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Research finds only 21% of applicants for top roles were women

Women made up just 21% of employees being put forward for senior roles at financial services firms last year, compared to 79% who were men, says Pinsent Masons, the multinational law firm.

Pinsent Masons says the limited number of women taking senior management roles shows there has been little progress in hiring and promoting more women at senior levels within financial services. This is despite the broad consensus about the importance of improving gender diversity in financial services.

A review of 4,044 individuals taking up senior roles at financial services firms last year (year-end March 31) shows that approximately 833 were women and 3,211 were men. This data refers to all financial services firms, including banks, insurers, fund managers, hedge funds and private equity funds.

Elizabeth Budd, Partner at Pinsent Masons, says: “More and more financial services firms are taking steps to improve gender diversity at top levels but the pace of change is still very slow.”

“Given the attention that gender diversity has been given in recent years, I expect many firms will be disappointed that this is not being reflected in the number of women put forward for senior roles.”

One of the reasons often given for the low number of women in senior roles in financial services is that the industry is less friendly towards women who wish to work more flexible hours, or from home, due to childcare requirements.

Commenting on this, Elizabeth Budd said: “The coronavirus crisis has upended working practices, organisational and operational structures. As a result, women will be hoping that City employers are going to be much more receptive to flexible working requests and this won’t be used as an excuse for the low levels of women at senior levels.”

Pinsent Masons adds that firms need to be committed to making the cultural changes that allow for women to excel in financial services. A growing number of firms are signing up to the Treasury’s Women in Finance Charter in order to deliver these cultural changes.

Signatories of the Treasury’s Women in Finance Charter pledge to do the following:

  • Have a senior executive personally responsible for diversity and inclusion
  • Set internal targets for senior-level gender diversity
  • Publish progress against these targets annually
  • Have an intention to ensure the pay of senior executives is tied to progress against these targets

A recent analysis of 187 Women in Finance signatories found 64% had increased the proportion of women in senior roles last year while 12% had maintained the same level of representation.

Previous research from Pinsent Masons showed that in 2018/19 women represented 26% of individuals put forward for senior roles, compared to 71% for men. However, this year’s figures are not directly comparable as the latest figures includes d data on a wider range of financial services businesses.

New data reveals HR leaders’ Coronavirus preparedness

Survey reveals less than 10% of businesses had a workplace / HR policy in place covering a disease pandemic. Approximately 80% now have a policy, or plan to introduce one in response to the Coronavirus outbreak.

Leading law firm Lewis Silkin today announces the launch of a new benchmarking survey, mapping the preparedness and response strategies of UK HR decision-makers to the Coronavirus / COVID-19 outbreak.

For its first survey of the series Lewis Silkin surveyed an initial group of 65 senior HR leaders and in-house counsel in organisations employing more than 200,000 employees between them and the findings are being presented now to help guide employers as they seek to effectively manage their workplace response to coronavirus.

This comes as the World Health Organisation has confirmed the status of the virus has been elevated to a Pandemic.

HR Policy

58.8% of respondents confirmed that they had implemented a workplace policy addressing pandemic disease in response to Coronavirus. 10% still plan to implement a policy while almost 11% still had no plans to implement a policy at the time of response. Less than 10% had a policy in place prior to the Coronavirus outbreak.

Business Travel

Employers are being cautious with regard to travel. Almost a quarter (24.2%) of respondents have restricted both international and UK domestic travel beyond FCO guidance and a further quarter (25.8%) have restricted international travel specifically beyond FCO guidance.

Remote Working & Self-Isolation

The vast majority (87.9%) of businesses are managing NHS-recommended self-isolation by requesting employees work from home. However, businesses are taking a nuanced approach with a combination of responses being used, including sick leave and sick pay (45.5%) and full pay without work or sick leave (16.7%). 51% of respondents are directing some employees to self-isolate as a precaution beyond government advice while a similar number are allowing employees to choose to self-isolate.

57.7% of polices reported by survey respondents cover employees should their care arrangements break down (such as school closures or family illness).

James Davies, employment partner at Lewis Silkin, commented: “These are unprecedented times and employers are having quickly adapt, evolve or scale up their workplace policies in response to Coronavirus. This is a fast-moving situation and businesses will need to collaborate and learn from each other in order to know how best to move forward, with the wellbeing of staff and business continuity very much front of mind. This is why we have launched this survey, to benchmark and monitor the best practice of some of the UK’s leading HR professionals, and we will continue to gather and disseminate helpful information and guidance to our clients and the wider business community wherever we can.”

