Just and fair conditions at work – UK Government assessment
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 commitments to ensure fair conditions at work, including to tackle sexual harassment. However, it has yet to implement several measures and has not introduced an Employment Bill to do so. Gender and ethnicity pay gaps are narrowing, although pay gaps remain. Bullying and harassment at work are still prevalent. The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has led to problems in ensuring safe working conditions and has also exacerbated inequalities for certain groups, such as women.
- The gender pay gap in hourly earnings among all employees has been declining in recent years, standing at 15.5% in 2020 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 increases significantly for those over 40 years.
- Analysis from 2019 shows that employees in the Pakistani, White and Black African, Bangladeshi, and White and Black Caribbean ethnic groups received the lowest median hourly pay in England and Wales. However, the ethnicity pay gap overall has narrowed to its smallest level since 2012.
- Our research published in 2018 showed a persistent disability pay gap, standing at 13.1% in 2016–17.
- Bullying and harassment in the workplace remain widespread. There is some evidence that women, ethnic minorities, and lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans people are at greater risk of workplace bullying or harassment than other groups. The UK Government has committed to measures to protect people from sexual harassment.
- Our 2018 research found that three-quarters of survey respondents had experienced sexual harassment at work and most of them were women; though not statistically representative, the findings provide an insight into workplace experiences. The UK Government’s 2020 survey found that 29% of respondents in employment had experienced some form of sexual harassment in their working environment during the previous year.
- Research on pregnancy and maternity-related discrimination at work from 2016 found that 77% of mothers had experienced at least one potentially discriminatory or negative experience, and 11% of mothers were forced to leave their job.
- There have been concerns about failures to ensure safe working conditions during the COVID-19 pandemic, 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 COVID-19 pandemic’s early stages. Ethnic minority workers are more likely to work in occupations with the highest numbers of COVID-19 deaths.
- The COVID-19 pandemic has had a particularly negative impact on working conditions for women, including that they were less likely to have their earnings topped up if on furlough. Research into working parents found mothers were more likely than fathers to combine paid work with childcare.
- A lack of basic employment rights, such as sick pay, means many gig economy workers have had no choice but to continue working during the COVID-19 pandemic, even when unwell. Young people and ethnic minorities are over-represented among such workers.
- The UK Government has made commitments to ensure fair working conditions. However, it has not responded formally to its Good Work Plan consultations, evaluated implementation of its ‘Gender equality at every stage’ roadmap, or introduced an Employment Bill to implement its commitments.
- The UK Government is considering signing up to the International Labour Organization (ILO) Convention 190 on ending violence and harassment in work.
Read more about the UK and Welsh Governments’ actions on just and fair conditions at work.