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12 months of 2023: September

As we reach the end of the year, our 12 days of Christmas countdown revisits the key events of each month

In September, MPs campaigned for more laws around AI, pension auto enrolment was extended and research found most low paid workers were using food banks.

Enact AI laws or be overtaken by EU, MPs warn

Unless new UK law is introduced, the EU’s AI Act will become the standard for AI regulation, according to a report from the government's Science, Innovation and Technology Committee.

The cross-party group of MPs, which scrutinises technology policy, said if legislation was not introduced in the King's Speech in November, EU legislation is likely to take effect by default.

The report said: “Without a serious, rapid and effective effort to establish the right governance frameworks [...] other jurisdictions will steal a march and the frameworks that they lay down may become the default even if they are less effective than what the UK can offer.”

Pension auto enrolment extended to 18-year-olds

A bill to extend pension auto-enrolment to those aged 18 and over and remove a lower earning threshold immediately received Royal Assent after passing its third reading.

Kate Smith, head of pensions at pension provider Aegon, said the bill will allow more people to financially prepare for retirement and help close the gender pension gap.

Women have on average £123,000 less in their pension pots, and since women on average live longer than men, they require an extra £85,000 in retirement, according to pension provider Scottish Widows.

Speaking to HR magazine, Smith said: “The bill will, in time, widen the scope of automatic enrolment bringing in those aged between 18 and 22, so pension saving becomes the norm for younger employers and the extra four years of saving may help to close the gender pensions gap.”


Majority of low-paid workers using foodbanks

Despite inflation easing, 60% of low-paid workers used food banks between September 2022 and 2023, according to the Living Wage Foundation.

The Consumer Prices Index (CPI) inflation was measured at 6.7% in the year to August 2023, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

This was down from 6.8% the previous month, and from October's peak of 11.1%.

Katherine Chapman, director of the Living Wage Foundation said: “After more than a year of record price rises, we are finally starting to see inflation ease. But today’s research shows that the cost of living crisis is far from over, especially for the 3.5 million workers who are paid less than the real living wage.”

The study found 39% of low-paid workers have regularly skipped meals and a third (32%) have been unable to heat their homes due to financial reasons.

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