Keep on the right side of the law

first_img Previous Article Next Article Comments are closed. An update of changes in employment law and the responsibilities of the OHpractitioner were discussedEmployment law consultant Joan Lewis of ACT Associates returned to theconference once again to give her popular, if frightening update on recentchanges in employment law. This year these included new maternity leave and payrights, other family leave proposals, the prevention of illegal working andavoidance of race discrimination and dignity at work policies – anti-bullying,harassment, ageism and so on. She also looked at the provisions of the Acas arbitration scheme, thevoluntary alternative to employment tribunals for resolving unfair dismissalclaims. Both parties need to agree a written arbitration agreement, hearingsare confidential and there is no right of appeal. Lewis also examined the health and safety provisions for young workers.There should be specific risk assessments for young workers, who should now beworking a maximum of an eight-hour day. Turning to recent case law, sexual bullies in the workplace face the veryreal prospect of going to prison, following the case of R v Lancashire and Wakefield,Lewis announced. She also referred to developments in DDA case law and casesrelating to the occupational health practitioner’s duty of care and gaveguidelines on ethics and standards of service. She suggested points to remember when trying to ensure that you are giving ahelpful report in a DDA case. – Don’t make management decisions – Do give an opinion as to if, when, and how an employee might return towork – Give objective, health-related decisions supported by brief facts. Lewis laid out the grounds for termination of employment for health-relatedreasons. Incapacity by reason of ill-health is a fair reason for dismissal, shesaid, but it is vital to follow proper procedures. These include a thoroughinvestigation, including medical reports, a review of the DDA implications,proper communication with the employee and finally and most importantly, thedemonstration of sympathy, compassion and understanding in your dealings withthe employee. Lewis went on to review the case law relating to specialist reports in DDAcauses, concluding that the evidence of a properly-qualified occupationalhealth specialist was essential. She said in cases where conflicting medicaladvice was given that the law allowed the employer to rely on the opinion oftheir occupational health professional unless that person had relied on notesonly without making an examination; had failed to make a specific conclusion;the continued employment of the person posed a genuine risk to the health andsafety of others; or the treating specialist should have been asked for anopinion. Keep on the right side of the lawOn 1 Nov 2001 in Personnel Today Related posts:No related photos.last_img read more

HR takes centre stage in dubious docu-soap

first_imgCar rental firm Holiday Autos’ people management has been under thespotlight following the antics of HR manager Susan Wright – one of the ‘stars’of the BBC TV documentary The Secret Life of the Office. But while many viewers of the fly-on-the-wall show will assume the callcentre’s HR team spend their time sending out shirty e-mails warning staff overfrequent toilet use or banning eating and drinking at desks, that imagecouldn’t be further from the truth. Joanne Jobson, Holiday Autos’ new HR director, said her team had beenworking hard to improve recruitment and retention of staff. They have updatedthe recruitment process, increased induction training from one to three weeks,and introduced mentors for new staff. Since filming 18 months ago, the company has recruited more than 100 newstaff and reduced employee turnover by 15 per cent to 25 per cent. It nowemploys more than 400. The company has also introduced more flexible working arrangements andimproved communication with the senior management teams. Jobson believes the HR team – now 10-strong, up from two during filming –suffered as a result of some cynical editing by the programme’s makers. Shesaid it was a turbulent time for the business, which included a company-wideoffice move and the launch of a recruitment drive. “The HR department was definitely treated harshly – all call centreshave these performance conditions in place as we need to know what staff aredoing,” she said. “They were not enforced or talked about as much asthe TV show makes out.” The adverse publicity has improved morale among the current workforce, saidJobson. “It has also brought staff together behind the company – as it didnot fairly represent the business.” By Paul Nelson Comments are closed. Related posts:No related photos. Previous Article Next Article HR takes centre stage in dubious docu-soapOn 6 Aug 2002 in Personnel Todaylast_img read more

Work-life balance boost for Dixons

first_imgWork-life balance boost for DixonsOn 1 Oct 2002 in Personnel Today Related posts:No related photos. Previous Article Next Article Electrical retailer Dixons is launching a package of work-life balanceinitiatives to help improve staff motivation and productivity. The group’s HR director for central operations, Liz Purdy, hopes its onlinejob-share register and voluntary work in the community scheme will improve itsstaff’s working lives. “If staff have a good balance between their professional and personallife they are a lot more motivated and productive, which we want toencourage,” she said. Other initiatives to improve employee work-life balance, trialled at thefirm’s head office last week, included talks on time management and access toan online shopping service. Staff also benefited from reflexology sessions and Indian head massagesduring the trial which coincided with work-life balance week. Dixons has recently introduced a new focus on HR as a core strand of itsbusiness and is hoping that improving work life balance will have an impact onits ability to attract talent. “We must focus on people strategy to help us attract and retain thebest people. Work-life balance is a big part of that,” said Purdy. Comments are closed. last_img read more

