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Discrimination an increasingly burning issue

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Dealing with discrimination and equal opportunities is becoming an increasingly burning issue for employers.

That’s according to the second Burning Issues barometer published by the manufacturers’ organisation EEF.

Discrimination and equal opportunities now rank fourth in the table – up from tenth in the first six months of 2006 – with EEF receiving more than twice the number of requests for advice on the subject. The period coincided with the introduction of age discrimination legislation.

The barometer is based on the 23,000 calls for support EEF received during the six month period from July to December 2006. EEF takes its top ten burning issues from more than 30 categories of call – and together the top ten account for more than 80 per cent of calls received.

The top three employment related issues concerning the UK’s employers remain: Disciplinary issues, Redundancy and Reorganisation, and Contracts of Employment.

Disciplinary issues accounted for 20 per cent of all calls, with 600 more calls than received in the previous six-month period.

Although Redundancies and Reorganisation remained in second place, the number of calls fell with just over 2,900 calls received versus nearly 3,100 for the previous six months. This fall may reflect the more favourable business climate in 2006, which led to fewer redundancies in manufacturing.

Policies and Procedures fell out of the top ten, having been in eighth spot during the first six months of 2006, while employment tribunals joined the top ten.

Peter Schofield, EEF director of legal and employment affairs, said: “Despite the government’s rhetoric about reducing burdens on business, our figures show that employers are continuing to carry the costs of dealing with increasing amounts of employment legislation.

“In particular, it is no surprise that we are seeing greater levels of enquiries on age discrimination from employers wanting to avoid the numerous pitfalls.

“In the coming period we expect to see more enquiries associated with extended maternity pay, and rights to request flexible working, as new legislation in these areas comes into effect. We also expect to see an increasing number of enquiries on sickness absence.”

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