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A week in HR: Gloom predictors brace workers for a difficult 2009

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HR weekThis week sees workers braving the freezing temperatures to make the long post-Christmas commute back to work, and many have job security on their mind as fear of redundancy and uncertainty looms over new year merriment. Annie Hayes reports for the first news round-up of 2009.


Professional body the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) is the first group to predict a difficult 2009. According to its newly-released annual Barometer Survey, the new year is shaping up to be the worst year for jobs in two decades. Predictions of job losses total 600,000 in 2009. Read the full story here.

Meanwhile, the centre for economics and business research paints a more worrying picture with reports that the wider ILO measure of unemployment is more likely to approach 2.8 million within 12 months. It further predicts that many migrant workers will leave the UK in 2009 with fewer expected to arrive.

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Given the jobs news it’s of little surprise that nearly half of workers are losing sleep. This is according to a study conducted by Onepoll on behalf of SkillSoft, which found that a whopping 92% of employees are experiencing stress in the workplace whilst almost a third fear redundancy in the coming year. This is resulting in 44% of workers losing sleep through stress whilst 32% admit to becoming over-emotional for the same reason, and 15% are drinking to help them cope. Within the workplace, the fear of having an increased workload and worrying about redundancy are the top two stress factors for people, with 34% and 31% of people feeling these are their biggest fears for the coming year.

The top three stress sectors were construction, where 25% felt stress “all of the time”, followed by education with 24% and medicine/caring with 23%. HR stood out, not because it reflected the highest levels, but because of a constant ‘sometimes’ level of 83%, perhaps due to having to administer employee redundancies and manage employee stress, said the report authors.

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In some good news, Channel 4 news reports on a story that Gordon Brown is planning on creating 100,000 new jobs this year by employing people for big public projects. According to the report, Brown has promised work from large scale schemes such as school renovations and new environmental initiatives. Opposition parties have questioned how it will be paid for, however. For more on this story see: www.channel4.com

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With the frosty conditions and general gloom, many workers will be issuing their employer with a career break or sabbatical request. In her HR blog, Jane Fraser, partner at Maclay Murray & Spens, says the trend is growing and gives some great advice on what to expect.

Elsewhere, HR blogger Wendy Reeves uses her experience of lifestyle coaching to help those new year resolutions come to fruition. So if you really want to fight the flab and get debt-free then don’t miss her excellent advice.

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And finally, in news from the dock, an HBOS bank manager is claiming £1m in a sex discrimination case. According to a report by the Independent newspaper, Mona Awad, 29, claims that her bosses accused her of having sex with a client and suggested that cleaning was women’s work. Awad claims that she became a victim of bullying, sexist and racist behaviour. According to the report, following an investigation, the bank upheld her complaints against her bosses and took disciplinary action against them. Commenting on the case Jonathan Maude, partner in the employment practice at Hogan & Hartson, said that this was a useful example of how “banter” can result in a significant claim both from a monetary perspective and from a publicity angle. Maude added: “Sound management by the company may have prevented this, i.e. an apology at an early stage or something similar.”

The case is due to be heard at the Nottingham employment tribunal on Wednesday.

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Annie Hayes

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