Lack of faith in religious laws

first_imgLack of faith in religious lawsOn 5 Nov 2002 in Personnel Today Discrimination on the grounds of religion, belief and sexual orientationwill soon be illegal, but legal experts are concerned that it could lead to anincrease in workplace disputes. Quentin Reade reportsImpending new laws outlawing discrimination at work on the grounds ofreligion, belief and sexual orientation will create a ‘minefield’ of employmenttribunal claims. The proposed legislation, announced by Barbara Roche, the ministerresponsible for equality, is being introduced to bring the UK in line withexisting EU directives and will come into force by December 2003. The legislation also covers age discrimination, but this aspect will notbecome law in this country until 2006. The new laws have been widely welcomed but employment experts warn that thesection banning religious discrimi- nation will create problems because of itswide scope – protecting both religions and “similar philosophicalbeliefs”. Robin Bloom, partner at law firm Dickinson Dees, said the new legislation issure to generate more employment tribunal claims because the definition ofreligion is open to interpretation. “It opens up a new avenue of claims. Some employers won’t be preparedand there will be people who want to exploit that. Some people will be lookingto push it in some areas,” he said. He said many employers would be unaware that the rules, which are subject toconsultation until 24 January 2003, cover areas such as Rastafarianism andDruidism. Under the legislation the rights of atheists and humanists will also have tobe taken into account by employers. Sue Ashtiany, partner and head of employment law at Nabarro Nathanson, believesthat difficulties may arise because some religions “don’t sit well”with others and with other workplace rights. Some areas of Islam, Christianity and Judaism frown on homosexuality, shesaid, and followers may not wish to work alongside a gay colleague. This wouldcreate a conflict of rights – something she believes the Government needs toaddress. “What will happen when rights clash?” she said. “That is amatter for the Government.” Ashtiany said HR should start finding out now what faiths their employeesbelong to, what their rights are under the legislation and, where necessary,how their needs can be met. Dianah Worman, CIPD adviser on equal opportunities, agreed that the issue ofconflicting rights is set to create difficulties for employers and the CIPD islooking into the matter. Another area Worman believes may cause contention is how an employee provesthey belong to a faith, and is not simply claiming a particular belief to gainspecial treatment at work. “It’s a big challenge,” she said. “Weneed to work out how we can deal with it sensibly.” Employers will be also considered discriminatory if they make assumptionsabout a person’s beliefs based on their religion. Bloom gives the example of an employer assuming that because someone is Rastafarianthey smoke cannabis. However, the regulations for both sexual orientation and religion containexemptions when discrimination is a “genuine occupationalrequirement”. For example, it will permissible to require a Jewish Chaplinin the Army to be Jewish. Organisations based on a religious ethos – such as a religious school – willalso be allowed to favour members of their own religion. The CBI welcomed the new anti-discrimination rules but stressed that furtherdetailed guidance is needed. Susan Anderson, CBI director of human resources policy, said:”Ministers must now set out the parameters clearly. Companies will notunderstand if they face unnecessary and expensive litigation through no faultof their own.” The introduction of legislation banning discrimination based on sexualorientation is not expected to create too many problems, said Ashtiany. “In this case, legislation is playing catch-up. Most company equalopportunity policies already address it,” she said. The changes will also see some people in same-sex relationships get improvedpension rights, and the CIPD has warned that companies will need to check theydon’t exclude gay people by offering better pension benefits to marriedcouples. New disability regulations are also due to come into force. From 1 October2004, the Disability Discrimination Act 1995, will be amended to give a clearerdefinition of discrimination on grounds of disability. The changes will also introduce a defence to the duty to make reasonableadjustments if the employer didn’t know the employee was disabled. What happens next?Equality and Diversity – The WayAhead is available at consultation closes on 24 January 2003 Comments are closed. Previous Article Next Article Related posts:No related photos.last_img read more

