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News in Brief: CBI calls time on Tribunal reforms


Catch up on the week in HR with our at-a-glance news round up including the end of the Gate Gourmet dispute, why the bosses’ group believes the tribunal reforms aren’t far reaching enough and what employers think of the statutory dispute regulations one year on.

W/C 26/09/05
Gate Gourmet dispute ends
The ongoing dispute of almost 700 workers at Gate Gourmet, the in-flight BA caterer has come to an end.

An agreement was reached on Wednesday between Gate Gourmet and the Transport and General Workers’ Union (T&G).

Tony Woodley, T&G General Secretary, said: “This has been a bitter and historic dispute with innocent workers victimised, which must lead to changes in the law.

“I am pleased however that our shop stewards and members have accepted a settlement that will see the great majority of our members going back to work or taking voluntary separation. The remainder, who would have faced compulsory redundancy under the company’s plans prior to the dispute, will now have representation and access to an appeals procedure following a fair process. Even those members will at least now receive compensation whereas they would have received nothing after being sacked.”

But not all workers will get their jobs back. Woodley said that 80% would ‘get what they wanted.’

The union said those being made redundant had been selected on “objective” criteria such as attendance, performance and skills and they would all be allowed to appeal.

CBI calls time on Tribunal reforms
Despite falling numbers of cases going to tribunal a new report from bosses’ group the CBI has expressed concern about the complexity of the new procedures.

Reforms were brought in last October to provide ‘cheap and effective resolution of workplace disputes.’ But according to the CBI, too many firms are settling cases when they might win for fear of rising tribunal costs.

John Cridland, Deputy Director-General of the CBI, said: “The new tribunals procedures are falling short. They may be having an impact on absolute numbers but are unnecessarily complicated and run the risk of undermining business confidence. The number one priority for any review must be making the regulations more user-friendly.”

Findings from the report include:

  • 100% of firms with fewer than 50 staff settled every claim despite advice they would win almost half the cases, and 26% of all firms settled even if they felt the claims lacked merit.

  • 45% of employers believe the system is ineffective and 50% reported a rise in weak and vexatious claims in the last 12 months despite the reforms.

  • 76% have encountered extra red tape because of the new reforms and 26% said the overall system is too costly – each claim costs a business £4,360 alone in legal fees, on average, on top of management time and stress.

  • 55% say the tribunal system has become too adversarial. A further 19% believe it damages rather than helps employee relations.

The CBI believes changes to both the operation of the employment tribunal system and the statutory dispute resolution procedures are necessary to restore employer confidence in the system. They have a series of recommendations.

The number of tribunals in 2005 was 25% lower than the previous year, falling from 115,000 to 86,181.

Little to celebrate on the first anniversary of the dispute laws
Seventy six per cent of employers claim that statutory dispute procedures are causing unnecessary red tape.

This is according to employment law firm, Peninsula who say that 82% of employers see the regulations as being too biased towards workers, while 74% of bosses say the laws are too complicated and complex.

Mike Huss, senior employment law specialist at Peninsula said: “In its inaugural year businesses have had a rigid system of procedures placed upon them with legal procedures for the first time being set in law; employers have always been required to carry out a fair procedure anyway but making these changes a statutory requirement, with severe penalties for failure to follow them puts procedure before justice.”

Eighty four per cent of employers quizzed said they were finding it increasingly difficult to dismiss workers for legitimate reasons.

The findings are based on a polled survey of 1,947 employers.

HR runs out of gas
Rising fuel costs have left HR directors in the dark when it comes to creating strategies on ways to beat rising commuter costs.

A study commissioned by the Energy Saving Trust shows that nine in ten workers have called on employers to help provide more travel options and ease the cost of commuting, with showers and secure bike parks (69%) for cyclists topping their list of demands.

This is closely followed by season ticket loans for public transport (63%), regular use of tele-conferencing or home working (58%) and car-sharing schemes (50%).

More than a quarter of HR directors admit, however, that they have no understanding at all of travel planning while 59% describe their knowledge as limited or basic.

Fuel has risen in price by around 12% in just three months. Those driving to work can now expect to spend an average £50.38 a month on fuel. Almost double the travel costs of those using public transport £29.17.

One in three (33%) HR directors say rocketing fuel costs have prompted company talks about vehicle use, and over half (53%) acknowledge that fuel costs have had the biggest recent impact on their employees but seven in ten (71%) admit their organisation has no travel strategy.

And many feel ill-equipped to put plans in place. Over half (56%) of HR directors working in the private sector say they could not prepare travel plans without the help of an expert, and that figure rises to 68% for those working in the public sector.

Workers get green-fingered
Seventy eight per cent of British workers say they are more environmentally conscious today than they were five years ago.

