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Annie Hayes



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News in Brief: The week in HR



Catch up on the week in HR with our at-a-glance news round-up including age discrimination changes, HR BBC chief pay revealed, stress blamed for public sector sky-high absence, UK’s first leadership degree, employees too busy to holiday and Employment Tribunal fall questioned.

W/C 11/07/05
Age discrimination changes spark debate
From October 2006, age discrimination will become unlawful; the draft regulations out for consultation yesterday propose one of the biggest shake ups of employment law in almost a generation.

The new laws will mean that mandatory retirement (below 65) will become very difficult for employers to enforce, while new flexible working options for employees who wish to work after this age will have to be introduced.

The new regulations will also have an impact on statutory redundancy arrangements and the upper age limits of unfair dismissal laws. Other policies to be affected include:

  • Recruitment

  • Training

  • Promotion

  • Service related benefits

  • Occupational Pensions

Sam Mercer, Director of the Employers Forum on Age (EFA) warned employers that trying to prove age as an essential requirement in the workplace will be difficult and costly, saying that the default retirement age will cause as many problems as it is trying to solve.

BBC jobs to be axed while HR Chief enjoys six-figure salary
The corporation’s annual report reveals that the BBC’s head of HR, Stephen Dando was paid a total of £313,000 in the last financial year.

Unions and BBC staff, paid just a fraction of the salaries going to senior management are outraged by the fat-cat pay outs at a time when redundancies are looming.

The report reveals that 16 members of the Executive Board have shared £718,000 in bonuses and taxable benefits in addition to their salaries, representing an average bonus of 24%.

Despite, Director General Mark Thompson’s decision to publicly waive his right to a bonus of £135,000, unions and staff remain unimpressed.

BECTU, the independent union for those working in broadcasting, film, theatre, entertainment, leisure and interactive media, chief Gerry Morrissey accused the BBC’s top management of ‘feathering their own nests.’

“Staff are not going to accept job cuts, especially compulsory redundancies, easily while the bosses who planned them in the first place are giving themselves fat-cat bonuses.”

According to BECTU the position with staff has been further soured by revelations that several top executives enjoyed increases in basic pay that far outstripped the rise of 2.9% given to staff last August. Stephen Dando received an increase of 6.1%.

Staff are currently voting on a 3.5% pay offer while four thousand jobs across the Corporation are expected to be axed.

Kelly calls on Europe to meet C21st skills challenge
Education and Skills Secretary Ruth Kelly is calling on EU education ministers to join her in the challenge to increase investment in skills for the 21st Century.

Kelly told an informal meeting of education ministers in London this week that she believes education and skills will drive up economic performance and have a positive impact on societies and citizens.

She added that she planned to use Britain’s Presidency of the EU to highlight how education and skills can boost economic performance.

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Plan for Skills Academies
A dozen new National Skills Academies are to be established to boost the country’s skill levels.

The announcement, by Education and Skills Secretary Ruth Kelly, will see four employer-led academies set up by September 2006, with the rest up and running by 2008.

They will follow in the footsteps of the Fashion Retail Academy, established by retail firm, Arcadia with additional funding from the Learning and Skills Council (LSC).

Employers will be able to develop proposals for sector-based academies, aimed to be national centres of excellence, through their Sector Skills Councils.

Chair of the Sector Skills Development Agency, Margaret Salmon, said that a number of Sector Skills Councils were already working with employers in their sector to draw up plans for an Academy to meet their particular needs.

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Stress blamed for public sector sick leave rates
Organisational culture, stress and change programmes are blamed for sickness levels in the public sector.

The latest survey of employee absence by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development found that public sector workers take on average three-and-a-half more sick leave days than those in the private sector.

Average absence levels in the public sector stand at 10.3 days per employee per year compared to 6.8 days in private services sector, according to the survey.

The CIPD also found that public sector organisations are least likely out of all the sectors to use disciplinary procedures to manage unacceptable levels of absence, and are also least likely to restrict sick pay. Public sector employers provide occupational sick pay for the longest out of all the main sectors and are least likely to believe that absence is not genuine.

