Just and fair conditions at work – UK Government assessment

Progress assessment

Limited progress

There have been legal or policy changes to improve human rights protections but very limited evidence of sustained improvements in the enjoyment of human rights on this issue

The UK Government has made several important legal and policy commitments in recent years to address workplace inequalities and ensure fair conditions, but has yet to implement a number of them. The gender pay gap is declining slowly, although disability and ethnicity pay gaps remain, and there is evidence that bullying and harassment at work are prevalent. The pandemic has given rise to concerns about safe and healthy working conditions, particularly for certain protected characteristic groups.

  • The gender pay gap in hourly earnings among all employees has been declining slowly in recent years, standing at 17.3% in 2019 compared with 18.2% in 2016. The gender pay gap for full-time employees for age groups under 40 years is close to zero but it increases significantly for those over 40 years.
  • The disability pay gap persists, and analysis of ethnicity pay gaps shows that employees in the Pakistani and Bangladeshi ethnic groups have the lowest median hourly pay.
  • Bullying and harassment in the workplace remain widespread, although a lack of recent large-scale Britain-wide surveys makes it is difficult to know the full extent. There is some evidence that women, ethnic minorities, Lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans people are at greater risk than other groups of experiencing workplace bullying or harassment.
  • Sexual harassment is prevalent in many workplaces. A 2018 Commission report on sexual harassment found that three-quarters of respondents to a call for evidence had experienced sexual harassment at work and most of them were women. The UK Government’s survey on this issue will provide a larger-scale evidence base.
  • Research on pregnancy and maternity-related discrimination at work from 2016 found 77% of mothers experienced at least one potentially discriminatory or negative experience, and 11% of mothers were forced to leave their job. Strengthened redundancy protections for pregnant women and new parents have not yet been introduced.
  • The pandemic has affected all workplaces but it has had a particularly negative effect on groups who share certain protected characteristics. There have been concerns about failures to ensure safe and healthy working conditions, including for pregnant women, those with long-term health conditions, and those working in frontline sectors such as health and social care (mainly women and ethnic minority employees) due to shortages and delays in sourcing effective Personal Protective Equipment during the early stages of the pandemic.
  • A lack or denial of basic employment rights, such as sick pay, means many gig economy workers have had no choice but to continue working during the pandemic – young people and ethnic minorities are over-represented among such workers.
  • The UK Government has made important commitments to ensure fair working conditions that it has yet to act on, including the introduction of a statutory code of practice on sexual harassment. It has not yet responded formally to the Good Work Plan consultations or evaluated progress on implementing its Gender Equality at Every Stage roadmap.
  • The UK Government has said it is considering signing up to the new International Labour Organisation (ILO) Convention 190 on ending violence and harassment in the world of work.

Read more about the UK and Welsh Governments’ actions on just and fair conditions at work.

The assessment was made based on the evidence available up to 15/09/2020