72%


The number of claims accepted at employment tribunals has fallen by 72% since the introduction of tribunal fees, according to law firm Clyde & Co.

More than 12,563 claims were accepted in quarter one of 2015/16, compared with 44,334 in the quarter one period of 2013/14, just before tribunal fees were introduced. In the five years between 2009 and 2013 (inclusive) there were at least 40,000 claims in every quarter, bar one (when there were more than 39,000).

The fees, introduced in July 2013, mean that a claimant must pay up to £950 for their hearing. At the time, TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady described the fees as “yet another attack on workers’ employment rights”, and warned that they would deter genuine claims.

“Erecting punitive financial barriers is not our idea of fairness,” she said. “The government’s remission scheme to protect the lowest paid is woefully inadequate and many of the UK’s most vulnerable workers will simply be priced out of justice.”

Charles Urquhart, employment partner at Clyde & Co, said that the fall in tribunal claims is “good news for employers”, but suggests there could be other factors causing the reduction in tribunal cases. “Because of the Acas early conciliation scheme it is impossible to assess what impact the fees regime alone has had on claims,” he said.

The Acas early conciliation scheme, introduced in May 2014, allows employers and claimants to reach a settlement without going to court.

Tom Stenner-Evans, an associate in the employment team at law firm Michelmores, suggested that the state of the economy could also be contributing to the lower number of claims, and that employers should prepare for a potential increase in less buoyant times.

“The ease with which someone can walk into another job rather than make a claim for loss of earnings could straight away be an incentive not to litigate,” he told HR magazine.

Stenner-Evans also pointed to a number of class action cases in recent years as another factor misleadingly affecting the accepted claims figure. “There have been a number of examples where groups have been involved in lawsuits, such as working time cases in 2009/10,” he said. “This could be distorting the statistics by making the drop look larger than it really is.”