Contract renegotiation methods during COVID-19 pandemic

Since the coronavirus outbreak turned into a pandemic with global impacts, many companies turned their attention to the economic changes caused by several measures to contain the virus spread. In this regard, travel bans and orders for citizens to be quarantined, e.g., could affect great part of the obligations assumed in the contracts those companies are party to.

Several disruptions may still impair and cause breach of contract if the party (or parties) affected by the pandemic does not have a legal reason to refuse to perform its obligations, such as pay the price or deliver the goods in the date fixed by the contract. It can occur in many types of contracts, although it is commonly related to the ones whose subject is the sale of goods.

The internationally known principle of “pacta sunt servanda” admits some exceptionalities that allows a party to release itself from perform its obligation without being carried in liability. The force majeure clause is a great example of legal reason settled in a contract when it becomes difficult, onerous or even impossible to be performed by a party. Many discussions about considering COVID-19 pandemic as a force majeure event arises in both common law and civil law countries according to the examination of each contract’s content.

Pursuant to article 79 of the UN Convention on Contracts for the International Sale of Goods (Vienna Convention), a party may not be liable if its failure was due to an event out of its control. The same convention enforces in article 59 that the buyer “must pay the price on the date fixed by or determinable from the contract”. Regardless whether the contract may contain possibilities for finding a solution when the payment (or the obligation discharge) cannot occur in the fixed date, serious disagreements can be triggered.

Nevertheless, this scenario can be even worst if the business negotiation becomes a litigation, or even arbitration, issue. Besides expending money and time, the parties may miss the chance to set the best alternatives for their interests due to an event, again, out of their control. That is why recalling mediation as dispute resolution method in such case of unpredictable circumstances is important. By preserving either relationship or business from unnecessary discussion, the parties are free to set their strategic choice for preserving contract as well.

Thus, the Singapore Convention on Mediation enhances the paramount benefits of mediation to resolve commercial disputes. Such convention itself describes mediation as way to “reach an amicable settlement of their dispute with the assistance of a third person or persons (“the mediator”) lacking the authority to impose a solution […]”. And maybe that is the great advantage of using business mediation: the parties can solve the issue together, by setting an amicable deal. The imposition of a solution without the participation of the parties could affect not just the current negotiation, but the future ones too.

The focus needs to be in solutions based on the preservation of both negotiation and relationship behind this while situations such as COVID-19 pandemic occurs. Hence, it is time to mediate, not to disagree.

Employers’ Rights During the Coronavirus/COVID-19 Outbreak

In accordance with the Law on Occupational Health and Safety and the Code of Obligations, employers must ensure the occupational health and safety of their employees at the workplace. The employer must provide the necessary resources to ensure occupational health and safety at the workplace. It is necessary to take measures such as providing a sufficient amount of soap, cologne and hand disinfectant in the workplace and take measures such as ventilation of the workplace by employers. Employers should avoid risks that could lead to a dangerous situation for their employees, they have to eliminate existing risks, or replace existing risks with non-hazardous or less hazardous factors. If necessary, stopping workplace activities may be considered. In this process, international travel and meetings should also be restricted. Employers should also be informed about the COVID-19 epidemic and the measures taken in the workplace in this context and appropriate instructions should be given to the employees regarding health and safety measures. In this case, employees must also comply with all the measures taken regarding occupational health and safety.

If employees have an infection or suspicious symptoms, they should report these to their employers per their loyalty obligations. This is also important for ensuring occupational health and safety in the workplace. However, the definition of what poses risks should be clearly defined by employers and employees should be informed about this. Employers may recommend that their employees explain their findings, such as infection and suspicion, to their employers and authorised persons such as the workplace’s occupational health and safety board. The employer can’t give instructions to the employers to inform their employers about the symptoms of the disease due to data confidentiality, but this can be recommended to ensure health and safety in the workplace, employees should nevertheless express such concerns in secret. Because of the protection of their health and the health of their colleagues, they need to be careful. Although the employer is not obliged to notify the employees having the infection detected in the workplace to the health institutions, it would be appropriate for the employers to inform the health officials about this situation in case of such danger or suspicion. However, the employer can’t force his employee to be examined if he finds a suspect of infection. This situation can only be recommended. If the employee does not listen to these recommendations, if the employer deems it necessary, the employee can be gone on leave, provided that one is paid.

