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News in Brief: Employment Law Triggered … continued

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Employers turn a blind eye to apprentice training
This is according to the Trades Union Congress (TUC) who say that some apprenticeships offer training that is either of poor quality or is non-existent.

Apprentices under the age of 19 currently do not have to be paid the minimum wage, a policy that the TUC is urging the government to review, as the Low Pay Commission has recommended.

Launching an advice guide for apprentices, TUC Deputy General Secretary, Frances O’Grady said that while the drop-out rate for apprenticeships is improving, less than half actually complete the full programme.

For more on this story see: TrainingZONE

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London and Edinburgh heralded as ‘Ideopolises’
They’ve been distinguished as being cities that have adapted most rapidly to the demands of the knowledge economy by The Work Foundation.

According to the organisation the key to the success of an Ideopolis is ‘knowledge intensity’ – the number of knowledge industries and knowledge workers within a city and its surrounding region.

There is a huge boost to both economic growth and prosperity if 25% of organisations in a city are ‘knowledge businesses’, according to The Work Foundation.

For more on this story see: TrainingZONE

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Biased careers advice turns girls off construction
Many girls are avoiding jobs in construction due to biased advice, new research claims.

Seventy per cent of girls in secondary education feel careers services discourage them from joining the male-dominated sector.

The survey from the construction industry skills council ConstructionSkills found 42% of the 2,400 girls aged between 11 and 18 quizzed felt they were advised based on their gender, not their skills.

Almost two thirds (62%) of respondents said they were happy to work in a predominantly male trade, but did not get the information and support they needed.

According to the construction skills council, there are 88,000 jobs available in construction.

For more on this story see: TrainingZONE

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Poor ‘sickness’ training causes absence problems
Fifty-eight per cent of UK managers say ill health makes them unproductive for at least 20% of their working week.

According to the study by the Chartered Management Institute and Workplace Health Connect, illness rates are growing but managers feel reluctant to report their sickness.

Sixty percent of the 1,541 managers quizzed felt that illness levels had risen in their organisation over the past year, but only a third reported their own afflictions to their line manager.

The survey claims that while 38% of managers have trouble concentrating due to illness, businesses are still not doing enough to solve the problem.

For more on this story see: TrainingZONE

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Business chief urges public sector reform
Companies cannot continue to fund the public sector so reforms must be introduced, the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) director general has demanded.

David Frost said while economic conditions for private firms have got tougher, “the public sector has enjoyed rising salaries, better working conditions, and generous final salary pensions.” Frost referred specifically to the extra 1% on National Insurance introduced in April 2003 to fund the NHS.

He said: “It is increasingly clear that the money has been invested with little thought into delivering real value for money. Would a business have gone on such a spending spree without being absolutely clear what extra output it would get?

The answer is clearly no.” According to BCC research, productivity in the public sector fell by 10% between 1997 and 2003 despite jobs growth and investment. “We need reform of our public sector soon – business doesn’t have a bottomless pit of money,” Frost concluded.

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SMEs struggle with staff rules
Small firms are finding it increasingly difficult to deal with employment regulations, according to new figures. In an analysis of calls to its legal helpline during 2005, the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) found caller numbers were up 30% on the year before.

Disciplinary procedures was the most popular subject with calls about dismissal rising by 174% and questions about grievances showing a 118% increase. The FSB’s Sandy Harris said: “There are at least 26 Acts of Parliament on employment issues and it is tough for small firms to deal with all their requirements. Our members want to protect their staff, their most important asset. They need assistance from the government to do that by simplifying the rules and reducing the burden of compliance.”

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UK beats Germany over productivity
The UK has overtaken Germany in the productivity stakes, official figures reveal. Data from the Department of Trade and Industry which analysed output per worker shows the UK has halved the productivity gap with France and surpassed that of Germany.

According to the DTI, the UK is also the only G7 country to have kept pace with the US over the past decade. Trade and industry secretary Alan Johnson said: “The report shows that our success is underpinned by the stable economic framework we have put in place – with low inflation and low interest rates. But it is clear that for business and government to respond to globalisation we need to do still more to raise our productivity.”

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Firms give guarded welcome to red tape pledge
Firms have cautiously welcomed the government’s latest attempt at easing their concerns over administrative burdens caused by regulation.

The Department of Trade and Industry this week unveiled a doubled edge strategy to crackdown on rogue employers and protect vulnerable workers while at the same time lightening the administrative load for legitimate businesses. Trade and Industry secretary Alan Johnson said ministers would look at ways to ease the impact of employment law particularly on small businesses.

John Cridland, deputy director general of the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), said: “Administering [employment] rights is absorbing ever more management time – particularly in smaller firms – that could be spent growing the business and taking on staff. The new rights have chipped away at the UK’s flexible labour market and its international reputation as a place to do business.

“The commitment to reduce the red-tape burden from existing employment rights is good news for companies, their staff and the economy as a whole. But as ever, business will judge the government on what it actually delivers.”
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