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A week in HR: Equality Bill and Working Time Directive

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NewsLucie Mitchell reports on the Equality Bill published on Monday; the collapse of working time talks in Brussels; the CIPD’s new approach to developing HR professionals; and the first company to have been charged with corporate manslaughter since the new law came into force last year.


The big news this week is the publication of the Equality Bill. HRzone.co.uk reported on this on Monday, the day of its publication – click here to read the full story. There has been mixed reaction to the Bill – many experts welcomed its aims, whilst others stated it will result in yet another administrative and financial burden on businesses.

One of the main focuses was on the requirement for employers to report on their gender pay gaps. However, Susan Scott-Parker, chief executive of the Employers’ Forum on Disability, said that the Bill also has the potential to deliver real benefits for both disabled people and employers:

“The unique aspects of disability discrimination must be addressed in the Equality Bill, and we are pleased that the government has not decided simply to replace disability related discrimination with indirect discrimination. It is essential that the wording of the Bill makes it clear how disabled people, who experience discrimination for a reason relating to their disability, will be protected while ensuring a balance between the rights and responsibilities between disabled people and employers.”

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Meanwhile, the UK will retain the right to opt-out of the Working Time Directive, as talks collapsed in Brussels last night, without agreement being reached. This marks the end of the European Parliament’s proposal to phase out the opt-out in three years. The UK has consistently held firm against this proposal.

“We refused to be pushed into a bad deal for Britain. We have said consistently that we will not give up the opt-out and we have delivered on that pledge,” said employment relations minister Pat McFadden.

“The current economic climate makes it more important than ever that people continue to have the right to put more money in their pockets by working longer hours if they choose to do so.”

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In other news, the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) unveiled its HR Profession Map last week, which is at the heart of a wholesale restructuring of the CIPD’s approach to developing HR professionals.

According to the CIPD, the Map sets out new foundations for professional competency in the profession and the criteria for new and revised qualifications, and it caters for the growing proportion of HR professionals who operate in specialist roles.

CIPD chief executive Jackie Orme said: “Over the next few years the profession will see new qualifications at different levels, a more flexible approach to the delivery of existing qualifications, and more personalised resources and support from the CIPD to help people plan and develop their careers at whatever level they are operating within the profession. The CIPD HR Profession Map will guide the way as we deliver all these changes.”

For more information, please visit: www.cipd.co.uk/hrpm.

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In legal news, Peter Eaton, director of Cotswold Geotechnical Holdings, became the first company director to face charges under the new corporate manslaughter law, which came into force last April. According to a report in the Financial Times, the company is accused of a “gross breach” of duty in connection with the death of Alexander Wright, a junior employee who died when a pit collapsed on him. Eaton was charged with gross negligence manslaughter.

Speaking exclusively to HRzone.co.uk, Hamish Cameron-Blackie, an employment partner at Barlow Robbins LLP, said: “Prosecutions under the previous legislation were few and far between and rarely successful. The intention of the new legislation was to make business and specifically its senior managers accountable for the most serious failures of health and safety legislation. A senior manager held to be responsible for corporate manslaughter could face a lengthy sentence of imprisonment depending on the facts of the case.”

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In June, an HR software comparison site will be launched, which promises company-wide solutions without decision makers having to leave the office. HRcomparison.com will allow HR professionals to log onto the site and fill in a simple questionnaire aimed at fine-tuning a software solution to meet their exact needs. The results provide a graded list of the best software providers for organisations of any size or sector.

CEO Denis Barnard said: “We’re replacing a lot of time-consuming research with a method that gives all the answers from the comfort of your desk. Decision makers now have HRIS solutions at their fingertips.”

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