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Joe Vallender

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HR Zone Member wire #69 – Can Royal Mail rise above the taunts?


HR Zone Members Newswire Issue 69
12 October 2004

1. Editor’s Comment: Can Royal Mail rise above the taunts?
2. HR Tip: Frequent absence
3. CBI calls on government to address pension crisis
4. HR outsourcing market set to expand
5. Any Answers: custom and practice, relocation, apprenticeships

Editor’s note
A closer examination of the statistics turned around my poor
perception of the performance of Royal Mail this week. In
Editor’s Comment, we take a look through the key hole and find
surprising results. Scroll below to read on.

In other news the way-forward for the HR function was put under
question again this week with news that the HR outsourcing
market is set to expand at 21% a year, according to analysts.
Look back at the outsourcing arguments in ‘Editor’s Comment: HR
– ‘Big hat no cattle?’ for further insight.

Back at the grassroots level, HRZone’s members have been faced
with some difficult dilemmas. Thank you to those last week who
provided answers on the implementation of government bicycle
schemes and shared experiences on modern apprenticeships

If you have a burning question then why not post it to the
network of HR professionals at ‘Any Answers’.

Annie Hayes

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Member’s news

Welcome new members
This week, HR Zone welcomes members from the following
organisations, among others, to the site:

Acorn Venture Ltd; Projectix; CIPD; Ogilvy & Mather; Portfolio
Communications; Bristol City Council; GPC; Buildbase Ltd; HSA;
Sheffield City Council; Recruitmax Ltd; Discover Potential
Limited; Towry Law; Maritime & Coastguard Agency;
PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP; ENSCO Services; Marks & Spencer;
Swiss Life (UK) plc; CBE Ltd; Baker Tilly; HBOS; Ward &
Goldstone; Harrods Limited; Accenture; GAP Group Ltd; The Lowry
Hotel; Petra Training & Management Consultancy; DJB Consulting;
Confetti; Oracle; British School of Osteopathy; Cubiks

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From 1 pound per week per employee
– Sickness costs British businesses 11.6 billion pounds per year
– Stress accounts for 13.4 million lost working days
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– Reduce employee litigation threat
– Missing persons mean missing money

Editor’s Comment: Can Royal Mail rise above the taunts?
Royal Mail has been abused, criticised and cursed by the press
for some time now; Editor’s Comment takes a look at the allegations
and finds that in the wake of the media spin the organisation might
actually have the last laugh by pulling off the biggest industrial
change for a quarter of a century.

HR Tip: Frequent absence
HRD & Payroll Solutions continues to bring HR Zone members a
range of HR tips. This week’s tip looks at managing frequent

CBI calls on government to address pension crisis
Employers’ group the CBI is due to unveil figures which
highlights the level of pension commitment by employers and asks
the government to correct the perception that UK Plc is the
‘villain’ of the pensions’ crisis.

CIPD calls time on classroom training
The classic model of classroom training is failing modern
business needs, instead organisations need to promote a learning
culture, according to a new report from the CIPD.

HR outsourcing market set to expand
The global market for HR business process outsourcing (BPO) is
set to grow at 21% a year, reaching $7 billion in four years,
say BPO analysts NelsonHall.

Insurance giant to axe 1,200 jobs
Royal & Sun Alliance (R&SA) today announces that it is to
transfer 1,200 roles to India over the next two years; claims
that the ‘offshoring’ trend will cost jobs are refuted by
official statistics which show that call centre employment in
the UK is rising.

Employers vow to adopt holistic reward approach
Non-financial rewards including career development and
flexibility, as well as pay have the greatest influence on
employee behaviours; reveals a new report.

Smoking ban backed by EU Commissioner
Commissioner Designate and former Cypriot minister, Markos
Kyprianou vowed to protect Europe’s youth from the ‘scourges of
tobacco’ saying he would go as far as to roll-out a total EU
smoking ban; the comments have caused concern among some

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Featured Any Answers question: Custom and practice

Q: Is a contract that stipulates set days of working still valid
even if the days have never been adhered to and instead days
worked, recorded using timesheets signed by both parties?

Desrinnah Brown

Members’ responses
(Edited comments appear – see the site for full details)

The process you describe whereby the contract has evolved is
known as custom and practice and is deemed to be part of the

It would be best, however, to vary the terms and conditions so
that the new arrangement is written into the contract for
clarity in case of any potential tribunal claims. Tribunals look
at what has been written first before looking at custom and
practice. You will need to do the consultation exercise when
varying the terms and conditions and get agreement.

Sandra Beale

The other thing worth thinking about is what (if anything) was
said when people started to work more flexibly. If it was agreed
(or if not agreed then understood) that it was a short term
arrangement then this would not be an example of custom and
practice and the original contract will still stand.

Keith Luxon

Read the full responses to this question – and add your own – at

World of Learning Conference & Exhibition 2004
Whether you are looking for new training products, learning how
to integrate a range of solutions or finding a venue to hold
your training – the World of Learning is the ideal event for all
your training needs.
Register for FREE entry by clicking below

Any Answers
Any Answers is the place to go to share your professional
experiences with others. A selection of new Any Answers
questions posted this week:

Rob McElfatrick is looking for some tips on relocation
strategies. Can you help?

“I am looking for experiences in setting up and or using HR
Service Centres for Global companies,” says Liz Barlow. Can you
outline the pros and cons?

Any Answers answered: Modern apprenticeships
Q – Does anyone have any experience of modern apprenticeships
that they would be willing to share?

Helen Moretti

A – Have used FMA and AMA for a number of years across IT,
Business admin and finance.

We present an additional section that is added to the formal
letter of offer. This covers the relationship between the
parties, the training requirements, the hours of work versus
training and study leave arrangements.

The rest of the letter contains all the other normal terms and
conditions of employment we use. It may be of use to you,
although of course the frame work for apprentices has changed
from FMA and AMA recently.

It is useful to bring someone in young to home grow them. It
requires greater input, some hand-holding and more guidance. It
can allow for natural progression and growth in their role. We
are about to recruit another – last IT one was head-hunted by an
IT company (which we are not) but only after we had some 4 years
service from him and he had largely exhausted all that we were
able to offer progression-wise; that can be seen as the down-

Nicky Hillier

If you have a question – or can offer an answer – go to

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Tel:+44 117 915 9600 Fax:+44 117 915 9630

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Joe Vallender

Production Manager

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