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News in Brief: The week in HR – 20/05/05



See our at-a-glance round-up of all the latest HR news including employment count high, windfall for Royal Mail and Tesco workers, Sainsbury’s over-50s recruitment campaign, name change disaster at the DTI and ET applications on the slide.

Employment count soars
Official labour market statistics show continued but steady growth with worker numbers increasing by 183,000 over the year to reach 28.6 million, a rise of 87,000 over the quarter.

The jobless count has also fallen by 15,000 over the last three months to reach 1.4 million while the claimant count has risen by 8,100 to 839,400.

Professional body the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) predict that the slower growth in both employment and average earnings in the first quarter of the year will result in an increased chance of an interest rate cut at the end of the year. The CIPD suggest that in a year’s time the employment count will fall, despite the current rosy outlook.

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Windfall for Royal Mail and Tesco workers

Both organisations have reported bumper profits this year. Around 150,000 Tesco workers have been rewarded for a record year and will be sharing £220m in bonuses. Sir Terry Leahy, the Chief Executive also scoops a huge pay out of £3.2m for his part in helping the supermarket chain lift profits by 20% in the last financial year to £2.03 billion.

Royal Mail has also announced a record £537 million profit on its operations for 2004-05. According to the postal giant, quality of service to customers has hit the highest levels in a decade. Workers will each receive £1,074 by way of a bonus while Chief Executive Adam Crozier goes home with £2.2 million in his pocket.

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Sainsbury’s matures its outlook
Supermarket chain, Sainsbury’s is the latest company to target recruitment at the over-50s in a bid to improve service levels.

Ten thousand jobs are up for grabs at stores across the UK.

Jane Basley, Sainsbury’s HR Manager said: “We are thrilled to be recruiting so many new over-50s ‘mature colleagues’.

We have found that people in this age-range bring a wealth of experience and maturity to their work and their focus on customer service will undoubtedly have a positive effect on the shopping experience and help to drive sales in our stores.”

Sainsbury’s is following in the footsteps of B&Q, Barclays and Norwich Union in targeting the over-50s.

Business leaders welcome return of the DTI
Leading business organisations and the press have welcomed back the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), which reverts to its familiar title having spent little more than a week as the Department of Productivity Enterprise and Industry (DPEI); the satirical magazine Private Eye noting that it was pleased to see the return of the Department of Timidity and Inaction.

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Office manager wins equal pay settlement

An office manager has scooped £37,998 as part of an out of court settlement. Diane Neve successfully argued that her job required the same skills and experience as a male Senior Site Engineer who was paid more. Neve worked in the role at Serco Ltd for five years, a large multinational corporation that provides facilities, maintenance and systems management to many public sector organisations.

Julie Mellor, Chair of the Equal Opportunities Commission applauded the decision: “Cases such as this highlight the need for companies to carry out regular pay reviews to ensure that they are paying fairly.”

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Stress tips the scales
A new study from academics at the University of Helsinki’s Department of Public Health shows that overworked and stressed employees are more likely to put on weight and fail to take exercise.

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The timely news comes as the NHS announces a national campaign to help combat stress in the workplace. Steve Barnett, director of NHS Employers said at the recent HR in the NHS conference that work-related stress in the NHS is responsible for 30% of sickness absence, costing the service £300-400 million per year.

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Bosses escape the dock as ET applications slide
According to employment law firm, Peninsula the number of employment tribunal applications were down by a quarter last year compared to figures from 2003. Statistics that reveal, say the firm the impact of the Statutory Dispute Resolution procedure introduced last October.

Number of Employment Tribunal claims:

  • 1995 [Jan – Dec] – 87,582 claims

  • 2000 [Jan – Dec] – 118,400 claims

  • 2003 [Jan – Dec] – 127,594 claims

  • 2004 [Jan – Dec] – 97,896 claims

Workers yearn for control
Nearly two-thirds of employees are not being given the opportunity to live up to their potential in the workplace and nearly 90% would prefer to be in control of their own professional development according to a new study by SkillSoft.

The survey of 3000 employees reveals that a quarter receive no support from their managers at all when it comes to professional development. When asked what sort of training they needed, 45% of workers said they would like more training in communications and customer relations skills while 50% wanted more management and leadership skills training.

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Annie Hayes


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