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News in Brief: The Week in HR – HR globe-trotters do it for career success


Catch up on the week in HR including UK rejects the unskilled, pensions reform debate hots up, HSBC face £5m gross misconduct claim from sacked gay banker, official launch greets age laws and why some HR professionals are prepared to catch that flight.

W/C 6/3/06
UK rejects the unskilled
Highly trained workers will be able to migrate to the UK without a job offer, but people with few skills will find it tougher under new proposals by the Home Office.

The government’s plan for migrants from outside the EU is a points-based system, in which five tiers of applicants are given specific entry requirements.

The strategy favours ‘highly skilled individuals’ such as scientists, IT experts and financial professionals, said Home Secretary, Charles Clarke.

Workers who can fill specific skills gaps are also invited. A new Skills Advisory Board will be launched in the Sector Skills Development Agency, which advises the government on the labour market.

For more on this story see: TrainingZONE

Pensions reform debate hots up
With the government's promised response to the Turner report on pensions due any day, the pension’s debate is gathering momentum.

Investors will be pleased to hear that the financial services industry has accepted the argument from Lord Turner that pension scheme costs could be lowered through a reduction in annual management charges (AMCs).

AMCs are currently set at an average of 1.5%, reducing to 1% after ten years. But with many people changing job more frequently, most will carry on paying the 1.5%. Lord Turner argued that a reduction to 0.3% was possible: the new industry proposals range from 0.4% to 0.7%.

Secretary of State for Work and Pensions John Hutton has welcomed the proposed reductions: "The Pensions Commission’s recommendations have already succeeded in moving the debate forward about charges on pension saving," he said.

"If we expect people to save more for their retirement we need to help them do this with confidence. Enhancing the value of pension saving by reducing charges is one way of improving confidence."

But doubts still remain about the Pension Commission’s recommendation for a National Pension Savings Scheme (NPSS).

For more on this story see: AccountingWEB

Pensions mis-selling may rise warns panel
The Financial Services Consumer Panel (FSPC) says that a proposal to abolish rule RU 64 – which requires all types of adviser to explain in a suitability letter why the personal pension recommended is at least as suitable as a lower charge stakeholder pension – could lead to an increase in mis-selling if financial services firms try to push personal pensions before NPSS comes into force.

FSCP chairman John Howard said: "We believe that if the industry is allowed to avoid the obligation of telling consumers about cheaper stakeholder products, this will be tantamount to mis-selling on a significant scale."

HR globe-trotters do it for career success
Forty-five per cent of HR and finance professionals around the world cite career prospects as the main reason for moving overseas.

Those working in France and Germany report the highest figures (68% and 63% respectively). Interestingly those working in New Zealand, Australia, Ireland, Netherlands and the UK see a move overseas more as an opportunity to travel and see the world than for career reasons.

These are the findings of recruitment outfit, Robert Half Finance & Accounting who say that two in five HR and finance professionals do not explore the opportunities overseas within their own companies before moving abroad.

The survey also indicates that HR and finance professionals believe that the best time to live abroad is after a couple of years of work and before settling down (41%), followed by those who believe the best time is after their studies have finished (36%). Those in the UK are no exception, at 47% and 28% respectively.

A total of 1,800 HR and finance professionals were quizzed as part of the survey.

HSBC face £5m gross misconduct claim from sacked gay banker
A gay banker has begun an industrial tribunal against HSBC for £5m pounds worth of compensation following his dismissal for “gross personal misconduct” in 2005.

Peter Lewis, the former global head of equity trading at the bank will claim that he was sacked for being openly gay. His dismissal is believed to be the result of an encounter between Mr Lewis and another male colleague during office hours that led to a complaint of sexual harassment against him.

This is the largest case of its kind since regulations came into force in December 2003 extending sexual discrimination rules to include gay and lesbian employees, according to Reed Smith employment law firm.

Commenting on the implications Mark Hunt, Head of the employment team at the international law firm said: “Discrimination rules have been designed to foster an acceptance of diversity, and this case may put the financial services sector’s compliance under the microscope once again.”

Guy Guinan, employment partner at national law firm Halliwells, says that the key issue for the Tribunal will be whether HSBC would have treated a hetrosexual male, who harassed a female employee, in the same way that they treated Peter Lewis.

Penna takes 28th place in best companies to work for league
Human capital management (HCM) consultancy, Penna Plc has achieved 28th position in the Sunday Times Best 100 Companies to Work For 2006 list.

As the only HCM consultancy to be included in the listings, it also ranked in equal fourth place for having open and honest managers and as eighth best company for praising a good job, with 80% scoring their manager as good at expressing their appreciation.

Gary Browning, Chief Executive of Penna plc, says: “Being positioned as one of the top 30 companies to work for in the UK is a real endorsement of our people and the work that we do for our clients. Our business is in the attraction, engagement, integration, development and refreshing of talent within organisations and we apply this philosophy to our own business.”

