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News in Brief: The week in HR – Rooster, Workhorse, Sheepdog or Cat?

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Briefcase

Catch up on the week in HR with our at-a-glance news round up including the struggle to get ‘core jobless’ back to work, the rooster, workhorse, sheepdog or cat equation, why standing rules hark back to Victorian times and the buoyant jobs market that is making City slickers smile.



W/C 29/08/05
Struggle to get “core jobless” back to work
Most employers will not hire people with a criminal record, long-term sickness or history of drug or alcohol problems, new research has revealed.

The study by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) surveyed 750 employers and found that 60% deliberately excluded people with certain characteristics, termed “core jobless” by the government, when they were recruiting.

Firms were more likely to consider migrant workers, lone parents or over 50-year-olds than anyone with a criminal record or a history of long-term sickness or homelessness.

Well over half of those questioned said nothing would persuade them to take on someone from the core jobless group.

Many employers said they had endured a bad previous experience of someone from the core jobless group.

John Philpott, chief economist of the CIPD, said: “Widespread reluctance on the part of employers to recruit the core jobless highlights the magnitude of the task facing the Government as it strives to get more economically inactive benefit claimants, especially those claiming Incapacity Benefit, off welfare and into work.”

He added: “Government will have to reinvigorate its welfare to work agenda by making greater efforts to both improve the employability of the core jobless groups, and by addressing negative employer attitudes to people in these groups.”

UK management skills gap with Europe
Formal management qualifications in the UK do not necessarily result in effective management skills, according to a study into management training and development in Europe.

The six-country comparative study supported by the European Union, by authors at Brunel University and Birkbeck College also found that despite this shortcoming, human resources and development managers in the UK are increasingly demanding management qualifications when recruiting managers.

Dr Matias Ramirez of Brunel University, one of the co-authors of the study, said: “We looked at European economies with common challenges of developing knowledge and skills. In terms of common areas, most firms recognised the importance of training and developing managers. The key differences were in the approach to training.”

The study revealed that Germany and Norway rely principally on internal methods of training. In contrast, UK and Denmark combine internal and external methods such as educational qualifications. However, while Denmark consistently valued a range of methods highly, including vocational training, UK HRD managers said formal qualifications were not necessarily seen as a mechanism for effective managerial skills.

Ramirez added: “Unlike in Denmark, our research suggests that in the UK there is a mismatch between what is used and what is seen as the most effective way of developing managers. It appears that in the UK formal, non-job related qualifications may be acting as a screening mechanism rather than an effective means of improving managerial skills. This highlights the need for greater coordination between employers, providers of managerial qualification and policy makers.”

For more on this story see: TrainingZONE

Bosses cite importance of stress management
The skills to manage stress effectively are crucial for a successful business career, according to two-thirds of bosses questioned in a new survey.

The study by communications consultancy the Aziz Corporation found that most managers (92%) felt that placing staff under a certain degree of pressure could have positive results, ensuring that targets and deadlines are met, and that a business is run efficiently.

Aziz Corporation chairman, Khalid Aziz, said: “Although stress has become a buzzword and is often used to account for all kinds of ailments and conditions, it is interesting that such a high proportion of managers believe that some degree of stress can be positive.

“The key is to manage stress effectively, so that instead of spiralling out of control, the pressures of the workplace can be harnessed and put to positive effect.”

More than half of the managers questioned (58%) believed that the general level of stress among the people working in their organisation is about right.

However, there was also a widespread concern that stress is set to become the ‘new backache’ – i.e., a vague and difficult-to-prove excuse for absenteeism.

For more on this story see: TrainingZONE

Number three – that’s a cup of tea
Pay deals have remained unchanged at a median 3% over the last quarter, according to number crunchers, IRS.

Examination of the figures, however, shows a more diverse range of wage increases, according to the pay analysts.

While the number of pay deals at the higher end of the pay scale has fallen, 60% of pay awards were worth 3% or more, down from 69% since the last quarter, the proportion of settlements paying increases of 3.5% or above has fallen from 22.5% to 19%.

There has also been movement in the lower quartile measure, the point at or below which a quarter of pay deals lie. This has fallen to 2.5%, while the upper quartile rate (the level at which a quarter of pay deals are the same or higher) remains steady at 3.3%. Therefore, half of all pay deals now fall within the range 2.5% to 3.3%, a much wider spread than the 2.9% to 3.3% range recorded in the quarter to June 2005.