If employees prefer not to come to work due to the epidemic, the option of shortening their working time or part-time work may be considered. However, according to the Labour Law, changes in working hours must be notified to employees in advance and approved by employees in writing. If the employees do not approve of this change in writing within 6 working days, the employer cannot accept this change. It is also an option to send the employee unilaterally on leave, provided that the employee continues to be paid by the employer and the employee is ready to work. Employer’s encouragement or coercion of employees to work remotely is also one of the measures that can be taken in this epidemic environment. If a decision is taken to work from home in the workplace, employees will continue to receive full salary without any interruption and the employer will provide their employees with the technical equipment necessary to work from home. Employees also have the right to participate in short-term working and receive an allowance. For the employees to benefit from the short-time working allowance, the working hours of the workplace should be temporarily reduced by at least a third or the activities in the workplace should be stopped completely or partially for at least four weeks. If the employer justified the demand for the short-time working of the employee, he can contact the Employment Agency to provide a short-time working allowance for employees up to three months. In the short-time working, half of the wages of the first week are paid by the employer then a certain amount of wages will be paid from the unemployment fund to be deducted from the unemployment allowance. If verified coronavirus cases are detected in the workplace, employees can refrain from working. In this case, employers should continue to pay salaries even if the employees do not perform their duties. In the case of a force majeure such as the spread of the outbreak in Turkey and to threaten the general population, unpaid leave, as long as the mutual agreement of the employer and employee, is another option available to employees. The employer or employee can offer unpaid leave. If the proposal comes from the employee, the request for leave must be reasonable and the time off must be temporary. In the case that an employee does not have a request for unpaid leave with his consent, employers should use this option as a last resort and should never force their employees for unpaid leave. The employer must inform the employee in writing regarding unpaid leave in advance, and the employee must accept this request in writing within 6 business days. If the workplace activities are temporarily suspended and no employee contracts are terminated during this period, the employer is not obliged to inform the Social Security Institution. If the employee cannot participate in workplace activities due to force majeure, the employer is allowed to pay half of his salary for each day to the employee who cannot work for a week, according to the labour law. However, if the force majeure continues for more than a week, the employee or employer may terminate the employment contract for just cause. In this case, the employee will have all legal rights such as severance pay, overtime, unused vacation, but he will not be able to receive notice pay. On the other hand, if the workplace activities are stopped by the authorised institutions, the employer cannot terminate the employment contracts of his employees. However, in this case, the employee may have all legal rights, including severance pay, excluding notice pay, by terminating the employment contract for just cause.

Attorney General announces fines to prevent spread of COVID-19

The UAE Attorney General has issued resolution No. (38) of 2020 following Cabinet Decision No. 17 of 2020 regarding the implementation of regulations for spreading communicable diseases. The resolution covers 15 penalties, ranging from AED 500 to AED 50,000, which aim to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus in the UAE.

The Attorney General has clarified that the fine for not wearing medical masks in closed places can only be imposed on patients suffering from chronic diseases and on people who are suffering from symptoms of flu and cold and fail to maintain social distancing while among other people.

The following are the violations and associated fines as issued under the Attorney General’s resolution:

  • Fine for not complying with instructions of home quarantine and/or not following the guidelines under the Home Quarantine Guide– AED 50,000
  • Fine for patients who refuse mandatory hospitalisation or fail to take the prescribed medicines despite being alerted – AED 50,000
  • Fine for violating administrative closure of public places like shopping centres, malls, outdoor markets, gyms, public swimming pools, cinemas, clubs, parks and restaurants – AED 50,000 (Additionally, there is a fine of AED 500 for people caught visiting these public places)
  • Fine for organising social gatherings, meetings and public celebrations – AED 10,000 (Additionally, there is a fine of AED 5,000 for people attending the social gatherings and events)
  • Fine for not conducting a medical test upon request – AED 5,000
  • Fine for violating precautionary measures set by the UAE Ministry of Health and Prevention by people coming from nations affected by communicable diseases – AED 2,000
  • Fine for failure to observe health measures regarding regulation of roads, markets and other public places exempted from temporary closure – AED 3,000
  • Fine for failure to dispose of clothes, luggage or any temporary structures proved to be contaminated, which can’t be disinfected by the standard established methods – AED 3,000
  • Fine for unnecessary visits to hospitals and other health facilities – AED 1,000
  • Fine for exceeding the maximum number of allowed persons in a car (i.e. more than 3 persons in car) – AED 1,000
  • Fine for not wearing medical masks indoors and failure to maintain social distancing by persons suffering from chronic disease or having symptoms of flu and cold – AED 1,000
  • Fine for leaving home unnecessarily and without reason, except for important work or a genuine reason (purchase of essentials, medicines, etc.) – AED 2,000
  • Fine for violating provisions of the law when burying or transporting the body of a person who died from a communicable disease – AED 3,000
  • Fine for drivers failing to maintain hygiene and following sterilisation procedures in public transportation – AED 5,000
  • Fine for failure to take precautionary measures, failure for the crew of ships from the captain or shipping agent, as the case may be – AED 10,000