Official launch greets age laws
New age discrimination laws have been launched this week by the DTI, giving employers just six months to prepare before they become statutory.

The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) urge employers to appraise the new legal obligations without delay and take immediate action to avoid facing employment tribunals and hefty fines.

The default retirement age of 65 remains in place leaving workers over this age unprotected by the new regulations – a position that the CIPD strongly disagree with.

Length of service awards
According to the CIPD, the new rules will also spell the end for many kinds of long service awards. The professional body believe this is an unnecessary, unintended consequence of the new legislation.

Evidence of discrimination
A recent CIPD survey produced in partnership with the Chartered Management Institute shows that age discrimination persists in many organisations. Six in ten respondents reported that they have been personally disadvantaged at work because of their age and nearly a quarter of those surveyed (22%) admitted that age has an impact on their own recruitment decisions.

Financial services back IT skills
The financial sector is increasing its investment in IT training to satisfy the requirements of regulatory compliance, a survey claims.

According to the study by training provider Thomson NETg, financial businesses boosted spending on IT in 2005, the first time since the post-2000 slump.

A large chunk of this has funded e-learning programmes, which the training body claims is now affordable for wider use across the business.

For more on this story see:

Financial sector gets skills boost
The Financial Services Skills Council (FSSC) is launching a programme to solve the skills issues faced by financial services companies.

The Skills Bill is a national scheme spread across 18 months, which intends to improve the performance of businesses in the financial services sector.

The FSSC plans to quiz employers on what skills they require from their workforce, and review the education and skills provision currently offered to staff in conjunction with relevant training bodies.

For more on this story see:

Digital literacy skills go global
A London-based symposium will debate the application of the UK’s digital literacy skills in the global market.

Representatives of industry, government, the EU, NGOs and academia will discuss an international programme to ensure that appropriate skills strategies are used to achieve UK competitiveness in the world market.

The conference aims to smooth the progress of talks between government and NGO education policy makers and corporate technologists.

Run by the Council of European Professional Informatics Societies (CEPIS) and the European Computer Driving Licence Foundation (ECDL), the convention will take place at Windsor Castle.

For more on this story see:

BA staff up-skill to avoid strikes
British Airways (BA) is to equip staff with the necessary skills to manage services in the event of further strike action with its in-flight caterer.

Seven hundred flights were grounded last summer when Gate Gourmet staff undertook unofficial strikes against the airline.

BA plans to train its own staff to use the caterer’s loading trucks to ensure food and supplies will be available to passengers should Gate Gourmet stage further walk outs.

Fore more on this story see:TrainingZONE

Home Office boosts e-learning skills
The Home Office is providing 22,500 employees with e-learning skills as part of the Professional Skills for Government (PSG) initiative.

The programme aims to equip all civil servants with key skills, including financial skills, people management, communications, marketing and strategic thinking.

The contract with Knowledgepool supplies the Home Office with trainers to provide specialist instruction and promote IT and core competencies as defined by the PSG.

Fore more on this story see: TrainingZONE

Women outperform men in IT skills race
Women outperform men in demonstrating IT skills and are twice as likely to gain a relevant qualification, according to awarding organisation OCR.

More than two thirds (67%) of individuals achieving the body’s CLAiT IT qualification are female, and almost half of these (47%) are between the ages of 31 and 50.

Assistant Director of Vocational Assessment, Mary Bennett said that this disproved popular beliefs about computer literacy between the genders: “It is a common misconception that women are less interested in computers than men.”

For more on this story see: TrainingZONE

Football scores with adult learning
Adult literacy, language and numeracy skills are being addressed by a new initiative between ten premier league and football league clubs and the government.

The project aims to target football fans who are weak in these areas, and encourage them to improve through sport themed activities.

The skills training is geared specifically towards football fans, teaching literacy by analysing commentary or creating match reports, and learning maths by comprehending transfer fees.

Manchester United, Liverpool, Newcastle United, Everton, Charlton Athletic, Wigan Athletic, and football league teams, Leicester City, Brighton and Hove Albion, Norwich City and Bristol City are all supporting the initiative.

Drivers must get skills upto speed
Employers must address the driving skills of employers using company cars, the government has announced.

The Parliamentary Advisory Council for Transport Safety (Pacts) is aiming to reduce road deaths by urging the employer to take responsibility over the training and competence of staff using vehicles during their working day.

Pacts is also lobbying for automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) and greater use of road surveillance cameras.

Stop paying Working Tax Credit, warns HMRC
HMRC is reminding employers that they must stop paying Working Tax Credit via their payroll by the end of this month. All claimants will be paid directly by the Revenue from April.

Employers should have received a final 'stop notice' for each of their employees who receives Working Tax Credit. “If they haven't, they should contact HMRC immediately to arrange a stop date,” says the Revenue.

“If employers' payroll arrangements mean they would not normally pay Working Tax Credit for March until April, they can contact HMRC now to arrange an earlier stop date.”

More news in brief.

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