On the move

first_imgOn the moveOn 4 Feb 2003 in Personnel Today Comments are closed. Related posts:No related photos. Previous Article Next Article Recruitment company Manpower has appointed Daniel Kasmir into thenewly-created position of HR director. He will be responsible for Europe, theMiddle East and Africa. His primary task will be to ensure a consistentapproach to HR across the region, which covers 18 markets. Kasmir will workclosely with the senior vice-president for global HR, Robert Lincoln, andreport directly to managing director Yoav Michaely. The change comes by way ofa promotion and he originally joined the company in 2000. Ronnie Clawson has joined the Peabody Trust housing association as HRdirector. He moves from the Affinity Homes Group, where he was group head of HRand administration. Previously he worked as the head of equality and diversityat the Crown Prosecution Service and held senior roles at English ChurchesHousing Group and Wandle Housing Association. Clawson replaces Ann Lewis whojoined Peabody Trust from Childline in 1999. Roffey Park, the research and education organisation, has appointed AndrewConstable (pictured) as director of consultancy and bespoke services. In thepost he will help advise on interventions ranging from management developmentprogrammes and coaching to culture change and organisational development. Hejoined Roffey in 1992 and has held a range of roles, including director ofinternational development. Prior to this he worked in management developmentfor Abbey National. last_img read more

Staff commitment is the key to an improved performance

first_imgWhile keeping your employees happy at work is important for morale, it isstaff commitment, and not staff satisfaction, that will help to maximise thebottom line performance of your organisationOnce again, the effects of an economic downturn are loomingover many organisations. For HR, this means a productive workforce is more crucial than ever, and, atthe same time, dealing with employees who can only look to the future with somenervousness. So what can employers do to get the balance right? To start with, theyshould forget about keeping employees ‘satisfied’. Employee satisfaction is, of course, a ‘good thing’, but does it haveanything to do with performance? There is now clear evidence that ‘satisfied’ employees are not necessarilyemployees who perform to the best of their abilities. Satisfaction can be perceived as rather passive – an internal, personalemotion that does not relate in any clear way to an organisational outcome. Sowhere is the benefit to organisations in employee satisfaction surveys? Organisations have to start thinking much more clearly about what kinds ofstaff attitudes actually make a difference, because ‘satisfaction’ is a redherring. Pioneering employers are coming to understand the need to rethink what theymeasure; a requirement for an organisational dimension to attitude surveys inaddition to the usual employee-centred measures. As a result, commitment, whichis sometimes translated as engagement, is increasingly becoming the focus of HRattention. At the Institute for Employment Studies (IES), we embarked on research witha major retailer to try to measure the difference between the two concepts ofsatisfaction and commitment. Using data from 65,000 employees and 25,000 customers, we found thatemployee commitment had a higher correlation to customer satisfaction thanemployee satisfaction. Importantly, commitment has double the impact of employee satisfaction oncustomers’ future spending intentions. A one-point increase in employeecommitment led to a monthly increase of £200,000 in sales per store and reducedabsenteeism. What exactly is commitment? It is evidently something wider than jobsatisfaction, although this forms an element of it. Commitment has several components: compatibility of values, pride in theorganisation, loyalty, job satisfaction and feeling fairly rewarded. Commitment must also be understood as a two-way street, involvingresponsibilities on the employer to develop and value employees. Admittedly, it may well be difficult for employers to promote employeecommitment at a time when business prospects are uncertain. However, taking noaction at all compounds the problem. Current research at IES, based on an overview of 14 recent datasets, showsthat employees with high levels of commitment express greater satisfaction withperformance management, the culture of the organisation, promotionopportunities and communication. With such a multi-dimensional concept, it is a profound mistake to thinkcommitment can be pinpointed by ‘the killer question’ approach, the way thatsatisfaction has often been. The traditional technique of judging employee satisfaction by asking ‘Pleaseindicate how satisfied you feel about working here on a scale of one to 10’needs to be rejected in favour of more subtle questions that provide a paththrough the different components of commitment. You may ask for ratings against statements like: ‘I find my values and theorganisation’s are very similar’; ‘I speak highly of this organisation to myfriends’; ‘I feel loyal to this organisation’; ‘My organisation inspires thebest performance from me’; ‘I get full credit for my work’; ‘The pay herecompares favourably with other organisations’ and ‘I do not often think aboutleaving’. The point of regular surveys (which should be conducted about once a year)is to provide the basis of targeted HR strategies in particular areas. Theseshould relate commitment to business outcomes, such as employee turnover,absenteeism and financial performance, for example. Commitment is the result of sustained good people management. This meanscommunicating organisational values clearly; ensuring support staff for linemanagers; training appropriately; managing fairly; paying equitably and so on.Use statistical techniques to highlight the importance of each of thesefactors. Then work out where HR action would have the most impact on businessperformance and outcomes. Satisfaction was a worker-centric measure. What is more important today isthe employment relationship, the basis of trust between employer and employee.Understanding and improving commitment is the key to maximising bottom lineperformance. By Sue Hayday, Research fellow, Institute for EmploymentStudies Staff commitment is the key to an improved performanceOn 10 Jun 2003 in Personnel Today Comments are closed. Previous Article Next Article Related posts:No related photos.last_img read more

