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News in brief: workplace stress driving men to drink

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Workplace stress driving men to drink
Overworked and stressed men are turning to drink to cope with workplace pressures, according to a survey of more than 2,000 men.

The survey, by the makers of Wellman vitamins, also found that 22% were depressed and 17% had turned to the doctor for help. One in five admitted to having aggressive outbursts, 15% experienced a lowered sex drive, and 5% suffered stress-related impotence.

The most stressful professions were law, banking and education. Women were not surveyed.

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New discrimination code on the way
A new disability discrimination code which includes the provisions of the Disability Discrimination Act that come into force on December 4 this year has been laid before parliament.

Once it has parliamentary approval, the Disability Rights Commission aims to publish and issue the new code this summer. It will replace the existing code.

The provisions that come into force in December relate to new duties for public authorities, landlords and private members clubs.

For more information on disability discrimination legislation and codes of practice go to: Law legislation codes

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Training bonus
Organisations that employ under 50 people can now apply for the wage compensation programme of the Learning and Skills Council’s Train to Gain scheme.

The Treasury has set aside £76 million over the next two years to fund the programme which will enable employers to reclaim the wages (minus deductions such as National Insurance) for employees on work-time training schemes.

Train to Gain is aimed at increasing employees’ literacy and numeracy skills, as well as ensuring they can use a computer. The wage compensation programme offers free training up to a Level 2 NVQ qualification, provided employees do not already possess five GCSEs at grades A-C.

There is also a funded programme which offers help with Level 3 NVQs, apprenticeships and higher education.

For more information go to: Train to gain

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Stats show public sector most affected by strikes
Office of National Statistics figures reveal that the public sector lost more working days due to strikes than the private sector last year but the private sector had a greater number of disputes.

Overall the public sector accounted for 63 per cent of working days lost through industrial action last year due to the greater numbers of workers taking part.

But 2005 saw the lowest number of days lost (158,000) to industrial action in both sectors since records began in 1998.

John Philpott, chief economist at the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, said the public sector difficulties were caused by being larger organisations with a stronger union presence, centralised employee relations systems and pressure to deliver the Gershon efficiency savings.

He added that the data indicated there was more to good employment relations than improvements in job prospects and pay conditions alone.

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Chancellor calls for local pay deals
As part of the country’s approach to globalisation, Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown has told business leaders that there should be more flexibility in pay negotiations through local or regional deals.

During the speech at the CBI president’s dinner, he also said that he wanted to limit public sector pay increases for the next two years.

The Chancellor said: “Your companies and our country are in the midst of the biggest global industrial and economic restructuring the world has ever seen: the replacement of national flows of capital by global flows of capital, the national and continental sourcing of goods and services by global sourcing of goods and services.

“The paradox of today’s globalisation is that even its winners feel themselves to be losers. People who are benefiting from cheaper clothes, cheaper electronics goods still think of globalisation as job losses.”

He warned that increasing protectionism by countries could bring about the kind of world-wide depression seen in the 1930s.

“Unless we can explain that the same globalisation that is seeing the loss of old jobs can create new and better jobs; unless we can show the same globalisation that sees jobs sent offshore can see more jobs created onshore; unless we can illustrate how the same globalisation that is forcing displacement of labour is also opening up new opportunities for millions; then people will see globalisation as a recipe for insecurity not the potential prosperity we know it to be,” he added.

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Are you making the most of your temps?

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Stalemate on working time directive opt-out
Ministers from across Europe failed to reach agreement yesterday on whether countries taking advantage of the Working Time Directive’s opt-out clause can continue to do so after 2010.

Negotiating time has now run out under the Austrian presidency, so the issue has been shelved until Finland takes over the presidency in July.

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TUC urges better conditions for temps
The Trades Union Congress (TUC) has called on the government to persuade the EU to resurrect the Agency Workers’ Directive which aims to provide temporary workers with better working conditions.

It also says that, in the meantime, domestic legislation to protect temps should be introduced.

According to a new survey by the TUC 87 per cent of temporary workers earn less than their permanent contemporaries. The reasons vary from lower hourly rates to losing out on overtime or bonus schemes.

And the TUC also says that the traditional picture of a temporary worker being in a support role for a few weeks has changed. Many of the temps it surveyed, both in the public and private sector, are performing key roles and although the average contract is for three months, a quarter had been in place for more than 11 months.

In ‘Working on the edge: A report on agency workers’, the TUC says that although the UK government has said it remains committed to the aims of the Agency Workers’ Directive, since September 2005 this draft piece of European legislation has effectively been sitting on a Brussels shelf, unable to attract sufficient support from enough European governments for it to become law.

The TUC is concerned that employers are increasingly seeing temps as a way of getting staff on the cheap, taking on agency workers to fulfil the same roles as permanent employees. Over the past five years, 82 per cent of the organisations surveyed said they were using temps more often and nearly a third have replaced permanent employees with temporary workers.

But the TUC points out that temps are not covered by unfair dismissal legislation and they are not entitled to redundancy payments.

