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Annie Hayes



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News in Brief: The week in HR – 10/06/05


See our at-a-glance round-up of all the latest HR news including working time opt-out victory, strike report – mixed bag, temps not appreciated, call for ‘work-learn’ balance and bosses turn blind eye to workplace theft.

Working time opt-out rescued
Britain has saved the right to retain the opt-out to the 48 hour working week, for the time being.

Trade and Industry Secretary, Alan Johnson was forced to plead Britain’s case to retain the working time opt-out following the European Parliamentary vote to scrap it by 2012.

Enough support was given to Johnson to prevent a vote being taken and the issue is now likely to be deferred until 2006.

Trades Union Congress chief, Brendan Barber referred to the victory as nothing more then ‘political brinkmanship.’

And in a separate submission to the Government over flexible working, the Union body claim that the UK’s long hours culture is damaging people’s personal lives and reinforcing the gender pay gap.

They say that ending the UK opt-out to the 48 hour week is crucial if parents are to be given greater choice about how to balance their worlds of work and home.

The CIPD, however, say that the decision to extend the opt-out is good news for the three quarters of workers who choose to work long hours.

Strike report is mixed bag
While the number of labour disputes dipped to an all time low last year the number of days lost doubled between 2003 and 2004.

These are the official findings of Labour Market Trends.

There were just 130 stoppages in 2004. A figure that compares to the 133 accrued throughout 2003 and 146 in 2002.

But comparatively the number of days lost totalled 904,900 last year, almost double the figure of 2003.

Almost half of the working days lost in 2004 were in public administration, while 42% were in education and a further 5% in transport, storage and communication. The civil service disputes over plans to axe 100,000 jobs are thought to have contributed greatly to the figures. Most of the disputes centred on wages with redundancy coming in a close second.

Temps are under-appreciated says IIP
Employers are failing to make the most of temporary workers, according to Investors in People, with many lacking the foresight to establish basic systems for managing and motivating these workers to contribute to company goals.

As part of National Temporary Workers Week, this week, IIP is urging employers to work smarter in the way they use the pool of temporary talent that forms a permanent part of the UK's workforce.

There are now some 1.4 million registered temps in the UK, but IIP believes employers need better specification of roles, greater commitment to inductions and more effective motivation of staff to ensure temps are effectively inspired and supported to play their part in driving business progress.

For more on this story see

UK needs 'work-learn' balance
There is huge pent-up demand for learning new skills among the British workforce, but a range of obstacles – topped by overwork and stress – prevent many employees from taking up training, according to a TUC poll.

The survey asked a sample of workers whether they wanted more training, what had put them off taking up training and what would help them in the future.

The top two reasons for not taking up training suggests that the UK needs a new ‘work-learn’ balance, with just under one in three (29%) saying that they don’t have time because they have to look after children or have other caring responsibilities. The same proportion say that their current job has such long hours or is so stressful that they do not have the time or energy to take up a course.

See more on this story at:

Public say it’s time to kick the habit
According to a survey by pollsters, MORI for the British Medical Association 68% believe that the health of pub staff should be protected from second-hand smoke at work.

BMA Chairman, Mr James Johnson said: “It is clear that the majority of the public believe that the right to work in a healthy environment is more important than the right to smoke.

“As doctors we see the deadly effects of second-hand smoke every day. This is why we urge the new Health Secretary, Patricia Hewitt, to ban smoking in all enclosed public places now and protect the rights of employees to work in an environment that does not damage their health.”

When asked whether the Government was acting too slowly to reduce smoking in public places 54% of respondents said they agreed and 27% disagreed.

Thieves get off lightly
Eight in ten workers have been at the hands of thieves in the last ten years and worryingly 88% believe their employees are responsible. But only 64% have challenged their hunches while just under half have a policy in place to deal with the problem.

Peter Done, Peninsula’s Managing Director said that bosses would not be ‘surprised’ by the results but said there was something ‘ethically wrong’ about allowing employees to steal from the workplace. Done recommends rolling out disciplinary measures for those caught red-handed. A total of 523 employers were surveyed.

Interviewers ‘must win over’ job candidates
When it comes to IT skills, it’s a sellers market according to Parity, who are advising businesses that interviewers need to sell their company to prospective employees.

"Too much emphasis is often placed on interview techniques for the interviewee," said Jeff Brooks, Resourcing Services Director at Parity Resourcing Solutions.

"While these are important, the current skills shortage in the IT sector means that the job market is working strongly in favour of skilled contractors and permanent candidates, putting them in a position where they can pick and choose the job that’s right for them.

"Employers therefore need to improve the interview experience for the candidate in order to increase the likelihood that they will accept a job offer."

See Parity’s top four tips on how to improve the recruitment experience.

Demand for ICT skills rising
Nearly one in ten employers feels that the skills of their ICT staff do not meet the needs of the business, according to research by e-skills.

The Sector Skills Council for IT and Telecoms also stated that 13% of IT users did not have the necessary skills.

Looking at Q4 for 2004, it found increased demand for ICT staff with the call for permanent staff up 123% on the previous year. This was reflected in the unemployment rate for ICT staff, which fell to 2%, for those normally employed in the ICT industries rates fell to 3.5% (UK average of 4.8%).

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Annie Hayes


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