Prevention is better than a cure

first_imgStressin the workplace could be seen as an epidemic. However, some public sectoremployers are showing it can be avoided if the right policies are put in place.Jo Rick, principal research fellow, Institute for Employment Studies, applaudstheir creativity and flexibility in tackling the problemThepublic sector, with constant modernisation initiatives and a powerful impetusfor sweeping change in every area, appears to be the perfect breeding groundfor stress. A cycle of new demands and pressure leads to more stress, absence,and then further demands to do better still. Organisations could be forgivenfor pressing the panic button.Buthold on. What is this ‘disease’ that could spread so quickly? The fact is that‘stress’ is used too often as a catch-all phrase. A GP will write ‘stress’ on asick note because their duty is to decide whether or not a person is fit forwork. However, the key to being able to intervene effectively is understandingthe specific nature of the problem.Stressas a cause of absence is different from physical illnesses. If an employeesends in a sick note, for example, for a broken leg, the employer immediatelyhas some idea of the likely length of absence, the limitations on that employeeduring the illness and whether there will be any need for adjustment to work inthe longer term.Adiagnosis of stress says nothing about the specific problem, the possiblecauses, the likely length of absence and whether the problem is reallywork-related. Technically speaking, stress is not a diagnosis, and is notlisted in medical diagnostic criteria.Lookmore closely and employers will see that stress is not the invisible assassin,stalking the workplace, but is being used to describe what is actually a rangeof specific, identifiable and usually preventable or resolvable situations.Organisations can deal with it, and there are many examples of good practice inthe UK of how employees are being rehabilitated back into work.1Alongsideother good practice in rehabilitation, organisations are starting to recognisethat if they are to tackle stress, they need to start with a much more detailedand specific assessment of the nature of the problem.Forinstance, Lancashire Constabulary Central Division has changed its culture toensure stress is seen as an issue that needs to be addressed quickly. Anattendance policy is in place to pick up on longer spells of absence, and anyabsence relating to stress or anxiety is followed up immediately. Fullassessments are made to pinpoint the real causes of absence and employees areable to agree their own rehabilitation plan, which might involve temporary‘recuperative’ duties, change of work location or home working. The range ofstress policies and practices are seen to have been a real success in reducinglevels of sickness absence.AtSandwell Healthcare Trust, there is a robust absence reporting procedure inplace, with regular contact with the absent employee. Rehabilitation plans aretailored to the needs of the individual employee, often involving the use oftemporary placements. The trust operates a case management system, with rolesclearly defined for the line manager, divisional HR managers and occupationalhealth in each plan. Training is available for managers in managing change andadvice on how to maintain contact with an absent employee – a difficult taskfor many managers when stress is the problem. Goodrehabilitation practice is based around the following principles:–Maintaining contact with the employee on a personal rather than a purelywork-related basis–Attempting to diagnose the specific problems behind the stress involved–Providing immediate support from the start of the absence–Encouraging stress awareness among line managers–Being creative and flexible about options for a return-to-work–Developing an agreed rehabilitation plan with the employee–Creating a written policy or set of guidelines for employee rehabilitation.Thereis much talk of flexibility in the workplace in order to improve motivation andproductivity. It may actually be that creativity and flexibility in approachesto preventing stress and rehabilitating employees can bring even bigger rewards.Someorganisations are trying something new. For example, offering coaching formanagers in dealing with an employee once they are off work with stress, andthe creation of closer working relationships between employers, occupationalhealth and GPs to determine more specific causes.Themore specific diagnoses become, the more quickly this ominous, entirely vagueepidemic can be exposed and organisations will be able to get a handle on thespecific underlying issues.Reference:1.Best Practice in Rehabilitating Employees Following Absence Due to Work-RelatedStress, Thompson, Neathey, Rick, HSE 2003, ISBN 0 7176 2715 2, £20.00, is alsoavailable as a free download from the Health & Safety Executive stress webpages, information, contact Jo Rick, [email protected],at the Institute for Employment Studies (IES), Prevention is better than a cureOn 1 Oct 2003 in Personnel Today Previous Article Next Article Related posts:No related photos. Comments are closed. last_img read more

