Contributor: Ian MacArthur, Director of the Greater Manchester Good Employment Charter (Written 26 Nov 2021)
When the Greater Manchester Good Employment Charter was first conceived, it was recognised that the world of work constantly evolves, innovates, and adapts. And, that the Characteristics and criteria that determined what ‘good’ looks like would need to be broad and endurable enough to remain relevant through the inevitable changes.
And due credit is owed to the architects of the Charter and their myriad of contributors in developing something that has remained valuable and steadfast through the ferocious turmoil of the last twenty months. The framework that the Charter provides has been key in allowing us to address the challenges of flexible work, mental wellbeing, line management, and in particular some of the deep-seated inequalities that have been exacerbated through the conditions of the pandemic.
We understood that work in the future would change, but the pace of change since March 2020 has been unprecedented and it has shone a light on some issues that we cannot ignore and need to act on. Over the past six months or so the Charter Board has been working to ensure that our characteristics and criteria are fit for purpose and a number of developments have emerged from that thinking.
Firstly, we focused on the issue of Sick Pay. Through the impacts of the pandemic, it became clear that employees who did not have the support of a decent sick pay policy were risking their health and that of others, because they had little choice but to work through periods of illness. This is clearly an intolerable situation for those workers, lessens our mutual resilience, and cannot be a reflection of good employment. The Charter Board, therefore, developed new membership criteria regarding sick pay, and after consultation and review have agreed on the following wording:
Charter members will be expected to provide evidence that they:
(1) ensure that all staff have an entitlement to sick pay, with provision in place for any staff who do not meet the earnings threshold for statutory sick pay
(2) provide sick pay from day one of absence
(3) pay staff who are off sick a replacement income of 100% of their usual earnings for as long as possible
(4) develop an appropriate income replacement policy for staff who are required to spend time away from work to care for a sick dependent or close relative.
We anticipate that this will provide employees with the confidence that illness should not be penalised and moreover that their health and that of their colleagues and clients should not be compromised.
The Board have also taken the opportunity to review our Secure Work criteria. Security of employment is becoming of equal importance to decent pay, particularly in the traditionally low paid sectors and the Charter will now fully align with the Real Living Wage Foundation’s Living Hours scheme, additionally requiring:
‘A guaranteed minimum of 16 hours a week (unless the worker requests otherwise)’
All future assessments for Charter Membership will include a review of sick pay policies and contract terms against these provisions.
Moving further we have also agreed that whilst they will not be built into the Membership criteria, membership assessments will now look for awareness and action around ethnicity pay gaps and reporting for larger organisations (c.250 employees).
We believe that these changes will ensure that we recognise the significant employment issues of the day but at the same time continually builds the Charter’s credibility in setting excellence in employment standards across Greater Manchester.