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News in Brief: The week in HR

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Briefcase

Catch up on the week in HR with our at-a-glance news round up including HR’s failure to step up to the M&A challenge, why ACAS management has been left red-faced, the wildcat strike grounding BA passengers and how a boss’s indecent proposal cost him £150,000.



W/C 11/08/05
HR fails to deliver M&A demands
One in five HR functions would not be ready to provide support if their business became involved in a deal.

Mercer Human Resource Consulting claim that HR is simply not prepared for the challenge. This is despite an increase in Merger and Acquisition (M&A) activity.

Thirty-nine per cent of respondents said that communicating effectively with employees was the hardest part. While 35% cited managing the people issues, retaining key staff and identifying suitable roles as the most challenging aspect, while 26% said it was harmonising employees’ pay and benefits.

“Organisations rely heavily on their HR departments during mergers and acquisitions as the way employee issues are handled is crucial to the success of a deal. All the signs show that M&A activity is on the increase, so HR needs to step up to the plate,” said Peter Wallum, European Partner at Mercer.

He added: “Uncertainty surrounding deals can make employees anxious, so regular communication is paramount. If insufficient information is provided, employees will draw their own conclusions and companies risk losing key staff.”

The survey found that 24% of organisations involve HR at the strategy and deal planning stage of a merger or acquisition. Forty per cent of companies engage HR at the due diligence phase, while 36% wait until deal implementation when the two organisations integrate.

“HR has a valuable contribution to make in an M&A situation, so the function should be involved as early as possible,” Mr Wallum commented.

More than 200 HR professionals were quizzed.

Red-faced ACAS answers petition
Conciliation service ACAS have been embarrassed by claims that they failed to follow rules they advocate to members regarding proper consultation over job cuts.

The Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) submitted a petition signed by over 400 ACAS staff demanding a formal negotiated agreement under the Information and Consultation regulations.

Commenting Steve Farley PCS national officer said: “ACAS plays an important role as the champion of workplace consultation, yet ACAS management are failing to practice what they preach. Huge decisions have been made about job losses and cuts to services but ACAS management have refused to consult with the front line staff who provide those services about the changes. As a result they’ve made some very bad decisions leading to a crisis within the service. Morale has plummeted leading our members to pass a vote of no-confidence in the Chief Executive and Chair of ACAS council.”

ACAS plan to reduce staff numbers, close several local offices and cut back on the conciliation service in individual rights cases. Professional conciliators will be replaced with regional call centres according to the union.

Jobs market cool down eases pay pressure
The latest report from the Recruitment Employment Confederation (REC) and Deloitte shows a gradual cooling of the labour market with candidate demand being met.

Greater numbers of migrant workers are thought to have eased the supply shortage. Although growth remained robust, recruitment consultancies reported that July’s increase in demand was the least marked in twenty-two months.

Commenting on the latest report, Ashley Unwin, consulting partner at Deloitte said:

“Cooling demand for staff across sectors has eased pressure on pay, with average increases now at 4.1%. However, the impact of the Olympic win can already be seen in some areas, with growth in the construction and service sectors already apparent.”

Marcia Roberts, Deputy Chief Executive of the REC said: “For the fourth month in a row the UK manufacturing sector continued to shed jobs, but last month saw the largest fall for over two years. The widespread skills shortage of previous months is less evident as larger numbers of migrant workers and seasonal workers enter the job market and are placed by recruiters.

“Although growth in demand for both permanent and temporary workers continues to level out, we must not lose sight of the fact that there has now been continuous growth for over two years. Even with the continued decline in manufacturing, the UK labour market remains in good health, with a particularly strong showing for employment growth in the service sector last month.”

CIPD launch Coaching and Mentoring Certificate
Professional body, the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) has announced a new certificate in Coaching and Mentoring.

The training aims to hone coaching and mentoring skills to help managers contribute to organisational and individual effectiveness.

Jessica Jarvis, CIPD Training, Learning and Development Adviser, said, “Staff development is now an ongoing activity using a wide variety of formal and informal learning methods. Coaching and mentoring are increasingly popular as the importance of on the job learning is recognised in the workplace.

“However, if coaching and mentoring are to deliver on the promise they offer, employers need to ensure that line managers are provided with sufficient training themselves.”

Almost three quarters or 72% of organisations use mentoring schemes while 88% expect line managers to deliver coaching as part of their daily work.
According to the CIPD most employers plan to increase mentoring and coaching activity over the next few years with 82% reporting that formal mentoring schemes are one of the most effective development activities.

