Catch up on the week in HR including National Working at Home day celebrated, lawyers look to Sweden for ‘ageist’ warning, skills race raises roof on lawyers’ wages, employers failing to engage with Unions over training and women work longer hours than men.
National Working at Home Day celebrated
Friday, 5 May 2006 marks national working from home day. Investors in People, the standard of good people management back the move towards flexible working but warn UK businesses away from being too prescriptive.
Nicola Maine, Director at Investors in People UK, commented:
“Flexible working is sometimes regarded in management circles as a “soft” policy, rather than an effective route to organisational improvement. Yet, flexible working provides a practical business tool to improve motivation, retention and performance.
“However, one factor underpins any analysis of flexible working: one size does not fit all. A range of initiatives fall under the ‘flexible working’ banner – including job-sharing, flexible hours, part-time working, shift swapping or annualised hours, as well as working from home – but what works for one organisation may be inappropriate for another. Employers must consider the benefits of flexible working in the context of employee needs as well as future business demands, and ensure that any initiatives are properly tailored and executed. That way all parties will reap the rewards.”
National Work from Home day is part of Work Wise Week which runs from 3-9 May 2006.
Lawyers look to Sweden for ‘ageist’ warning
Law firm Halliwells have highlighted the ageist actions of Swedish telecommunications giant, Ericsson as a warning to British business.
Last week (25 April), Ericsson reported it was offering a voluntary redundancy package to 1,000 of its Sweden-based employees aged between 35 and 50 and is embarking on a recruitment drive targeting recruits aged less than 30 years of age.
And according to Halliwells the steps are an attempt to correct an imbalance in its current age structure. Like the UK, Sweden will be introducing age discrimination later in the year.
Michael Ball, employment partner at Halliwells, said: "The worry for older workers is that in the next five months we may see similar exercises being undertaken in the UK as less well motivated employers rush to take the opportunity to act before the age laws come into force. Before October there is no specific legal comeback against an employer that operates a policy with a detrimental impact on a particular age group.
"If there is an imbalance in the make up of the overall staff age structure and an employer waits until after the introduction of age discrimination laws it leaves itself open to claims for compensation. The employer may attempt to justify its actions but this is likely to be highly contentious given the purpose of the legislation.
Ball concluded: "In practice when age discrimination comes into force it is likely to be a difficult job to persuade the Employment Tribunal that there was a real danger of the current age imbalance having an adverse impact on the business in the future."
Skills race raises roof on lawyers’ wages
Competition for top City lawyers has resulted in soaring salaries, with newly qualified employees earning a minimum of £55,000 at the top firms.
This is a 10% increase since 2005 by several of the major London firms, including Simmons and Simmons, Herbert Smith and Norton Rose.
Simon Firth, Linklaters’ trainee development partner, said the pay increases reflected a battle among the big names for the best legal skills.
“The market has been picking up and all firms are chasing quality people. If you are competing in that market, you cannot be that far from the rest,” he commented.
The firm is also keen to retain top talent by giving lawyers with four or more years’ experience a 12% pay rise. This will bring salaries to at least £88,600 before bonuses.
Managing partner for Lovells’ London, Ruth Grant said the market was producing this chase for skills.
“These things tend to go in cycles. The market has been quiet in recent years with salaries not increasing much. That has now shifted, so these rises reflect that,” she said.
Employers failing to engage with Unions over training
Just two employers out of a total 95 quizzed in a survey by IRS Employment Review currently negotiate with recognised trade unions over training, while only two more even consult unions on the issue.
The findings are all the more surprising given that the Trades Union Congress and its affiliated unions have made training a priority with more than 12,000 workplace Union Learning Representatives, who have statutory rights to time off to carry out their duties.
IRS Employment Review managing editor, Mark Crail said: “Our findings suggest that generally the relationship between unions and employers is positive, with benefits for both sides. But it appears that employers need to respond to the growing interest shown by unions in training issues so that they can involve their workforce in this important area.”
Half of workers are constantly ‘tired’
Over half of workers, 55% have admitted to constant fatigue while 57% claim they suffer from insomnia.
These are the findings of a Quality of working life report published by the Chartered Management Institute and Workplace Health Connect which also reveals that 43% admit to feeling or becoming angry with others too easily, a third who confess to a loss of humour creating workplace pressures and more than half who complain of muscular tension or physical aches and pains.
The report also shows that ill-health is having an impact on morale and performance. One-third (30%) admit they are irritable ‘sometimes or often’ towards colleagues. Some managers also want to avoid contact with other people (26%) and many (21%) have difficulty making decisions due to ill health.
Mary Chapman, chief executive of the Chartered Management Institute commented: “With the impact of ill-health being keenly felt in the workplace, managers need a better understanding of the consequences of letting relatively minor symptoms escalate. They need to take more personal responsibility for improving their health because inaction is clearly having an effect on colleagues and the knock-on effect is that customer relationships will suffer, too.”
Women work longer hours than men
According to a new survey the number of hours worked on average by a full time working women is 46.2 while men notch up 44.8 hours in comparison.
The findings by Peninsula employment law firm show that workers within the M25 are slogging it out for more hours then those working in the regions.
Men within greater London work an average 61 hours with women topping 64 hours a week.
Clare Gunnell, Head of HR Compliance at Peninsula says that happy workers are not the ones likely to clock off as soon as it hits five pm but equally notes that those that are failing to cope with job demands are more likely to be working longer hours and comments that our 24 hour lifestyle where shops and supermarkets are open longer allows for workers to do so.
“The survey shows that women tend to work longer hours and although there is no obvious answer however some women that we spoke believe they have had to work that little bit harder to justify their role in the workplace and although this should not be the case it may play a significant part.
"However we must not abandon the idea that their partners are taking an active responsibility in family commitments or women are putting their job first before anything else. So there may be contributing factors but not necessarily an obvious answer.”