Focus on skills in government’s new industrial strategy

The government has published the first details of its new industrial strategy in January, outlining a 10-point plan for building a robust economy in the face of economic change, increasing automation and the unknown impact of leaving the EU. "Underpinning this strategy is a new approach to government, not just stepping back and leaving business to get on with the job, but stepping up to a new, active role that backs business and ensures more people in all corners of the country share in the benefits of its success," the Prime Minister said.

There was a renewed focus on productivity in the strategy, stating it was important “to ensure that every place meets its potential by working to close the gap between our best performing companies, industries, places and people and those which are less productive.”


MPs call for crackdown on discriminatory dress rules

In the week of “women’s march” demonstrations across the UK and USA, the British government is looking into sexism in our workplaces.

The demand has come from two parliamentary committees, for Petitions and for Women and Equalities. Their report follows the experience of London worker Nicola Thorp, who was sent home last spring for not wearing high heels to work. Her parliamentary petition on the issue gained more than 150,000 signatures. The joint report of the two committees, entitled High Heels and Workplace Dress Codes, found that the Equality Act 2010 should ban discriminatory dress rules at work, but that in practice the law is not applied properly to protect workers of either gender. MPs called for firms to face fines for such discrimination, and for employment tribunals to make awards against employers who transgress the law.

TUC general secretary Frances O'Grady, commenting on the report, said: "Far too many employers are still stuck in the past when it comes to dress codes . . . It is unacceptable that in 2017 bosses are still forcing women to wear painful, inappropriate shoes and uniforms." Ms O’Grady added that the high cost of employment tribunals meant that “many women can’t afford to challenge sexist policies” and she urged ministers to scrap tribunal fees.


An uncertain future for workers’ rights

The Workers' Rights (Maintenance of EU Standards) Bill was put forth for debate by Labour MP Melanie Onn, receiving official backing from UNISON. The Bill aimed to preserve, post-Brexit, all the employment protections workers currently enjoy in the UK. The reasons why such a bill might be needed are complex, but boil down to essentially this; while some workplace rights already have their own independent foundation in British law (such as the Equal Pay Act 1970 and Equality Act 2010 which protect against discrimination at work), several other areas of legislation derive either partly or wholly from European directives. These include rights for agency workers, the European Works Council, information and consultation of employees, health and safety, TUPE, the working time directive and the protection of young people at work. This Private Member’s Bill was prevented from being debated in Parliament on the 13th of January due to a four hour filibuster by Conservative MPs on the previous Broadcasting (Radio Multiplex Services) Bill. Theresa May has, however, gone on record to say that workers’ rights “will be guaranteed as long as I am prime minister.”