For more information please visit www.cipd.co.uk

Employers warm to sabbaticals
Three quarters of businesses agree they would rather let a valuable employee take time out than lose them altogether.

These are the findings of research conducted by travel specialist i-to-i. According to the firm, nearly half or 44% of respondents would also offer some salary to their absent employees to secure their return.

Employers are also motivated by the business benefits of letting their workers take a career break:

  • Two thirds (66%) feel sabbatical schemes would help retain workers by showing employers’ commitment to their staff.

  • Six in ten (58%) say a career break could enhance employees’ skills and experience, whilst

  • More than half (55%) say the option of a sabbatical would help prevent workers feeling tired and unmotivated.

Six in ten larger organisations and one in five smaller businesses would be happy to offer some form of career break or corporate trip to groups to reward outstanding workers.

Deirdre Bounds, founder of i-to-i commented: “Corporate Social Responsibility is becoming increasingly important for businesses of all sizes, so more and more companies are incorporating worthwhile activities, such as volunteer work, into their HR policies. Similarly, employee retention is a big consideration for any business, so by offering travel incentives for outstanding workers, employers can gain the best of both worlds.”

A third of managers indicated they would like to take a career break at some point although only 10% had already done so.

‘Good’ jobs are hard to come by
Only 39% of employees would classify their jobs as being good, defined as a perfect mix of excitement but not too much stress.

These are the findings from the latest report Reflections on employee well-being and the psychological contract by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development(CIPD).

Nic Marks, Head of well-being research at nef (the new economics foundation) and co-author of the report says, “Interest and excitement are key elements in the psychological contract between employers and employees.

If employees don’t feel their role is exciting this will be reflected in their lack of commitment, underperformance and satisfaction.”

Marks advises employers to create a balance between the challenges of the job and the individual’s abilities to ensure that staff flourish in their roles.

According to the report managing appropriate stress levels depends on support from supervisors, relationships with colleagues, status of the role and a sense of identity with the organisation.

While creating an interesting and exciting job involves establishing job variety and clarity as well as physical security.

Mike Emmott, CIPD Employee Relations Adviser says that the findings point the finger to employers, who he says need to work harder to get the most from their staff.

Employee Well-being and the Psychological Contract, a report that forms the basis of the latest CIPD findings also concludes that:

  • 42% of respondents said they have little control at work and 20% indicated limited control.

  • 21% of respondents said their jobs were either very or extremely stressful.

  • 26% of respondents said they received little or no support from their supervisor.

  • 37% of respondents say their workload is too heavy and 20% do not believe the demands of their job are realistic.

  • Only 38% of all employees are willing to place a lot of trust in senior management to look after their interests (this falls to 25% for private sector employees).

  • Graduates report lower levels of satisfaction and commitment, despite often occupying senior positions.

Charity campaigns for life saving equipment in workplaces
Britain’s workplaces are failing to install vital equipment that could save thousands of lives every year, according to research carried out on behalf of St. John Ambulance.

The charity says that over 170,000 people in the UK die from cardiac arrests every year, but treatment with an Automated External Defibrillator (AED) within the first five minutes would cut this number drastically, as it can improve chances of survival from 5% to 50%.

However the study showed that only 5% of workplaces have defribillators, while the majority of people (58%) thought only experienced first aiders could use the machines, while almost a third thought that medical training would be necessary.

Training Manager for St John’s Ambulance Elaine Howlings said: “Anyone can use an AED to save a life, but this research highlights an alarming lack of understanding amongst employers and employees. AEDs are actually very simple to use. Our aim is to get more of them into the workplace with more people trained in their use. Surely all responsible employers should be looking at this very seriously.”

Howlings said that the most common misconception was that AEDs would be large, unwieldy machines that require the user to analyse the victim’s electrocardiogram (ECG) and administer a high-voltage shock through hand-held paddles.

She added that modern AEDs are in fact compact machines that automatically analyse the casualty and advise on suitable action through easy-to-follow voice prompts.

IRIS challenges Sage with HR advice service
Ever eager to make themselves indispensible to their customers, UK software houses Sage and IRIS are now offering customers telephone support services on human resources and legal issues.

Earlier this summer, Sage expanded its customer support facilities with a new HR and health & safety advice service, starting at £125 a year for companies up to 10 employees and ranging up to £995 for 500 employees (or £2 per employee thereafter).

Based around an advisory website, the service includes a range of HR document templates such as contracts of employment and policy guidance. Newsletters and email reminders are also included in the service. A more expensive service, starting from £295 gets you telephone access to HR and employment law experts.