TUC general secretary Brendan Barber said: “Clearly temporary jobs are always going to be preferable for some people who have family or other commitments, but there’s no reason why the thousands of individuals who opt for agency work should be getting such a raw deal.

“Earning less, not allowed to pay into a pension scheme or to benefit from an employer’s contributions, given less holiday, little if any access to training, and no sick pay, is no way for the UK to be treating a significant proportion of its workforce.

“But there is a simple solution. If it became law, the EU Directive would instantly make life fairer for temps by giving them the same basic rights as their permanent colleagues. The government should do all it can to breathe life back into the shelved Directive and to encourage other European governments to give the draft legislation similar support.”

The TUC survey covered 85 workplaces representing 100,000 staff and 15,000 temps. A copy can be found at: TUC temps

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Europe to highlight equal opps in 2007
The EU has announced that 2007 will be designated the ‘European Year of Equal Opportunities for All’.

A budget of €15 million has been set aside for an information campaign and activities to promote the four themes of: rights, representation, recognition and respect.

The 2007 European year will focus on discrimination linked to gender, race or ethnic origin, religion or belief, disability, age or sexual orientation. Much of the British legislation in these areas comes from EU Directives.

Further information can be found at: Social equality 2007

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HR Software Show – Exclusive preivew
The CIPD’s HR Software Show at London Olympia on 21-22 June will draw together more than 50 suppliers with everything from fully integrated, web-based application developers to specialist tools for recruitment, time & attendance and policy management. Click for highlights of the key product announcements.

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Talks on working time directive shelved
Talks to secure a new opt-out deal for Britain from the Working Time Directive have been shelved after ministers failed to agree on a solution.

The EU Directive ensures a 48-hour working week – but in Britain workers are able to opt out and work longer if they wish. Britain wants to hang onto the deal but a group of countries, including France, Belgium, Luxembourg and Cyprus want an end to the opt out clause.

Austria, which currently holds the EU presidency, has offered a compromise deal which would allow Britain to opt out of a 48-hour working week but would set a limit of 65 hours.

It also proposes that the opt out should be renewable annually with companies having to explain to their workers why they are required to work long hours. In addition, there should be a cooling off period of one month for any new joiner in which they could change their mind about agreeing to opt out.

EU employment commissioner Vladimir Spidla also wants to change the Directive’s wording to make it clear that the opt-out is the exception and the 48-hour week is the rule – but he is prepared to let Britain keep the opt-out indefinitely if those conditions are met.

According to the FT Britain’s trade and industry secretary Alistair Darling is happy to strike a deal providing he can obtain a ‘legally watertight opt-out’ as it will end the uncertainty over the length of time Britain can keep the opt-out. But the opposing countries are not happy with the deal.

Talks will continue when Finland take over the EU presidency in July.

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Company car survey reveals shock result
Eighteen percent of vehicles used on company business are unroadworthy, according to the latest Vehicle Monitor Survey carried out by vehicle management company Total Motion. It also found a further 35% were not properly maintained. The survey covered both company and privately owned vehicles used on company business.

Surveyors also checked drivers and found that six percent had invalid licences, 3% had no tax and 12% of those using private cars were not properly insured.

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Age discrimination: DTI factsheets
Age discrimination is set to come into force on October 1 this year – and if the experience in the Republic of Ireland is anything to go by it’s going to have a major impact.

In the ROI age discrimination now accounts for nearly a fifth of all formal discrimination claims. To help you get ready for the new regulations, the DTI has published eight factsheets covering everything from transitional arrangements to vocational training, redundancy and pensions.

You can find them at: Age legislation directives

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World cup fever: a nightmare for HR?
National flags are everywhere and Wayne Rooney’s broken metatarsal never seems to be out of the news – yes, World Cup fever strikes again.

But for HR practitioners the World Cup could be a nightmare scenario. In fact, the potential problems are such that the conciliation and arbitration service ACAS has published a list of FAQs on its website.

Issues addressed include giving time off to allow staff to watch England matches and the potential issue of racial discrimination towards staff from other countries who are following their home team.

Companies with ‘no alcohol’ policies are advised to consider providing viewing facilities to avoid potential requests to view matches in the pub, or to allow the trip to the pub but issue a reminder about the ‘no alcohol’ policy.

Absenteeism is also considered, although disciplinary action and sick pay will largely depend on contractual arrangements.

Although the guide considers the issue of sexual discrimination if companies assume that women are not going to want to watch the matches, it does not consider the issue of workplace harmony.

There may be members of staff who do not want to watch matches. If those who want to watch England play are allowed time off, it is only fair to offer some flexibility to those who are manning the office. Otherwise you could be storing up resentment for the future.

The ACAS World Cup FAQs are at: ACAS FAQs

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Class of 2006 – will they graduate?
University lecturers’ unions have rejected the latest pay offer of 13.1% over three years.

In the worst-affected institutions the class of 2006 will not graduate.

Some institutions have proposed allowing students to graduate by substituting course marks for examinations and others are to have scripts marked by one examiner rather than two.

But will the class of 2006 will always have a question mark hanging over the quality of their degrees?

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