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Annie Hayes



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News in Brief: The week in HR – 13/06/05



See our at-a-glance round-up of all the latest HR news including signs of a cool down in the jobs market, fathers yearn for more baby time, unhappiness clouds HR function, HR missing out on full IT potential and why workers in Cambridge are the healthiest commuters.

Signs of cool down in jobs market
The UK labour market is starting to cool according to latest figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

While the statistics show a small rise in employment in the three months to April, there were fewer job vacancies, higher claimant unemployment and stable growth in underlying earnings.

The news is consistent with the latest quarterly Labour Market Outlook survey from the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), which shows that while the immediate jobs outlook remains fairly bright, almost half of UK employers expect to employ fewer people this time next year.

John Philpott, Chief Economist at the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development said: “Any remaining fear on the part of members of the Monetary Policy Committee that labour market conditions do or might in the short-term pose a threat to the inflation target should be eased by today’s data. And with Retail Price Inflation, which remains the principal cost of living reference in pay bargaining, having eased in recent months, there seems little prospect of any early resurgence in underlying wage pressure.”

ONS first quarter Workforce Jobs data also suggests emerging weakness in employment prospects in key consumer services sectors. The distribution, hotels and restaurants sectors registered saw net job losses in the first quarter.

Philpott added: “All the signs are that the labour market is not as tight as last year. And with wider economic data pointing to the possibility of below trend growth this year the case for an autumn cut in interest rates is growing stronger.”

Fathers yearn for more baby time
Twenty years ago more than half of dads believed their role in the family was as chief bread-winner.

Today, that percentage has shrunk to just 20% with latest research revealing that eight in ten working fathers would happily stay at home to care for their baby, while almost nine out of ten said they feel as confident as their partner when caring for a child.

Just ahead of Father’s Day, research authors, the Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC) have urged the government to extend current paternity rights.

Statutory Paternity Pay (SPP) is paid at a rate of £106 a week or 90% of average earnings if this is less than £106 for two weeks. But four out of five dads say that the rate is too low.

And according to the research, pay is having a bearing on how much time is taken off. More than nine out of 10 new dads take leave from work during their baby’s first eight weeks to help out with parenting responsibilities but loss of pay, workload pressures and employers’ attitudes are forcing fathers to return to work earlier then they’d like.

The EOC are calling on the government to implement ‘shared’ parental leave rights in the second six months following the birth of a child, an increase in the level of SPP to 90% of earnings subject to a cap followed by an extension of paid paternity leave from two to four weeks, thus creating a ‘Daddy Month’ to be taken on a more flexible basis over the baby’s first year.

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Unhappiness clouds HR function
Those working in HR are the most unhappy of all professions, according to research conducted by recruitment outfit, Kelly Services.

The World at Work survey found that 39% of HR professionals were unhappy, other professions ‘down in the dumps’ include sales/customer service workers (38%) and management (45%).

While those working in research (59%) were the happiest closely followed by workers in engineering (53%).

Overall just 47% of workers surveyed in the UK were either happy or very happy with their current position. This compares to 68%of Scandinavian workers who felt the same, 61% in France, 53% in both Italy and Switzerland, 50% in both Russia and Germany, 46% in Spain, 45% in The Netherlands and 35% in Belgium.

Kelly Services, UK Marketing Director said that employees needed to feel valued rather than a ‘cog’ in the machine.

Apart from salary, the greatest cause of disquiet amongst respondents was the lack of opportunity to expand skills and the lack of formal training provided.

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HR missing out on full IT potential
A quarter of HR professionals say their IT systems are difficult to use, while less than one fifth say their HRIS was integrated with an organisation-wide IT system.

These are the findings from the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development who also reveal that part of the problem is that HR is insufficiently involved in the preliminary design stages while half of organisations decisions to introduce new technology are taken without reference to the function.

Martyn Sloman, CIPD Training, Learning and Development Adviser said that HR professionals who fail to realise the potential of their HRIS will not be able to play their full role in the organisation.

New body to boost migrant skills
A new partnership – Progress GB – to help employers overcome skill shortages and support refugees and migrants develop and adapt their skills for the UK labour market, was launched this week.

The move follows research by the National Institute of Adult Continuing Education (NIACE), which showed that while refugees and migrants have a wide range of skills and qualifications in a variety of professions, they frequently experience unemployment or only gain low-skilled, casual work.