If needed, the professional service includes a log of documents downloaded and advice taken to provide a “compliance trail” for advice on which you may have acted.

“The advice is not legalistic, but practical and tailored to your specific situation,” the company claimed on the Sage HR Advice web page.

For more on this story see: www.accountingweb.co.uk

Holiday leave offers little relaxation
Only 10% of employers hire in temporary staff to cover the work loads of holidaying staff.

These are the findings of recruitment outfit, Manpower.

According to the research, nearly half of Brits return from their summer holiday to a mountain of work.

Seven per cent admitted to being contacted while on holiday suggesting that for many there is little respite while on leave.

Greg Teare, operations director, Manpower UK said: “Summer holidays should be about completely relaxing and forgetting the daily routine. This won’t happen if people spend their holiday worrying about what work is piling up, how many emails are in their inbox or the additional burden their holiday is causing colleagues.”

Manpower suggests the following tips for people preparing to go on holiday:

  • Clear your desk and do your filing before you go – the last thing you need is to return to mountains of paperwork.

  • Let colleagues, clients and other contacts know that you will be away. If you have them, alter your voicemail and out of office messages to let people know what date you return.

  • Nominate a colleague to deal with urgent answerphone or email messages – and ensure you return the favour when they go away!

  • Complete outstanding projects before you go – that way you don’t have to worry about them whilst on holiday.

  • Ensure a colleague covers any ongoing tasks – prepare a handover document for colleagues so you can enjoy your holiday reassured that they are properly briefed.

  • Don’t schedule any meetings for the day you return – you will have enough to catch-up-on without adding extra pressures.

A total of 1,800 people were quizzed as part of the survey.

Ignorant bosses fail to spot harassment
Just 18% of employers take complaints regarding offensive jokes seriously.

These are the findings of employment law firm, Peninsula. The news comes despite 66% of bosses who say they have witnessed workplace pranks escalating to the point of offending.

Employees are also recognising that not enough is being done. Sixty-eight per of workers said that bosses could do more to help.

Mike Huss, Senior Employment Law specialist at Peninsula said:

“Employers have to bear in the mind the damaging consequences of harassment cases in the workplace which can lead to the loss of employees, Tribunals and financial pitfalls. Employers should be more aware of this growing problem and the legal position.

“It’s imperative to stamp out this problem in its developing stages and use the proper conduct procedures when stating when a joke goes too far. An employer is under duty in criminal law and in law of tort under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 to ensure the welfare of employees.”

A total of 1,897 employers and 1,467 employees were quizzed as part of the survey.

Unrequited love costs boss £150,000 at Tribunal
An Executive whose boss offered her a £1000 for every weekend she spent with him has been awarded £150,000 by an Employment Tribunal in compensation.

Reported in the Times newspaper, Patricia MacKinnon, 48 from Bickley Kent resigned as managing director of Bromley Appointments, a recruitment company in 2003 after refusing the advances of Jack Parkinson the Chairman of HR GO plc (formerly the Human Resource Group).

According to the newspaper, Parkinson became obsessed with MacKinnon after buying a share in the recruitment outfit.
Parkinson said that he could see through MacKinnon’s skirt and that it excited him, and commented on her breasts.

Commenting on the outcome MacKinnon said: “Following three very difficult years I am looking forward to developing my new business and learning how to smile again.”

HR GO said in a statement that it was disappointed at the outcome of the tribunal.

Wildcat strikes ground BA passengers
Unofficial strikes by staff at airline catering supplier, Gate Gourmet have prevented more than 100,000 passengers taking to the skies in a dispute which has forced BA to cancel all flights in and out of Heathrow until at least 6pm today.

According to the Times, Gate Gourmet which is said to have lost £22 million last year and could lose £25 million this year carried out 800 sackings on Wednesday after an unofficial stoppage over its employment of 130 casual staff.

The newspaper reports that staff were told by loudspeaker that they had three minutes to return to work or be sacked.

Tony Woodley, T&G general secretary said that efforts to secure the reinstatement of the sacked workers had been thwarted by the ‘intransigent’ response from Gate Gourmet.

“The company has told us that ‘this is a community we cannot work with.’ The employees concerned are almost all low-paid Asian workers, and such an approach is utterly unacceptable.”

More than 95% of the sacked staff, earn between £12,000 and £16,000 a year. The workforce is predominantly female.

The Times add: ”The union have also claimed that the sackings had been engineered, with letters of dismissal drawn up in advance. Dozens of staff on holiday or off sick received letters yesterday telling them they had been sacked. The company admitted that this has been a mistake.”

The dispute goes on.

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