As someone who has recently returned to work from paternity leave following the birth of a baby girl, I have gained a new appreciation for this period of leave. At present the current statutory provision in the UK allows new fathers to take 2 weeks of paternity leave paid at the rate of Statutory Paternity Pay which, at the 2017 level, is £140.98 or 90% of their average weekly earnings (whichever is lower).
A Japanese insurance firm has announced plans to replace more than 30 employees with artificial intelligence (AI) robots. Fukoku Mutual Life Insurance will make 34 employees redundant by the end of March this year to be replaced by a system based on IBM’s Watson Explorer.
The tech giant claims the Watson Explorer possesses “cognitive technology that can think like a human, allowing it to analyse and interpret all of your data, including unstructured text, images, audio and video”.
According to a report in the Japanese press, several other insurance companies are in the process of introducing AI systems. Dai-ichi Life Insurance Co. has already introduced an AI system to process payment assessment alongside human checks. The adoption of the new technology at Dai-ichi however, has not resulted in any major job losses.
Fukoku Mutual believes the introduction of the AI system will increase productivity by 30% and provide a return on its investment within two years. The system is expected to cost 200m yen (£1.4m) and save around 140m yen (£1m) per year. Maintaining the new system is expected to cost around 15m yen (£100k) per year.
A 2015 report by the Nomura Research Institute found that robots had the potential to perform nearly half of all jobs in Japan within the next 20 years. Furthermore, a World Economic Forum report from last year predicted that increased use of AI will lead to a loss of over 5 million jobs over the next 5 years in the world’s 15 leading economies.
The Japanese Government is due to trial the use of AI to assist civil servants in the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry. According to the Guardian, if the trial is successful, then it could be something that is adopted by other government departments.
Japan is renowned for its ability in AI and robotics technology and the country has long been at the forefront of the development in this field. Added to the fact that Japan has an ageing and shrinking population, it is not difficult to see why there are moves being made for robots to fill possible labour shortages in the country. Although, it may be sometime before we see masses of humanoid robots walking the streets as seen in Will Smith’s i, ROBOT.
Recent proposals by the Home Secretary Amber Rudd requiring companies to disclose the number of foreign workers they employ has been met with criticism by business groups and opposition parties.
The plan is part of a number of proposals that came out at last week’s Conservative Party conference and comes on the backdrop of the Brexit vote in which immigration was cited as a key factor for those voting leave. Read more
Brexit – employer implications on the decision to leave the EU
The results of the EU referendum last month caused huge shockwaves across the country as a majority of the UK decided to leave the EU. The outcome led to upheaval in the leadership of the 2 main Westminster parties, the value of the pound and shares in the FTSE skydiving, concern and apprehension amongst businesses, oh and the small constitutional matter of another threat to the very existence of the United Kingdom with a majority in 2 parts of the UK voting to remain in the EU.
The Exit process
There is still a lot of uncertainty surrounding the exit process with the much-publicised article 50 still to be triggered by the new government which will formally start the procedure to leave the EU. It is worth noting that in the short term, it is still “business as usual”. Despite the chaotic political and economic fallout from the vote, legally nothing has changed. Therefore, it is wise, as some employers have already, to communicate to and reassure staff that there will be no immediate changes. This perhaps is most pressing for companies which employ staff from other parts of the EU.
During the referendum campaign, there was a lot of talk from the Vote Leave camp of the introduction of a new immigration system to end the automatic right of all EU citizens to live and work in the UK. The Australian-style points-based system was mooted as a system that could be followed and there is a possibility that we may see an introduction of such a setup in the UK at some point. There remains doubt about the status of EU citizens currently living in the UK with the government refusing to guarantee their current status. Although it is difficult to envisage that we will see EU citizens already settled in the country being evicted from the UK, it is possible that EU citizens that enter the UK between now and the formal separation will not have a permanent right to live and work in the UK. Negotiations on this will take time so there are again unlikely to be any immediate changes in this area.
A major portion of UK employment law derives from the EU with many laws being enacted through separate acts of parliament and statutory instruments. This means that leaving the EU is unlikely to have a major impact on employment in the UK unless the government amends each individual piece of legislation. It is also worth highlighting that EU rights are essentially a minimum standard and there are some UK rights that go beyond what is required. For example, with paid holiday, the EU requirement is 4 weeks per annum while in the UK the statutory minimum is 5.6 weeks’ paid holiday per year. There is also plenty of UK employment law that is not in any way connected to the EU (e.g. unfair dismissal, minimum wage, shared parental leave and the right to request flexible working).
In conclusion, it is still early days in post-referendum UK with the dust still to settle. It remains to be seen what shape Brexit will take in the coming years as the UK enters into negotiations with the EU over the terms of the split. However, what we can say, is that we are certainly in significant times of change.
Daniel Barnett has a good article on the HR implications of Brexit.
In the second of our series of blogs about Ramadan – the month of fasting, we look at an employee’s guide to working during Ramadan.
The Prophet Muhammad taught Muslims to be balanced in their approach to life in relation to the practice of the religion and work, however during Ramadan it is sometimes hard to achieve this balanced approach and you may feel your productivity or concentration drop.
With Ramadan starting in the second week of June this year, it is worth looking into what this means for the workplace that has a fasting employee. In the first of a couple of posts throughout the month, we’ll look at Ramadan from the perspective of both employers and employees.
Where does the UK fall in comparison with countries across the globe for the provision of maternity leave and pay? Paid leave for working mothers is guaranteed in at least 178 countries around the world and over 50 countries provide some form of paid leave or wage benefits for fathers.
Maternity leave in the UK
In the UK, pregnant employees are entitled to up to 52 weeks of maternity leave, of which 39 weeks are paid. In relation to maternity pay, employees get 90% of their salary for the first 6 weeks and the remaining 33 weeks are paid at either 90% of the salary or the current statutory rate of £139.58 per week (whichever is lower).
The UK lags behind countries such as Bulgaria where employees are entitled to up to 410 days (or 58.6 weeks) with 90% salary paid during that period. Mothers are also entitled to an additional year of leave paid at a rate equal to the minimum wage. In Greece, mothers are entitled to 43 weeks of leave with pay equal to 50% of average earnings. Interestingly, neither Bulgaria or Greece are considered economic powerhouses of Europe, with the latter grabbing the headlines in recent years due to its financial problems. In Sweden, maternity leave is 51 weeks with an average of 61% of salary being paid. Other countries on the continent including France, Spain and the Netherlands allow up to 16 weeks at full pay.
However, the UK is well ahead of other nations such as the USA, which along with Lesotho, Liberia, Papua New Guinea and Swaziland, are one of the few countries that do not guarantee paid maternity leave for employees. Although, US companies with more than 50 employees must provide 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave following childbirth.
Maternity leave in North America
The USA allows 12 weeks’ maternity leave and while there is no national programme for paid leave there may be certain cash benefits offered at the state level. This is quite opposite to the allowance provided by their neighbours to the north. Canada allows 52 weeks of maternity leave with 55% of salary paid for the first 17 weeks with the remaining 35 weeks being taken by either parent. Again there is variation in pay depending on which province you are in.
So while the UK may be behind the likes of Bulgaria and Greece in the provision of maternity leave and pay, there have been significant changes in this area in the last few years with the introduction of shared parental leave. Further developments are expected with grandparental leave set to be implemented in the coming years.
Taken from an article in the Telegraph and a report found in the Huffington Post which includes a more comprehensive list of maternity leave benefits for countries around the world.
If you have an employee about to embark on maternity leave or if you would like to discuss maternity leave with a member of the team, you can phone us on 0131 225 7458.