IRS Pay and Benefits editor, Sheila Attwood said:

“Our latest figures indicate that the basic pay settlement level is firmly set at 3% and we see no signs of any movement from this level over the next few months. Average earnings data which includes bonuses, pay progression and other payments outside the annual pay review showed a small increase in June 2005, to 4.2% from 4.1% in May. However, with claimant count unemployment edging up for the sixth consecutive month, there is no evidence to suggest an up-turn in wage pressure in the near future.”

Rooster, Workhorse, Sheepdog or Cat: which one are you?
The Employers Forum on Age (EFA) has lambasted the government in its new report Attitude not Age for what it calls the ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach to tackling working longer and retirement.

The EFA has said the government must ‘wake up to people’s aspirations and work life experiences in order to influence pension saving and retirement decisions.’

The research reveals four types of worker (Rooster, Workhorse, Sheepdog and Cat), whose attitudes are determined less by their age than their education, skills and the type of work they’re doing:

  • 31% of the workforce is focused, flourishing (Rooster), well educated and happy. Despite this, they want to leave work and retire as soon as possible.

  • In contrast, 21% of the workforce feel undervalued and unfulfilled (Workhorse). This group is unhappy at work. Naturally they look forward to retirement (only 3% are happy to work until they are 70).

  • 27% of employees are conscientious but cautious (Sheepdog). They see work as a significant part of their social life. The idea of stopping work to retire doesn’t make sense but many feel that the physical nature of the jobs they do will prevent them from working longer.

  • 21% have an easy-come, easy-go (Cat) attitude to work. They are laid back, confident and successful at work, and very much ‘go their own way’. They are likely to have a similar attitude to retirement.

Sam Mercer, director of the EFA said that their findings which reveal that over half of all workers want to retire as soon as possible is ‘worrying’.

Age discrimination regulations will be introduced as of October 2006.

City slickers show confidence in jobs market
Forty per cent of candidates working in the City anticipate an increase in the number of vacancies of up to 6% over the next year, with 23% predicting even higher increases in hiring of over 7%.

Movement within the market also appears to be happening. According to the findings by Morgan McKinley, the banking and financial services recruitment outfit, 61% of respondents plan to job hop in the next 12 months.

Thirty-eight per cent cite improved career prospects as the reason for moving on, followed by cash. Just 6% of candidates said they wished to move due to lack of security in their current position.

Robert Thesiger Chief Executive of Morgan McKinley said the market was ripe for candidates with a strong skills set.

The number of new jobs coming onto the market over the last year has increased by 32%. Morgan McKinley estimates that there are currently 12,096 outstanding vacancies in the City which compares to the 9,655 outstanding positions estimated for July 2004.

The time taken for candidates to secure a position has also fallen. But while things are looking up the summer slowdown has witnessed an impact on salary levels with a decrease of 0.4% taking salaries to an average £50,473. This compares to an average salary of £50,673 recorded in the previous month. However, compared to July 2004 average salaries have risen by 3.4%.

Team building is money well spent
New findings indicate that team building weekends and exercises are having a positive impact on modern businesses.

According to Peninsula employment law firm their popularity is soaring as companies reap the benefits of higher productivity:

  • 84% of employers believe team building days are great value for money and improve productivity


  • 88% of bosses noticed improved communication and morale amongst staff following a team building weekend


  • 79% of employee’s say working relations improved with colleagues after a team building weekend

Peter Done, Peninsula’s Managing Director commented: “In the past team building weekends may have been regarded as a big expense which infringes into the personal time of all concerned to varied success. However times have changed and a well planned excursion with unique scenarios, setting tasks and challenges can be extremely effective.

“The benefits extend further than merely communication and understanding, they provide a valuable insight for employers to gauge the way their workers minds work and how they approach challenges.”

TUC make ‘stand’ against Victorian workplace hazard
Prolonged standing at work may cause serious health issues for up to 11 million workers in the UK.

The Trades Union Congress (TUC) say that the problems are acute today as they were in Victorian times.

According to the union body, every year over two million sick days are lost due to lower limb disorders, with nearly 200,000 people reporting lower limb ailments caused or made worse by their job.