UK has long way to go on keeping workers informed

first_img Previous Article Next Article UK organisations still have a lot of work to do before the Information andConsultation Directive becomes law this time next year, Will Hutton has warned.Speaking exclusively to Personnel Today, the chief executive of The WorkFoundation, said he hoped UK employers would be ahead of the game, but fearsthat the reality will be somewhat different. “The legislation will create more demands on employers and another setof arguments,” he said. “UK companies don’t do enough talking withtheir workforces and there needs to be an increase in dialogue.” Hutton expects employees and unions to demand earlier and more detailedconsultation. “They will say ‘thank you for consulting with us – but why didn’t youdo it earlier and is that all you’ve got to tell us?’,” he said. He said the workforce was shrinking while the economy is in a period ofalmost unprecedented growth. “One of the main problems is that we need every woman to have 2.1babies if the UK population is to remain stable. British women are simply notdelivering the babies we need.” He urged businesses to look to older workers as a potential solution to theproblem. “The good thing about older people is they tend to be more stable, moreloyal and more committed workers,” he said. Related posts:No related photos. UK has long way to go on keeping workers informedOn 16 Mar 2004 in Personnel Today Comments are closed. last_img read more

‘Institutionalised discrimination’ is hindering employment of the blind

first_img Comments are closed. Related posts:No related photos. Previous Article Next Article ‘Institutionalised discrimination’ is hindering employment of the blindOn 22 Jun 2004 in Personnel Today More than 90 per cent of UK employers may be breaking the law bydiscriminating against blind and partially-sighted jobseekers, according to theRoyal National Institute of the Blind (RNIB). In a report released last week, the RNIB said 92 per cent of employersbelieve it would be “difficult or impossible” to employ someone witha sight problem, contravening the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) of 1995. Despite 630,000 vacancies in the UK, three-quarters of blind andpartially-sighted people remain unemployed because of “institutionaliseddiscrimination” among employers, the RNIB said. Philippa Simkiss, assistant director for employment at the RNIB, said:”Ignorance and outdated attitudes are preventing blind andpartially-sighted people from getting into work. Employers’ attitudes need toundergo a sea-change to end this vicious circle of exclusion.” The situation hasn’t improved over the past 10 years, despite the DDA andgovernment schemes such as Access to Work, according to the RNIB report. It found that 37 per cent of employers are ignorant of the DDA, while thevast majority of small businesses (97 per cent) are unaware that the Act willapply to them from October this year. The RNIB has launched a campaign calling on employers to change their beliefthat people with sight problems are too difficult or expensive to employ. As part of the ‘Work Matters – Seeing the Potential of Workers with SightLoss’ campaign, the RNIB will host a series of events for employers, staff andthe general public to provide information and advice on the equipment,technology and services available to help people with sight problems at work. The RNIB is also calling on the Government to provide more funds for Accessto Work, and to promote the scheme more widely to ensure all businesses areaware of it. By Daniel Thomaslast_img read more

People make a difference not policies

first_imgPeople make a difference not policiesOn 29 Jun 2004 in Personnel Today Related posts:No related photos. Comments are closed. A good diversity policy has nothing to do with the traditional view of‘equal opportunities’, according to the chief executive of tourist busoperator, The Original Tour. Keith Spicer, who is diversity champion at the Arriva-owned company, told anaudience of HR directors at a conference by market research company, ORCInternational, that the Original Tour’s diversity policy is about “goodpeople, not tokenism”. “It is the antithesis of equal opportunities,” he said. “Idon’t want to hear about numbers, it’s opinions that matter. Our [Muslim] staffknow that rotas will be changed to support them during Ramadan. We treat themdifferently based on their circumstances, not meeting equal opportunitiestargets.” As well as ensuring employees are happy, a good diversity policy makescommercial sense, Spicer said. He quoted UK workforce demographics, whichsuggest that, by 2010, ethnic minorities will make up 25-50 per cent of theworkforce in metropolitan areas, and that 80 per cent of growth will be women. “If we want to fish in the largest resource pool, we need to makechanges,” he said. However, some developments designed to encourage diversity have gone toofar, Spicer said. “Sometimes I think the legislators lose the plot on diversity,” hesaid. “We are going to be asked not to discriminate by being giveninformation on sexual orientation and so forth. But when I didn’t know, Icouldn’t discriminate.” Previous Article Next Articlelast_img read more