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Annie Hayes

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A week in HR: Downturn heroes

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HR week News continues of recession, faltering job prospects and banking collapses; yet a ray of light exists in the shape of Captain Chesley Sullenberger, whose landing of his American Airlines plane in the Hudson River has presented the world with the best example of an employee going the extra mile in the face of adversity. By Annie Hayes.


Job prospects across the globe are slowing according to the quarterly ‘Global Snapshot’ from recruiters Antal who quizzed over 2,700 companies. In Western Europe, it found hiring activity is down slightly on the previous quarter, with 28% of respondents currently seeking staff at managerial and professional level in contrast to 31% in the autumn, whilst only 18% expect to hire over the next three months, down from 48% last time.

Despite the news, the research shows an upturn in hiring activity in the German jobs market, with 81% of respondents looking for managerial and professional staff as opposed to 57% last quarter. The findings show, however, that most countries are reporting a downturn. In Poland, current hiring levels are down from 93% in the autumn to 62%.

HRZone.co.uk recently reported on figures from the centre for economics and business research, predicting unemployment to hit 2.8 million within 12 months.

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Unsurprisingly Morgan McKinley’s London employment monitor also reports a fall in hiring activities for December 2008. As expected, the number of new job vacancies opening up within the City fell by 65% versus the same month the previous year (December 07). The average City salary has also tumbled, registering £49,420, down 1% compared with the same month the previous year (December 07).

Robert Thesiger, CEO of Morgan McKinley’s parent company Imprint, said: “2008 proved to be an unprecedented year for the financial services industry and for recruitment within the sector. The momentous events which have occurred during the past 12 months have changed the shape of the financial services landscape forever and the level of uncertainty within the sector has translated into a lack of confidence across all areas of the industry’s recruitment.”

The report comes as The Royal Bank of Scotland has announced it is on the brink of collapse with thousands of jobs under question.

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Whilst retirement may be far from the minds of many workers desperate to hang onto their jobs, a report finds that employers are also failing to educate employees sufficiently on planning for their old age. The Vebnet Reward Survey polled 8,000 HR professionals across the UK to find that over 40% of employers are not giving their staff sufficient information to enable them to sufficiently plan for their retirement, whilst another 53% feel that their employees do not have adequate retirement funding. Other results that have emerged from the survey include 47% that rank base salary competitiveness as their main reward issue and childcare vouchers via salary sacrifice polling as the most popular flexible benefit.

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Meanwhile, the law on paid holiday entitlement for those on long-term sick leave has been clarified today by the European Court of Justice (ECJ) following a decision on the Stringer & Others-v- HMRC (previously known as Inland Revenue -v- Ainsworth & Others) case. According to a report by The Times, workers are now entitled to up to four weeks of holiday pay for each year they are on sick leave.

The decision means that a worker returning from one year’s sick leave will be entitled to four weeks’ paid holiday banked from the previous year in addition to any holidays they are entitled to for the year ahead.

Martin Warren, head of employment at Eversheds, said: “For years employers have grappled with the issue of whether workers can accrue and take paid holidays whilst absent on sick leave. Today’s decision brings us closer to a conclusion for this long-running saga, however final clarification from the House of Lords is still awaited.” In further advice, Warren said that employers should now pay particular attention to ensuring that contracts prevent holiday entitlement over and above any statutory entitlement from accruing during sick leave.

National law firm Beachcroft LLP warned the decision was likely to have costly implications. Deborah Hely, employment partner at the firm, said: “Employer’s policies on accruing and taking holiday will need to be changed to allow for carry over of statutory holiday where a worker is unable to take leave due to long-term sickness. This is likely to lead to significantly increased costs for employers, who will have to provide holiday for those employees returning from long-term sick leave and payment in lieu of holiday accrued over a number of years on termination of employment.”

Peter Mooney, head of consultancy at Employment Law Advisory Services, said that it was a “strange judgment” that has come at the wrong time: “It may well encourage workers who are on long-term sick leave to prolong that absence even more – in the knowledge that they will be able to claim the relevant amount of accrued holiday and pay from their employer. The firm that employs them, however, has not only been deprived of their services over a period of time – to add insult to injury, they will now have to fork out holiday and holiday pay to them.”

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In training news, sister site Trainingzone.co.uk reports on findings from The Chartered Management Institute (CMI), which is calling on government to tackle the recession by offering tax relief to businesses that provide training opportunities for staff.

The CMI’s call is based on its own data showing employers want greater support from government, with many looking for opportunities to develop skills amongst their existing employees. Key findings suggest that employers are heavily reliant on government to make bold decisions:

  • 74% want even more financial support from government to help develop employee skills.

  • 57% say flexible working regulations must be applied across the whole workforce.

  • 51% have called for a reduction in business taxes

The Institute’s chief executive Ruth Spellman said: “Government and employers need to think about how they will manage immediately and when we eventually turn a corner, meaning there is a case for guidance through better regulation. After all, if they think the cost of competence is expensive, they should consider the cost of incompetence.”

The CMI has launched a micro-site with free-to-download resources designed to tackle the issues created by the recession at www.managers.org.uk

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And finally, even in a downturn there are employees who will go that extra mile. The story of Captain Chesley Sullenberger’s landing of his American Airlines plane on water in the Hudson River last week is a great example. In her HR blog, Jackie Cameron looks at just how far employees will go for their boss and finds that empowering staff is the key.


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