Your round-up of the stories that you should discuss at interview this week.
- Employment Law
Reported by Radhika Morally
Earnings fall for the first time in three years
Recent official figures from the Office of National Statistics (ONS) have revealed that wages in real terms have fallen by 0.4% in the year leading up to April 2017.
Although wages rose by 2.2% over the year, this was overtaken and therefore rendered irrelevant by inflation, which has risen dramatically to a four-year high of 2.7%.
The median amount earned (the average salary for a worker) was recorded as being £550 per week. It appears that those in the lowest income bracket have been affected the least by the rise in inflation. Changes to the minimum national living wage lifted the pay of some by 4%, which enabled them to ‘outgrow the inflation squeeze’.
As expected, full time workers in London are paid the most on average, with a weekly salary of £692. This contrasts the £500 per week of those working in Wales, Northern Ireland, Yorkshire and the Humber and the East Midlands.
It has been suggested that growth in earnings has not recovered since the financial crisis, and in the face of Brexit, is unlikely to do so anytime soon.
On a more positive note, however, the statistics reported by the ONS presented a narrowing of the gender-pay gap. At a median level of pay at 9.1%, the 0.3% fall makes this the lowest level on record to date.
Still, when analysing the figures in more detail, this brings forward different results. According to the Chartered Management Institute (CMI), ‘the disparity in pay between men and women is more complex when broken down.’ Patrick Woodman, the head of research for the CMI, has revealed that their in-house studies have highlighted a disturbing 27% pay gap among the UK’s 3.3 managers, where women are outnumbered by men 3 to 1. Mr Woodman has also revealed that when the figures of full and part time workers are combined, the gender pay gap actually rose by only 0.2% in the past year.
It is no wonder then, that many share the view of The Trade union Congress’ general secretary, Frances O’Grady, who states: “At this rate, it’ll take decades for women to get paid the same as men”.
- Family Law
Reported by Jutha Cheewat
“Smart Forms” to bring an end to lengthy divorce procedures
The Ministry of Justice put forward a scheme which allows all married couples to apply for a divorce online as part of a £1bn change to the justice system.
A “smart form” will ask questions based on the circumstances of the marriage breakdown. This scheme might save £250m and reduce the amount of paperwork and processing time involved with divorce procedures. The scheme has been tested on a few sites and will soon spread across the UK.
A spokeswoman for HM Courts and Tribunals Service told The Guardian that “We have a world-leading legal system and are investing over £1bn to reform and enhance our courts to deliver swifter justice […] We have launched the first divorce application services online at three sites and will be extending the testing over the coming months. These measures will simplify the process for divorce applicants and help progress applications quickly”.
The current system means those seeking divorce must file paper forms and send them to the court for consideration and then later provide further relevant documents. The proceedings can be cumbersome and take a long time.
The presenter of Match of The Day said that “it’s very easy to get married and very difficult to get divorced. And we know lawyers try to manipulate it to make you spend more money and basically end up hating each other. There should be a mathematical equation that goes to the courts and they sort it out”.
Read more here.
- Tort/Family Law
Reported by Sarah Mullane
Vicarious liability of the local authority – Foster Care
A landmark ruling by the Supreme Court has found that local authorities can be vicariously liable for the torts committed by foster carers against children in their care. In the case of Armes v Nottinghamshire County Council  UKSC 60, a majority of four-to-one chose to reverse the unanimous decision of the Court of Appeal and to hold Nottinghamshire council vicariously liable for the sexual and emotional abuse of the claimant, Natasha Armes, at the hands of two foster carers during the 1980’s.
The decision made here was founded primarily on the previous case of Cox v Ministry of Justice  UKSC 10, in which a prison authority was found to be vicariously liable for the negligence of one of its prison workers. The judges noted that a relationship outside of employment, but which held certain characteristics of employment, may give rise to vicarious liability. In deciding this case, the judges held that the council had a duty to safeguard and promote the claimant’s welfare, and that the placement of children with foster parents carried the inherent risk of abuse. Lord Reed followed on from this by stating that it may only be considered “fair that they should compensate the unfortunate children for whom that risk materialises.”
Questions surrounding the vicarious liability in cases of placements with natural parents or other family members have been dismissed, as they have a different relationship with the local authority. Additionally, worries that the ruling may discourage authorities from using foster care placements was dismissed by Lord Reed, who instead suggested that it may encourage more “adequate vetting and supervision” of foster carers instead.
Reported by Anna Flaherty
A “fourth industrial revolution” in sight?
This so called “fourth industrial revolution” could be worth £455bn and could create over 175,000 jobs in manufacturing. However, a government-commissioned report on industrial digitalisation has said that in order for this to happen, the government and the industry must co-operate. These technologies would include 3-D printing and virtual technology.
In the last thirty years, the UK has seen a massive decline in the manufacturing, with most people having jobs in the service industry. Manufacturing now only makes up 10% of the UK economy, according to 2015 statistics. This insistence on co-operation is in response to the fact that many people fear that robotics and artificial intelligence will lead to the destruction of many jobs. In reality, this report suggests the exact opposite. Carolyn Fairbairn, the director-general for the Confederation of British Industry, said that “The UK must compete with China, the USA and much of Europe where there are already advanced plans to embrace the fourth industrial revolution”. Business secretary Greg Clark also supported the notion that it is necessary for the government to work with the industry in order to seize these opportunities.