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Talks on working time directive shelved
Talks to secure a new opt-out deal for Britain from the Working Time Directive have been shelved after ministers failed to agree on a solution.

The EU Directive ensures a 48-hour working week – but in Britain workers are able to opt out and work longer if they wish. Britain wants to hang onto the deal but a group of countries, including France, Belgium, Luxembourg and Cyprus want an end to the opt out clause.

Austria, which currently holds the EU presidency, has offered a compromise deal which would allow Britain to opt out of a 48-hour working week but would set a limit of 65 hours.

It also proposes that the opt out should be renewable annually with companies having to explain to their workers why they are required to work long hours. In addition, there should be a cooling off period of one month for any new joiner in which they could change their mind about agreeing to opt out.

EU employment commissioner Vladimir Spidla also wants to change the Directive’s wording to make it clear that the opt-out is the exception and the 48-hour week is the rule – but he is prepared to let Britain keep the opt-out indefinitely if those conditions are met.

According to the FT Britain’s trade and industry secretary Alistair Darling is happy to strike a deal providing he can obtain a ‘legally watertight opt-out’ as it will end the uncertainty over the length of time Britain can keep the opt-out. But the opposing countries are not happy with the deal.

Talks will continue when Finland take over the EU presidency in July.

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Company car survey reveals shock result
Eighteen percent of vehicles used on company business are unroadworthy, according to the latest Vehicle Monitor Survey carried out by vehicle management company Total Motion. It also found a further 35% were not properly maintained. The survey covered both company and privately owned vehicles used on company business.

Surveyors also checked drivers and found that six percent had invalid licences, 3% had no tax and 12% of those using private cars were not properly insured.

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Age discrimination: DTI factsheets
Age discrimination is set to come into force on October 1 this year – and if the experience in the Republic of Ireland is anything to go by it’s going to have a major impact.

In the ROI age discrimination now accounts for nearly a fifth of all formal discrimination claims. To help you get ready for the new regulations, the DTI has published eight factsheets covering everything from transitional arrangements to vocational training, redundancy and pensions.

You can find them at: Age legislation directives

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World cup fever: a nightmare for HR?
National flags are everywhere and Wayne Rooney’s broken metatarsal never seems to be out of the news – yes, World Cup fever strikes again.

But for HR practitioners the World Cup could be a nightmare scenario. In fact, the potential problems are such that the conciliation and arbitration service ACAS has published a list of FAQs on its website.

Issues addressed include giving time off to allow staff to watch England matches and the potential issue of racial discrimination towards staff from other countries who are following their home team.

Companies with ‘no alcohol’ policies are advised to consider providing viewing facilities to avoid potential requests to view matches in the pub, or to allow the trip to the pub but issue a reminder about the ‘no alcohol’ policy.

Absenteeism is also considered, although disciplinary action and sick pay will largely depend on contractual arrangements.

Although the guide considers the issue of sexual discrimination if companies assume that women are not going to want to watch the matches, it does not consider the issue of workplace harmony.

There may be members of staff who do not want to watch matches. If those who want to watch England play are allowed time off, it is only fair to offer some flexibility to those who are manning the office. Otherwise you could be storing up resentment for the future.

The ACAS World Cup FAQs are at: ACAS FAQs

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Class of 2006 – will they graduate?
University lecturers’ unions have rejected the latest pay offer of 13.1% over three years.

In the worst-affected institutions the class of 2006 will not graduate.

Some institutions have proposed allowing students to graduate by substituting course marks for examinations and others are to have scripts marked by one examiner rather than two.

But will the class of 2006 will always have a question mark hanging over the quality of their degrees?

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