NI Employment Law: What We Learned Last Quarter (Q1 2023)

Posted in : Supplementary Articles NI on 5 April 2023
Legal Island
Legal Island
Issues covered: Pay; Cost of Living; Diversity and Inclusion; Gender Pay Gap; Collective and Trade Union Issues; AI

What We Learned Last Quarter – April 2023

Legal Island's Knowledge Team have collated all the updates we sent our 1,000+ Employment Law Hub subscribers in Q1 2023. 

This quarter everyone was talking about ChatGPT and AI – the future is now! We also saw a lovely bit of snow, the celebration of International Women’s Day, a continuing cost of living crisis and yet more strikes. All that in just 3 months – anyone else ready for a lie-down?!

Artificial Intelligence

This quarter, ChatGPT, an Artificial Intelligence system, has been making headlines and dominating conversations in offices across NI. From once being the topic of science fiction, it has now become a widely discussed subject. We have compiled a list of the best articles on this topic.

In an insightful article, Lewis Silkin pondered whether it was necessary to appoint a cyber-supervisor. Additionally, the global law firm Allen & Overy declared their decision to incorporate Harvey, an artificial intelligence platform that utilises a modified version of Open AI models specially optimised for legal work, into their worldwide operations.

Legal Island’s own Barry Phillips took on the challenge of explaining the relevance of ChatGPT to our HR audience in two of webinars –   Understanding the relevance of ChatGPT to the world of HR. Five ways it will save your HR team time and money and Unregulated Use of ChatGPT in the Workplace – five things HR absolutely must do right now to reduce the risks of litigation. Click on the links to catch up with the recordings.

Industrial Action

The article 'When the unthinkable becomes policy' by Personnel Today expressed their dissatisfaction with the Strikes Bill recently introduced by Westminster. Meanwhile Lewis Silkin provided their professional take on this matter.

More than 25,000 healthcare staff in Northern Ireland had a one-day strike as part of a pay dispute. The move from Unite, Unison and Nipsa members, involved some nurses, ambulance and hospital support staff. Workers were told they would get a 2022-23 pay award of £1,400, but unions said this would not settle the dispute as it was lower than inflation.

Amazon workers staged the first-ever UK strike against the online giant this quarter in a protest over pay. Members of the GMB union are walking out at Amazon's Coventry warehouse over what they call a "derisory" 50p an hour pay rise. Workers told the BBC about "severe" conditions, claiming they are constantly monitored and upbraided for "idle time" lasting just a few minutes. Amazon said it has a system "that recognises great performance".

Meanwhile, Frank Cassidy issued a plea for fairness regarding the teacher’s strikes here in NI.

Cost of Living

The BBC reported back in January that pay was rising at fastest pace for over 20 years, but below inflation. They also offered some helpful advice if you fancy a pay rise yourself! If you feel like you're not getting paid enough, you're probably not alone. While average wages have been increasing, they haven't been keeping up with the rising cost of living, which means many people are finding it harder to get by. The BBC spoke to recruiters, a manager and a workplace psychologist to get five tips on how to best negotiate for more money.

It appears that not everyone is experiencing the consequences of the current cost-of-living crisis………….

The leaders of some of the UK’s most prominent companies earned more than the average worker will this year, just 5 days into the new year!

Research by the High Pay Centre shows that at 2pm today FTSE 100 company chief executives will have already earned an average of £33,000 in 2023 – the same as the median salary for a UK worker. The data is based on figures from last year, taken from the Office for National Statistics and the financial reports of publicly listed companies. The TUC has responded by urging pay committees to restore common sense to remuneration awards.

Women’s Rights

Of course, March brought with it, not just snow(!), but International Women’s Day. The Gender Pay Gap Bot was in full-swing on Twitter, pointing out some discrepancies between the glossy claims of big business and the reality of their own Gender Pay Gap – fancy a cringe on someone else’s behalf? Check out the chaos HERE!

In February the government rejected a number of recommendations made by the House of Commons Equality Committee, including that the government should:

  • in consultation with the Menopause Ambassador, produce model menopause policies to assist employers.
  • work with a large public sector employer with a strong public profile to develop and pilot a specific ‘menopause leave’ policy.
  • immediately commence section 14 of the Equality Act 2010; and
  • consult on making menopause a protected characteristic under the Equality Act 2010.

The Committee highlighted the low cost but high impact opportunities for model workplace menopause policies and menopause leave, which the government has dismissed.

And if that wasn’t bad enough……..

According to the TUC, 23 February 2023 marked 'women's pay day', the first day of the year when the average woman's work is equivalent to that of a man due to the gender pay gap. The TUC's examination of the Office for National Statistics' Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings (ASHE) data from 2022 shows that the UK's gender pay gap was 14.9%. As a result, women in the UK effectively work for free for 54 days each year when compared to the total yearly earnings of their male counterparts.

March brought better news for women and families as the Chancellor, Jeremy Hunt, announced that the government will provide 30 hours of childcare a week for one and two-year-olds. Sadly, this only applies to families in England and Wales – in NI we await the return of the Folks on the Hill.

Don’t miss our annual HR Conference, happening on Wednesday 26th April, to keep up to date on the latest trends and best practices, and to gain valuable insights, knowledge, and inspiration.

The theme this year is Why 2023 is the Year of Women in the Workplace. The line-up of speaker's is second to none - Lauren Fabianski from campaigning group Pregnant then Screwed, feminist and ally Robert Baker, transgender campaigner and successful businesswoman Karen McShane and Founder of the Menopause Hub, Loretta Dignam, to name but a few! All topped off with an essential legal update from Eversheds Sutherland.

This article is correct at 05/04/2023

The information in this article is provided as part of Legal-Island's Employment Law Hub. We regret we are not able to respond to requests for specific legal or HR queries and recommend that professional advice is obtained before relying on information supplied anywhere within this article.

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