Only a quarter (28%) of public sector organisations take into account attendance records as part of performance measures for individuals’ appraisals compared to almost half (48%) of private sector service organisations.

However 40% of respondents believe that including employees’ attendance records among performance measures for individuals’ appraisals has a positive effect on reducing absence levels, with just 12% saying this has no effect.

Overall absence levels have fallen to 8.4 days per employee a year (3.7% of working time) down from 9.1 days for the previous 12 months (4% of working time). This is the lowest level of absence recorded by the CIPD since it began surveying absence levels in 2000.

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UK’s first leadership degree
A blended–learning course designed for Barclays is set to become the first accredited leadership degree course in the UK.

‘Take the Lead’, originally designed as a learning portal for staff of Barclays Bank plc, will offer students a host of leadership resources including some 22 hours of e-learning.

Nottingham Business School were so impressed with the online content that they have taken the material and combined it with their own face-to-face sessions to offer an initial cohort of 65 Barclays staff from across the globe, the chance to graduate in three to four years, with a BA Hons Degree in Leadership.

The degree course aims to integrate hard skills such as commercial awareness with soft ones such as interpersonal skills and is open to any member of staff who meets the entry criteria.

The course offers students the flexibility to study for a certificate, diploma or the full degree. Part of the course is a work-related project where learners must put their new-found knowledge into practice.

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BT and Accenture sign £70m outsourcing deal
BT and Accenture have signed a five-year, £70 million business processing outsourcing contract for learning services.

The services to be provided under the new contract include technical and safety training, and the design, development and delivery of sales force and management training.

Commenting on the deal, Alex Wilson, BT Group human resources director said: “This contract will play a key role in BT’s continuing transformation into a leading IT and network services organisation in the digital networked economy.”

Accenture Learning will deliver the services, with the new contract taking effect 1 August. Ellen Balaguer, managing director of Accenture Learning, described BT’s decision as “bold”.

“Learning is becoming a strategic function that is instrumental to achieving business results for organisations, and this deal marks another bold step by BT to put itself at the forefront of the industry by placing learning at the heart of its business,” she said.

TUC bask in learning success
Union body, the Trades Union Congress (TUC) has reported an increase in the numbers accessing learning via the union route.

An increase of 9% has been recorded, reaching a total figure of 67,000.

Union members tasked with helping their colleagues access training opportunities at work, has also risen by 50% from 8,000 to almost 12,000.

The TUC also say there has been an increase in the number of learning agreements between employers and unions, with 278 new agreements signed involving learning reps and promoting union learning amongst the workforce.

Commenting on the findings, TUC General Secretary, Brendan Barber said the next step was a union academy that would ‘bring together the multitude of training opportunities unions already offer.’

Public sector enjoy pay boost
Public sector workers are enjoying a 17% pay gap in their favour, according to professional body the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD).

They claim that workers in the public sector have enjoyed larger than average salary increases than their private sector counterparts for the past four years, being better off to the tune of £12 a week.

John Philpott, the CIPD’s Chief Economist said:
“It is only among the top twenty five per cent of earners where the private sector outperforms their public sector – a case of the fat cats enabling the private sector to be top dog.”

Despite the drive to improve public sector efficiency, more than 650,000 jobs have been created within the public sector since the late 1990s.

According to CIPD employee attitude surveys, job satisfaction within the public sector is thought to be on the rise too.

Employees too busy to holiday
Only 27% of employees polled will be able to take a break this summer due to work constraints and pressing deadlines.

These are the findings of recruitment outfit, Portfolio payroll and Peninsula employment law firm.

Of the 2144 workers quizzed, 68% blame the growing burden of work obligations.

The survey results show a marked increase when the same sentiments were tested in 2000. At that time, 58% of employees said they planned to take a vacation.