Workers that spend most of the working day on their feet are at risk of work-related varicose veins, poor circulation and swelling in the feet and legs, foot problems, joint damage, heart and circulatory problems and pregnancy difficulties.

Unions representing shopworkers, teachers, library staff, production line workers, warehouse staff, museum workers, school supervisors, train drivers, printers, hospitality and casino workers and engineers all reported standing-related health problems experienced by their members.

TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber said: “Simple adjustments to the way millions of people work will save countless sick days each year and stop British workers from, in some cases, dying on their feet.”

BA catering chief lambasts ‘problem’ militants
David Siegel, the chairman of troubled BA caterer, Gate Gourmet has accused the company’s striking workers of being ‘irrational and irresponsible’.

A dispute began when Gate Gourmet fired 667 staff, prompting a sympathy strike at BA causing flight chaos.

The Telegraph reports Siegel as rating the chances of a successful outcome as 50-50.

The caterer needs the dispute to end in order to secure a two-year contract extension with its biggest client, BA which is crucial to its survival.

Siegel said: “It is a hardline, hardcore minority that has control over this workforce and this company, and has led it to death’s doorstep.”

Gate Gourmet, who supply the in-flight meals for the airline giant is asking for voluntary redundancies among its 2,000 strong workforce.

The Transport and General Workers Union (TGWU) has set up a hardship fund for the 667 of its members sacked by the caterer. The workers are predominantly low paid Asian, black and white women.

Speaking to the Telegraph, a spokesperson for the TGWU said: “To assert that there are 200 trouble makers at Gate Gourmet is absurd. Mr Siegel’s remarks at a time when serious efforts are being made to resolve the dispute calls into question his good faith.”

Siegel is prepared to reinstate 400 of the 667 sacked workers, according to the BBC.

New research into hybrid pension schemes
The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has published new research into hybrid – risk sharing – pension schemes.

With many firms closing their traditional final salary defined benefit (DB) schemes to new entrants and with the low take-up rate on defined contribution (DC) plans, the hybrid schemes are a new development which aim to provide a half-way house.

Hybrid schemes take numerous forms – a popular form is the ‘nursery’ scheme, which provides DC benefits until a given age, followed by DB benefits. As a rough guide, the lower the age at which employees make the switch, the higher the risk for the employer.

An alternative would be to cap the salary used for calculating DB payments and then purchase additional DC benefits with any surplus. Under this arrangement all employees have a protected pension with any surpluses going into money purchase schemes this frees the organisation from the risk of protected payments for higher-paid employees.

With so many variations on the hybrid pension in the marketplace, the research sponsored by the DWP aimed to promote understanding and discussion of pension scheme design.

For more on this story see: AccountingWEB

Age discrimination rules costly for small businesses
Government officials have admitted that the regulations against age discrimination, which come into force on October 1, 2006, will be more costly for small businesses to meet.

In its Partial Regulatory Impact Assessment (PRIA) on the new rules, which will enforce an EU Directive, DTI officials admitted: “They [small firms] will bear disproportionate implementation costs, which are expected to be relatively high, because of the complex nature of the subject.”

The PRIA estimates that the cost to small businesses nationwide will be £166 million, and estimates each small firm will have to pay around £140 on getting people up to speed with the new regulations.

Those costs do not include the costs of any employment tribunals or fines should businesses breach the forthcoming regulations.

And although much attention has been paid to retirement ages, with requests to continue working after 65 estimated to result in an extra 15,000 to 29,000 in the nationwide workforce, the regulations can also be breached indirectly. For instance, pay structures based on length of service may be found to indirectly discriminate against younger people.

Further information can be found at: DTI

Government seeks company to train Iraqi clinicians
The Government is to launch a new programme to help retrain Iraqi doctors and other clinicians.

The Department of Health is seeking a suitably qualified organisation or consortium to provide clinical training and development in the UK for clinical teams from Iraq.

The proposed programme is expected to encompass around 50 clinical teams over a two-year period.

Health Minister Rosie Winterton said: “The programme will help the Iraqis to modernise their health care system by updating the knowledge and skills of their clinicians and enabling them to spread that expertise more widely across the country.”

The total cost of the programme will depend on how many visits are arranged, the exact size of the visiting teams and the nature of the successful bid.

The successful organisation to provide the training is expected to be announced in October 2005.

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