At the same time many employers in the UK are struggling to fill vacancies, particularly in areas including construction, transport, engineering, health and social care.

Research from the Home Office has also revealed that it takes an average of 20 years for migrants in the UK to reach the same level of employment as UK-born workers with similar skills.

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IT skills plan to close UK productivity gap
A three-year national action plan for IT skills is planned to wipe billions off the UK’s productivity gap with France, Germany and the USA.

The programme of IT skills improvements, launched this week, is expected to close the productivity gap with Germany by £1.8billion, France by £1.6 billion and the USA by £0.3billion.

Cisco Systems, IBM, British Airways, Ford and EDS are among the high-profile employers who have pledged to invest in the action plan, called the Sector Skills Agreement for IT (SSA for IT).

Under the SSA, employers will offer resources including employee hours, work placements, ‘business guru’ advisors in support of undergraduate programmes and development, design and delivery of programmes such as Computer Club for Girls (CC4G) and vocational qualifications like ITQ linked to the e-skills Passport.

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Cambridge workers are ‘healthiest’ commuters
Getting on your bike is proving fruitful for workers in Cambridge who have been declared the ‘healthiest’ commuters in the UK with almost half of workers choosing to walk or cycle to the office.

Enfield, in north London came bottom of the league – only 5.7% of workers there combine commuting with a healthy work out.

The findings from the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy (CSP) show that over three million people in England and Wales choose to walk or cycle to work.

But more can be done say the CSP who are urging more workers to ditch motorised forms of transport and take up healthier alternatives instead.

CSP Chair of Council Grahame Pope commented: “If your work is sedentary, or high-pressured, leaving no room for exercise, cycling and walking to and from work will help ensure you get your daily dose. Motorists who cut down on car use will also reduce congestion and pollution.”

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Wearable computers ‘dehumanise’ workers, says GMB
Wearable computer technology used in retail warehouses aroused fears of Big Brother-style intrusion, according to the GMB trade union.

In a report released at the union’s conference last week, the GMB complained that mobile computers violated employees’ right to privacy.

Supermarket distribution centre workers have complained to their union about the devices they are made to wear on their wrists that link them to radio transmitters and global positioning systems. The system is used to beam through orders from shops to direct them to the items they need to pick up for dispatch.

Similar technology has been adapted by Anglia Business Solutions in its Navision-based LinkFresh distribution management solution for the fruit and veg industry.

But some systems in use within retail warehouses log how long it takes workers to go from one part of the warehouse to another and can monitor how long they take for breaks and to go to the toilet.

“Any deviation from these times is not tolerated,” the GMB warned. “In effect these devices… have made workers the aid to the computer rather than the other way round.”

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Loyalty holds no value
Workers would jump ship for as little as an extra £100 a month.

While 71% of respondents in a poll by HR consultancy, Rialto said they were currently unhappy with their careers and if it weren’t for age or money, 76% would go.

For 69% of workers in the Capital frustrations with long commutes and a creaking transport system would encourage them to take a £10,000 pay cut if these factors could be removed.

Richard Chiumento, Rialto’s Chief Executive said that employees were ‘worryingly’ disengaged with their lot and warned that bosses would need to work ‘harder’ to keep them.

Nearly three quarters said they would welcome the opportunity to take a sabbatical while a quarter said they felt uninterested in their employer’s business.

Workers fail to follow childhood dreams
The majority of workers fail to follow their dreams according to Friends Reunited.

The website asked members to recall what as a child they wanted to be. Nurses came out on top (23%) as the dream job for girls while 18% of boys wanted to be scientists.

However, little over a quarter of the 40,000 respondents said they had fulfilled their childhood ambition. Half of those said they had simply ‘changed their mind’, 14% said they ‘failed to meet the grade’, while 10% of women and 5% of men cited ‘family commitments’ as the reason.

Overall 6% had not given up on their early plans and were still working towards a career in their chosen field.

And when asked if they were happy at work, only 40% said yes.

Dismissal procedures top concerns
Forty-three per cent of calls made to employment law firm, Peninsula over the last year were concerned with unfair dismissal procedures.

This was followed by disciplinary procedure/conduct and terms and conditions. The information gathered is from the last 12 months from an advice department which takes over 7500 calls per week from small to medium sized enterprises.

Managing Director, Peter Done said the findings were unsurprising and urged employers to be extra ‘vigilant’ and to seek as much assistance as possible to make the right decisions.

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Annie Hayes


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