Danny Done, Managing Director of Portfolio Payroll said the findings were worrying emphasising that stress and burnout may result from the failure to take a proper break.

“With adequate training and procedures put in place by employers, employee’s fears associated with taking time out can be put at ease and their absence can be accommodated by the company’s resources.”

Bosses opt for cash or car option
Seven in ten employers now offer a choice between a company car or a cash allowance.

The findings by Mercer Human Resource Consulting also reveals that average car allowances range from £4,600 to £10,600 while the Mercedes 320 comes out on top as the most common car for company heads.

Forty percent of organisations allow employees to purchase the car at the end of the replacement period.

“Company cars represent one of the most expensive items in an employee benefit package,” said David Wreford, European Principal at Mercer. “Company car policies now tend to focus on providing better value for both employers and employees.”

Mercedes 320 is the most typical car for company heads, while senior managers generally opt for a BMW 5 Series. Typical cars for lower-ranking employees include Audi A4, VW Passat and Vauxhall Vectra.

More than eight in 10 companies pay for all fuel used by company heads and senior managers (85% and 83% respectively), while the remaining organisations pay for fuel used for business purposes only. In contrast, less than four in 10 companies (37%) pay professionals for all fuel used.

The survey found that car use also depends on workplace status. For example, 94% of company heads can use their cars for business and personal purposes compared with 47% of sales representatives and 35% of professionals.

Tribunal claim fall questioned
The number of Employment Tribunal (ET) claims dropped by 25% last year.

The figures have been welcomed with a note of caution by employers’ group the CBI who warn that the reduction may not be sustained.

John Cridland, CBI Deputy Director-General, said that the new statutory discipline and grievance procedures had played a part in stemming the flow of unnecessary claims.

“However, claims are now likely to take longer to reach tribunal while these procedures are followed, so the final figures are therefore unpredictable.

“The jury is still out on whether or not the new procedures will be effective in weeding out weak and vexations claims. Businesses in the UK will certainly be hoping today’s welcome decline is sustained.”

According to a BBC report a total of 86,181 cases were brought to an ET. A figure that compares with 115,042 cases brought last year. The number of sex discrimination cases has also fallen from 14,284 to 11,726.

But despite the good news, reports suggest that the figures from 2003-2004 were blighted by more than 7,000 applications relating to a dispute involving dress codes at job centres.

Successful women turn their backs on work
A lack of fulfilment and development opportunities are causing high-powered women to turn their backs on business.

These are the claims of Croner who says that the findings are worrying especially as the number of female graduates entering the jobs market now rivals the number of men.
With a more balanced workforce, it is a concern, they say that as women move further up the jobs rank they then give up and resign.

A survey sponsored by Goldman Sachs, Ernst & Young and the Lehman Brothers found that four in ten female senior executives are taking a complete career break, not because of family commitments, but because of a lack of job satisfaction.

Richard Smith, HR expert at Croner, explains: “Status and salary are not necessarily key drivers for women once they reach a certain level, but feeling valued and intellectually fulfilled is. It is important that employers consult with all their senior executives, listen to what they have to say, understand what motivates them and what they are looking to get out of their role.”

In other news, the DTI has released figures which show that men’s income from all sources combined is nearly double that of women.

Mobile phone tip: In case of emergency (ICE) number
After last week’s bombings in London, an AccountingWEB member alerted us to a campaign by the East Anglian Ambulance NHS Trust for people to store an “in case of emergency” number in their mobile phone memory under the name ICE.

The “ICE” number is the brainchild of Bob Brotchie, a clinical team leader at the trust, who came up with the idea to overcome the difficulties of getting contact details from shocked or injured patients.

“Almost everyone carries a mobile phone now, and with ICE we’d know immediately who to contact and what number to ring. The person may even know of their medical history,” Brotchie said.

It’s a simple matter to store your emergency contact numbers under the acronym ICE (or ICE1, ICE2 if you have more than one contact). “As many people say they carry mobile phones in case of an emergency, it seems natural this information should be kept there,” he said.
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