The trend is filtering through to practices at work. The findings by Fujitsu Siemens Computers shows that almost two-thirds (63%) of workers consciously save energy by turning off their PCs overnight, while 68% say that they already recycle paper at work.

More than a quarter or (27%) of employees have gone as far as to actively lobby their employer to implement more environmentally friendly policies such as procurement of green IT systems, energy saving and recycling.

One in four workers are also actively involved in reducing their daily fuel consumption by lift sharing with colleagues.

Fujitsu Siemens Computers released the first RoHS compliant “green” laptop – the AMILO V2030 in September 2005.

Does training make yours a great place to work?
If training and staff development makes your organisation a great place to work, a new award aims to recognise its value.

The Great Place to Work Training and Learning Partnership Award sets out to recognise organisations that achieve excellent training and learning programmes for their employees.

The TUC is sponsoring the award. It joins a group of sponsors that are specialists on key workplace issues including the Equal Opportunities Commission, Public Concern at Work, Business in the Community, Employers Forum on Disability and AccountAbility – all.

The Great Place to Work Institute UK is currently in the process of recruiting organisations for its 2006 contest, and would like to hear from organisations that share innovative partnerships with their Trade Unions in improving training and learning opportunities.

For more information go to the Great Place to Work website.

Brits yearn to speak foreign languages
Most Brits wish they could speak a second language and 70% have tried to learn one at some point in their life, according to a new survey.

A poll of 1,000 people, to coincide with this week’s European languages day, found that while the UK may have a poor reputation for speaking anything other than English, nine out of 10 of us believe children should learn foreign languages at primary school.

Languages are no longer compulsory for pupils aged 14 and over, but the government wants all primary school pupils in England to learn a language by the end of the decade.

Barrie Hunt, from OCR, said: “People are often very negative about Britain’s grasp of foreign languages but in reality the number who can speak a second language is impressive.”

He believes that the language skills of many people in the UK are hidden by their lack of formal qualifications.

However, a poll by the Council of Europe found that 30% of the British population say they can speak another language, compared to an average of 50% across Europe as a whole.

English was the most common second language among Europeans (33%) followed by German (12%) and French (11%). Around half of all pupils in Europe learn at least one language and by the time they get to college, eight out of 10 students can use another language.

Capital’s skill wish
Nearly half of London’s business owners put skills at the top of their wish list according to the findings of a new survey of over 900 small and medium sized businesses in the capital.

Undertaken by Business Link for London, the small business advice and support service for the capital, the survey revealed that 43% of business owners believed that addressing the shortage of skilled workers is still needed in order to make London the best place for businesses and entrepreneurs to excel.

Part of the solution is through increasing the leadership and management skills of senior strategic decision makers.

The poll showed that 38% of business owners said that personal mentoring schemes would be their top training choice to help their company’s performance with 42% saying that one-to-one coaching would be beneficial.

For more on this story see: TrainingZONE

Brits put off language learning
Lack of time and poor experiences of language learning are putting off many would-be linguists in the UK, according to a new study.

While all respondents to a survey by Rosetta Stone had tried to learn a foreign language, 58% were unsuccessful and 40% complained of poor quality language teaching at schools.

After compulsory language education in school, evening classes ranked as the most popular method of learning.

However, of the 40% of respondents that had enrolled, 52% failed to complete their courses, blaming time constraints. Others complained of overcrowded classrooms and too much homework.

Whilst significant numbers of those surveyed had used phrase books (25%) and/or language CDs/tapes (23%) as learning methods, only 2% had tried online learning.

The main motivations for wanting to learn a foreign language were for personal development (58%); in preparation for overseas travel (30%) and for career enhancement, which was cited by 24% of respondents. In addition, 12% were keen to be able to converse with relatives in their native tongue.

For more on this story see: TrainingZONE

MoD prepares for change with IT training
As it prepares to outsource its IT function, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) is taking steps to ensure the staff involved are ready for change.

The MoD is offering staff a blended programme leading to the Microsoft Certified Desktop Support Technician (MCDST) qualification.

Named Adapto, and coined ‘Fit to stay, Fit to go’, the programme aims to ensure that over 200 MoD staff have a demonstrable baseline level of skill in preparation for moving to the outsourcer.

For more on this story see: TrainingZONE

New chartered status for Health and Safety
A new chartered status for health and safety practitioners will lead to better business decisions and safer workplaces, the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH) has said.

To achieve chartered status, practitioners will have to undertake Initial Professional Development (IPD) and enrol on mandatory Continuing Professional Development (CPD).

There’s also an open book assessment and professional interview to ensure that their skills and knowledge are fresh and kept up to date.

According to a recent IOSH survey, 40% of health and safety professionals believed CPD would help them do their jobs better. The survey also highlighted the growing number of safety and health professionals currently reporting directly to their board or governing body, now at 49%.

For more on this story see: TrainingZONE

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