Global newsround

Mike Broad, Mike Johnson and Helen Rowe report on what’s happening in HR
around the world

Survey asks is CSR here to stay

A new report shows that although corporate social responsibility is rising
in importance, it still has a long way to go to become part of everyday corporate
life.

Giving Back 2, by UK-based Echo Research, quizzed senior executives and
analysed media comment in China, France, Germany, South Africa, the UK and the
US. The result? "CSR is rising in prominence in terms of the number of
world events with CSR implications, the attention paid to it by the media and
the importance being shown in it by globally operating companies."

"There is no doubt," said Echo director Nigel Middlemiss,
"that major corporations who have seen the angry, often violent protests
of the anti-globalisation movement, know that it isn’t enough to be good, you
have to tell the story of how good you are."

Findings from the report include:

– Key benefits of CSR are building corporate image and reputation and the
recruitment, retention and motivation of employees

– There is an increasing view among corporations that CSR must be aligned to
business strategy and must be justified in terms of business benefits

– Inclusion in ethical investment funds will be a strong benefit to CSR in the
future

– The post-11 September business world is split on CSR. Some see it as
spurring corporations into action to be seen as more caring, others cite budget
cuts from self-imposed ‘recession’ as leading to a drop in CSR activity

And HR-related issues were seen as major beneficiaries of CSR programmes.
Leading perceived benefits were :

– PR/Brand 32%

– HR 24%

– Community 18%

– Impact on society 13%

– Meeting specific needs 13%

As to who should take responsibility for CSR issues, no-one suggested HR.
Most popular was the CEO’s office or a dedicated CSR function. Even public
affairs, communications or PR were hardly mentioned as the function to take on
the role.

But there are major barriers inside businesses to implementing CSR and
getting budgets for it. The report cited eight key reasons for CSR’s struggle
for recognition even in good conditions:

– Line managers caught up in day-to-day work

– Middle managers under pressure to achieve budgets

– Top management if not persuaded and educated

– Financial teams, accountants and lawyers

– Marketing people who say it detracts from ‘spend on the brand’

– ‘Old guard’ who remember the pre-CSR days – "we never needed it
then"

– Employee representatives who don’t understand the world has changed

– New business development managers who have ‘financial stars in their eyes’

www.echoresearch.com

EC threatens UK with working time legal action

The European Commission has started
legal proceedings against the UK over its failure to fully implement the
Working Time Directive.

Amicus, the UK’s biggest manufacturing union, complained to the
EC that the directive, which limits the working week to 48 hours, had been
"unlawfully and inadequately" implemented. Brussels has subsequently
approached the UK government over employer enforcement of staff rights to
breaks and holidays, measurement of time worked voluntarily above normal
working time and the exclusion of night-shift overtime hours from counting
towards ‘normal’ hours.

Roger Lyons, general secretary of Amicus, said: "Britons
work the longest hours in Europe. This decision will cut excessive working time
considerably, slash stress and bring us closer to the level of working hours
enjoyed throughout the rest of Europe."

The Confederation of British Industry claimed the government
had struck a good balance between allowing businesses to be flexible and
protecting staff.

If the EC is persuaded by a submission by the UK government
that it had brought domestic law into line with the directive, the case will be
dropped.

But if Brussels remains unhappy, the UK government will be
issued with a final warning and runs the risk of being taken to the European
Court of Justice.

Child exploitation still high

Nearly 250 million children are being exploited as labour
worldwide, claims a report by the International Labour Organisation.

While the study shows child labour was cut by a fifth between
1995 and 2000, the ILO claims that at these levels there is no room for
corporate complacency. There are 352 million children between the ages of five
and 17 years engaged in economic activity globally, with 246 million  working in roles the ILO defines as child
labour and wants abolished. As many as 6 million children are estimated to
suffer from forced or bonded labour, in which they are trafficked, sold
outright or forced to work off debts incurred in impoverished families.
Furthermore, the report, A Future without Child Labour, claims that 1.2 million
children are trafficked each year for work in plantations, sweatshops and
domestic service.

www.ilo.org

Sexual harassment goes unreported in India

Sexual harassment in the Indian
workplace is being significantly under-reported, according to a study that
found only one in three female employees would complain if they were victimised
by a male colleague.

