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News in Brief: The week in HR – W/C 20/06/05



See our at-a-glance round-up of all the latest HR news including skills shortage increase need for training, why senior business leaders are kept awake at night, sickies on the rise, organisations get ‘behaviour’ they deserve and how illegal workers could soon wind bosses up in jail.

Skills shortages increase need for training
Employers are recruiting less experienced staff and training on the job due to continuing skills shortages, according to a study by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development(CIPD).

The latest Annual Recruitment, Retention and Turnover Survey of 715 UK employers found that 85% had experienced recruitment difficulties in the last year.

As a result of these shortages, 68% of employers said they had to appoint someone in the last year who didn’t have all the skills and experience required to do the job, but who had the potential to grow into the role.

Leadership was a particular shortage, with nearly a quarter of employers reporting most difficulty recruiting to senior management or director level vacancies – rising to 27% in the private sector – indicating a shortage of leadership talent.

But the category of vacancy causing the biggest recruitment headaches for employers was management and professional vacancies – 45% of employers said this was one of the categories of vacancy they were finding most difficult to fill.

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Work worries keep bosses up at night
Senior business leaders are kept awake for at least one night a week because of work worries.

The Capegemini Red Eye Report reveals that demanding performance targets and anxiety over job prospects is interfering with sleep patterns amongst this group.

Worryingly, just over half of executives agree that lack of sleep has a serious impact on their abilities at work with decision making footing the bill for the lack of rest.

A staggering one in five admitted that it had caused them to make a decision with serious repercussions for the business.

Management issues were cited as the biggest stress factors playing on leaders’ minds, with ‘staff performance or shortage’ issues identified as having the highest worry factor of a number of business issues.

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Jail awaits bosses of illegal workers
Proposals announced yesterday to combat illegal migrant working could land bosses in jail.

Reported in the Times, on-the-spot fines of £2000 per illegal worker will now be imposed on employers or businesses, while firms or individuals including householders who ‘knowingly’ employ an illegal migrant could face a jail term of up to two years.

Householders will also need to adhere to the new rules. Nannies will fall under the terms of the regulations as ’employees’ who work exclusively for one employer. Cleaners, gardeners and window cleaners, however, will fall outside the legislation which deems them as ‘purchased services’ rather then employees.

Under the proposals bosses will be required to regularly check that their migrant workers still have the right to remain in the country. The Home Office have estimated that it will cost businesses £27.2 million to get up to speed with the new legislation, while the fines scheme will require 12 immigration officers and an annual budget of £480,000.

The Immigration, Asylum and Nationality Bill is part of the government’s strategy to tighten immigration controls.

Sickies on the rise
Unauthorised absences are on the rise, according to employment law firm Peninsula who report that a staggering 91% of bosses say the problem is increasing.

Furthermore, 92% of businesses say they are finding it increasingly difficult to certify genuine reasons for absence. A figure that is not surprising in light of the 94% of employees who admit to pulling a ‘sickie.’

Peninsula’s MD, Peter Done said: “The priority for employers is to be aware that this problem is milking their business and hundreds of businesses around the country millions of pounds. It is not a problem which can be solved overnight. It is a problem which has to be implemented over time with both strict policies for absence and disciplinary procedures for those who have a running tendency to be absent through skiving.”

The survey polled 1000 employers and 927 employees from a wide range of industries throughout May 2005.

Organisations ‘get behaviour they deserve’
Organisations get the behaviour at work they deserve according to delegates at the second Wellness Debate who voted two to one in favour of the resolution that ‘dysfunctional behaviour is the responsibility of the organisation rather than the individual.’

“This is not about absolving individuals it is about creating the right climate at work,” said Stephen Bevan, head of research at The Work Foundation, who spoke in favour of the motion. “Rather than trying to control dysfunctional behaviour, organisations need to earn ‘functional’ behaviour.”

Opposing the motion, Charles Boundy, group legal head of the Random House Group of publishers, said: “The role of the organisation is to empower not to control” but warned against shifting the balance of responsibility too far in their direction. “There are already too many employment laws. What starts as best practice ends up enshrined in law and becomes a legal responsibility,” he said. “But wellness can not be imposed.”

The debates are set against a backdrop of growing discontent amongst workers in the UK, where more than half of employees have experienced overwork or burnout during the past six months according to a survey by HR consultant Hudson. The union Amicus says 19 million working days are lost every year because of workplace bullying, at a cost to the UK economy of millions of pounds in tribunal payments, legal fees and wasted talent.

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Skills Council for Lifelong Learning launched
The new sector skills council for lifelong learning will help work-based learning providers and higher and further education offer employers the training they want, according to Minister for Lifelong Learning, Further and Higher Education, Bill Rammell.

Speaking at the official launch of Lifelong Learning UK (LLUK) at the House of Commons, Rammell described the new sector skills council as a crucial partner in delivering a package of government initiatives to boost opportunities for education and training among learners of all ages.

“It will help deliver the Skills Strategy, together with reforms to 14-19 education and teacher training improvements in the learning and skills sector,” he said.

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BCC backs volunteering to boost morale
The British Chamber of Commerce is encouraging businesses to give more time to local communities as a way of improving staff morale and public perception.

The announcement comes ahead of the launch of new research in July from CSV Make a Difference Day into the benefits of employee volunteering. CSV’s Make a Difference Day, sponsored by Barclays, is the UK’s largest single day of ‘hands-on’ volunteering, and provides an opportunity for companies to test the waters and see the benefits of employee volunteering for themselves.

Research from Barclays shows that 61% of managers say their staff’s communication skills have improved, and 51% feel leadership has benefited. Further research shows that 70% of staff say their perception of their company has also improved following the implementation of employee volunteering programmes.

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REC expels member
The Recruitment and Employment Confederation, the body involved in developing standards for the recruitment industry has confirmed the expulsion of Mild Professional Care Ltd, a medical recruitment agency in Rochford, Essex from amongst its members.

A tribunal recently found in favour of a locum doctor’s claim for unpaid wages, based on the agency’s failure to agree full and accurate contractual terms, including clear rates of pay. The tribunal finding was reported to REC by the complainant, and an investigation began immediately.

The REC Professional Standards Committee, an industry body with representation from the CBI and TUC, considered Mild Professional Care’s actions to adversely affect the reputation of the industry and expelled them from REC membership. Upon appeal of this decision to an REC Appeal Panel, Mild Professional Care failed to comply with the Panel’s requirements for corrective action, leading to the Panel’s finding that the expulsion must be upheld.

Gareth Osborne, Managing Director, REC says, “I regret that we have had to take this action but it is in the interest of the public, the industry and the status of REC membership that we expel Mild Professional Care.”

Workers kick the smoking habit
A survey of 14,000 workers across Europe reveals that just 13% take time out to smoke while at work.

Recruitment outfit, Kelly services claim that their research suggests that the UK has the lowest rate of smoking of ten European countries.

Norway recorded Europe’s highest rate of workplace smoking at 26%, followed by France (23%), Germany and Italy (22%), Scandinavia (21%), Netherlands (20%), Belgium (18%), Spain and Russia (both at 15%) and the UK (13%).

Those that do smoke take breaks one to three times a day, something that is causing tension with non-smoking colleagues, 45% of whom believe that smoking breaks result in decreased productivity.

A statement that smokers refute, 43% think smoking breaks actually increase their productivity while a further 52% believe it doesn’t affect their output either way.

The findings of the survey come at a time when the Government are starting a three-month consultation period to decide the definition of the enclosed workplace, offences, penalties and defences as well as when the ban may be implemented.

UK men (16%) smoke more than UK women (10%).

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Annie Hayes


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