Unemployment down as more people in work than ever before

Unemployment has dropped to its lowest rate since 2005 while the employment rate has stayed at a record high of 74.2%.

Official figures from the Office for National Statistics released today show the unemployment rate now stands at 5.0% and there are nearly 31.6 million people in work.

There are nearly half-a-million more people in work compared to a year ago, with wages before bonuses up by 2.3% in the same period. The growth in employment is being driven by full-time work.

Secretary of State for Work and Pensions Stephen Crabb said:

Secure employment and a decent wage are key to transforming the life chances of people right the way across the country, so I’m delighted to see another strong set of figures this month.

There are more people in work than ever before and wages are continuing their upward climb, which is great news for hardworking families who have seen a rise in their living standards over the past year.

The labour market statistics also show:

  • the female employment rate is still at 69.2%, the highest since records began in 1971
  • there are around 750,000 unfilled vacancies in the economy at any one time
  • at 5.6%, the proportion of 16 to 24 year olds who have left full-time education and are unemployed has never been lower

Dads urged to consider Shared Parental Leave

The government has urged expectant fathers to consider sharing their partner’s maternity leave.Eligible dads can now share up to 39 weeks’ pay and up to 52 weeks of leave with the child’s mother in the first year of their baby’s life.

The scheme, which started last April, gives mums the opportunity to return to work earlier if they wish. Parents can take up to 6 months off work at the same time or alternatively stagger their leave and pay so that one of them is always at home with their child. This gives dads and partners an opportunity to bond with their new-born and many dads and partners will also qualify for statutory pay.

How it works

Parents must meet the eligibility criteria in order to take advantage of Shared Parental Leave and pay. Those eligible can take: * any weeks of Maternity Leave that the mother does not intend to use as up to 50 weeks of Shared Parental Leave * any weeks of Maternity Pay or Maternity Allowance that the mother does not intend to use as up to 37 weeks of Shared Parental Pay

Parents can decide how best they split up leave, and whether to take it all at once or in blocks. The scheme allows parents to book up to 3 separate blocks of Shared Parental Leave instead of taking it all in one go.


To qualify for Shared Parental Leave and Pay, an employee must have been employed continuously by the same employer for at least 26 weeks at the ‘qualifying week’. To qualify for pay they must additionally have earned at least the lower earnings level (currently £112 a week) in an 8 week test period.

The other parent must be employed or a self-employed earner who has worked for 26 weeks and earned £30 on average in any 13 of those weeks in the 66 weeks before the week the baby is due. The same principles apply to adopters and in the case of joint adoptions, the other parent can qualify for Shared Parental Leave and Pay where the parent that qualifies for Adoption Leave and Pay doesn’t intend to take their full leave and pay entitlement.

Shared Parental Leave is also available to new adoptive parents.

To find out if you are eligible for Shared Parental Leave and Pay and to work out your entitlement, see Calculate your leave and pay when you have a child.

Firm fined £1m after young worker killed by exploding tyre

A Kent tyre company has been fined £1m for safety failings after 21-year-old Matthew Hoare, from Canterbury was killed when a tyre exploded.

Canterbury Crown Court heard how Matthew, an employee of Watling Tyre Service Limited of Kent, was repairing a puncture to the tyre of a ‘dresser loading shovel’ when it exploded.

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EU says company ban on wearing headscarves may be admissible

The European Union’s top lawyer says employers can stop workers wearing headscarves in certain circumstances.

If the ban is based on a general company rule which prohibits political, philosophical and religious symbols from being worn visibly in the workplace,then it may be justified if it enables the employer to pursue the legitimate policy of ensuring religious and ideological neutrality.

The case involved Samira Achbita, who is of Muslim faith, who worked as a receptionist for the Belgian company G4S Secure Solutions, which is an undertaking that provides security and guarding services as well as reception services.

After having worked for three years for the company she insisted that she should be allowed to go to work in future wearing an Islamic headscarf. She was dismissed as a result, since G4S prohibits the wearing of any visible religious, political and philosophical symbols.

Supported by the Belgian Centre for Equal Opportunities and Combating Racism, she brought an action before the Belgian courts seeking damages from G4S. Her action was unsuccessful before the first two tiers of courts. The Belgian Court of Cassation, before which the case is now pending, has made a request to the Court of Justice for a preliminary ruling seeking clarification of the prohibition under EU law of discrimination on the grounds of religion or belief.

In today’s Opinion, Advocate General Juliane Kokott takes the view that there is no direct discrimination on the ground of religion where an employee of Muslim faith is banned from wearing an Islamic headscarf in the workplace, provided that that ban is founded on a general company rule prohibiting visible political, philosophical and religious symbols in the workplace and not on stereotypes or prejudices against one or more particular religions or against religious beliefs in general. If that is the case, there is no less favourable treatment based on religion.

That ban may constitute indirect discrimination based on religion,2 but may, however,3 be justified in order to enforce a legitimate4 policy of religious and ideological neutrality pursued by the employer in the company concerned, in so far as the principle of proportionality is observed in that regard.

Footballer in race discrimination case awarded £68,000 compensation

A black footballer who claimed he was racially discriminated against by his club has been awarded £68,000 compensation.

Mark McCannon

Mark McCannon

Mark McCannon took legal action against his former club, Gillingham, claiming that they had put him “through hell” due to racism in the workplace.

The court heard that he and his black team mates had been treated differently to the white players in the squad. Mr McCannon said he didn’t receive private treatment when he was injured. He was told he could have an operation on the NHS, which was “out of character” for the club.

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