Follow the rules of engagement

Despite all the scare stories in the media, the enlargement of the European
Union needn’t hold any fears for the savvy HR professional.

Workers from the 10 accession countries are now legally entitled to work in
the UK, and employers should regard this as a golden opportunity to fill
chronic skills gaps and boost productivity – after all, we’re short of a few
hundred thousand workers in the construction industry alone.

It is also an opportunity for HR to demonstrate its value to the board by
putting the right policies in place to ensure compliance with the law. By
simply following the rules of engagement, HR can minimise the chances of organisations
employing staff illegally, thereby avoiding the possibility of being fined for
doing so. And at £5,000 per illegal worker, those fines could soon add up.

Some organisations will no doubt be thinking that the easiest route would be
to simply ignore jobseekers from the new EU countries. But any smart HR
professional would be able to advise them of the folly of that route, as it
would amount to discrimination on the grounds of nationality.

‘But look at all that red tape’, I hear you cry. Well, the reality, as
outlined on page 25, is far from onerous. Yes, there are some extra hoops to
jump through – but not many. And by keeping disruption to a minimum, we will
see the benefits of welcoming this addition to the labour pool, and better
understand how good HR can make a difference.

Startling statistic

The news that Whitbread and BSkyB have created board-level HR appointments
is, perhaps, a sign that the function is at last beginning to make inroads into
strategic thinking in big business. And, on the face of it, this news would
seem to counter the accusation in last week’s issue that senior HR executives
are not up to the job.

Carlsberg UK’s chief executive Colin Povey attacked the low calibre of
senior HR professionals after spending more than six months looking for a
suitable candidate for the post of HR director. So our news barometer poll
asked readers ‘Is senior HR up to scratch?’. The response was emphatic: more
than 80 per cent of you said ‘no’.

This is a startling statistic. And one that suggests HR has some way to go
before being automatically considered for a place on the board. Clearly this
needs further investigation. So let us know why you feel that senior HR is
failing so miserably. E-mail your concerns to quentin.reade@rbi.co.uk

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