The National Emergency, Crisis and Disasters Federal Prosecution has been entrusted with the task of implementation of the resolution and may seek assistance from local and public authorities as required.

The penalties shall be doubled in amount for repeat violators and if the violator commits a third offence, he will be referred to the National Emergency, Crisis and Disasters Federal Prosecution for appropriate action. Further, the violator must also bear the costs of any repairs for damages occurring due to the violation.

The resolution is a part of the government’s measures to combat the spread of coronavirus and to protect the health of citizens and residents of the UAE by curbing unnecessary gathering and outings.

Pinsent Masons announces 2020 partner promotions

Multinational law firm Pinsent Masons has announced 17 new partners in its 2020 promotion round as it promotes outside of traditional legal services for the first time.

Hayley Boxall has been made partner in Forensic Accounting Services while director of Client Solutions David Halliwell has also been promoted to partner as the firm strengthens its capabilities as a professional services business with law at its core.

The remaining 15 new partners are from the firm’s five core global sectors; Energy, Financial Services, Infrastructure, Real Estate and Advanced Manufacturing & Technology.

The promotions, which take effect on 1 May, bring the total number of partners to 474 with female representation across the partnership reaching approximately 28%. This year, almost half of those promoted are women signalling the firm’s continued progress towards a position where promotions demographics reflect the pool from which candidates are drawn.

Richard Foley, senior partner at Pinsent Masons, says: “We are incredibly proud of the talent, skill and dedication of all of our people. As we all take stock and adjust to the challenges we face prompted by COVID-19, it’s heartening to have some positive news that helps us look to the future. Those promoted strengthen our position as a leading sector-focused, multinational legal services provider and mark an important step in our transition to become a professional services business with law at its core.

“The firm’s commitment to provide its clients with innovative, solutions-based legal services is the touchstone of our business. Now, more than ever, developing talent that supports this is critical as our clients grapple with the challenges posed by coronavirus.”

Pinsent Masons was one of the first law firms to establish an in-house forensic accounting team, offering clients a multi-disciplinary approach to disputes, consultancy services and investigations.

As the partner leading Client Solutions, David Halliwell works with a wide range of professionals across the firm to help clients transform the way they deliver legal services to their businesses, both through the firm’s existing portfolio of process, resourcing and technology solutions and through collaboration to create new ones.

The full list of those promoted to partner is as follows:

  • Dawn Allen (Financial Services, UK)
  • Simone Alphonse (Energy, Infrastructure, Australia)
  • Catherine Bendeich (Energy, Infrastructure, Australia)
  • Hayley Boxall (Forensic and Accounting Services, UK)
  • Matthew Brewer (Financial Services, UK)
  • Andrew Brydon (AMT, Infrastructure, UK)
  • Oliver Crowley (Financial Services, UK)
  • David Halliwell (Client Solutions, UK)
  • Karah Howard (Energy, Infrastructure, Hong Kong)
  • Gemma Kaplan (Financial Services, UK)
  • David Lancaster (Advanced Manufacturing & Technology, UK)
  • Nick McDonald (Energy, Real Estate, UK)
  • Ann-Marie Salmacis (Real Estate, UK)
  • Michael Smith (Real Estate, UK)
  • David Stoppelmann (Energy, Germany)
  • Alasdair Weir (Energy, infrastructure, UK)
  • Kathryn Wynn (Financial Services, UK)

If you would like to find out more information about Pinsent Masons, please visit: https://www.pinsentmasons.com/