The survey, by market research agency TN Sofres Mode, found
social embarrassment is the main reason women are unwilling to report misconduct
by fellow employees (41 per cent), followed by fear they may be blamed (36 per
cent), and concern about losing their job (28 per cent).

Researchers questioned 381 women in Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore
and Chennai. In Mumbai, 40 per cent said a fear of being blamed is the main
reason they would not complain. In the capital Delhi, 37 per cent said men
sexually harassed women in their office, but 63 per cent said were sure they
would not complain if it happened to them.

The study also found only 21 per cent of workplaces had a clear
policy to handle cases of sexual harassment.

This is despite a landmark ruling in 1997 by the Indian Supreme
Court requiring all employers to take preventative measures to protect female
staff. The ruling, which also requires employers to instigate disciplinary
procedures following a complaint, has been widely ignored.

The survey’s findings illustrate just how far India trails
behind in addressing sexual harassment in the workplace. Indian HR
professionals say they expect the attitudes of employers and employees to
evolve – but they predict the pace of change will be slow.

The Supreme Court ruling, however, is not expected to be a
catalyst for change. Court proceedings are generally expensive and plagued by
delays. Awards in the handful of cases brought tend to be low. One woman whose
manager was found to have sexually harassed her was awarded just $847 (40,000
rupees). Such sums, say analysts, are unlikely to put pressure on companies to
take the issue seriously.

They predict change is more likely to come from the influence
of the many multi-national corporations which have moved into India over the
past decade. Multi-nationals have brought with them the workplace culture and
values of North America and Europe and are highly intolerant of sexual
harassment. Although these corporations employ a tiny percentage of the Indian
workforce, their policies – as well as those of progressive, premier league
Indian companies – are watched closely and copied by other large employers
wanting to emulate their success.

"What we are seeing is a gradual but continuous process of
best practice filtering down," says Debasis Bhattacharya, of the
Confederation of Indian Industry. "New value systems in which sexual
harassment is simply not acceptable are starting to take hold. Within 10 years
I expect there to have been a complete change due to a new generation with a
far broader perspective."

In the meantime, however, the situation continues to discourage
women from coming forward. The judge who passed the 1997 Supreme Court ruling
has blamed "social apathy" for the failure of Indian employers to
implement the ruling’s legally binding requirements. Former chief justice J S
Varma’s comments followed the case of two teachers and a receptionist at a
prestigious Delhi school who went public with their complaints. The women
accused the school’s principal of forcing them to resign after they resisted
his advances and lodged formal complaints. Lawyers say the fact the school
failed to initiate a disciplinary hearing after the complaints were lodged
illustrates the failure of the majority of employers across India to comply
with the ruling.

The main obstacle faced by companies in India is that however
progressive their policies, wider social attitudes are slow to change and
continue to be reflected in the workplace. The survey’s findings support much
anecdotal evidence that men feel they can harass women with impunity, knowing
they are more likely to resign than risk being ostracised and blamed for
bringing on the harassment by making a complaint.

Purva Misra, of HR consultancy Hewitt Associates, says
companies need to be more proactive in tackling sexual harassment. According to
Misra, the vast majority of leading private sector employers have complied with
the Supreme Court ruling in theory. But, she says, companies need to do more
than merely state that sexual harassment will not be tolerated.

"Rather than just writing their policy into their code of
conduct, companies need to fully explain their policy to employees so staff
know what their options are.

Misra adds that attention should be particularly focused on
blue-collar employees. "Companies really need to concentrate on educating
workers to give them an awareness of what constitutes sexual harassment. Lower
down the company hierarchy many female employees may not actually know what
they can complain about and male employees may not be fully aware that what
they are doing is unacceptable."

Investment banks to cut workforce
to drive up earnings

Investment banks are set to cut
thousands of jobs this summer as global finance houses struggle to drive up
earnings.

Analysts claim some of the biggest investment banks will cut up
to 10 per cent of their workforce. Stagnation in M&A activity and a decline
in fees for helping companies to sell bonds are being blamed for low earnings.
Wall Street has lost 43,000 jobs over the past year and fresh cutbacks are
expected in investment banking and information technology. Retrenchment by US
banks will prompt job losses in Europe, claim experts.

Mark Woodhouse, head of banking at headhunters Whitehead Mann,
said: "The medium-term prospects are poor. The investment banks are
beginning to understand that the downturn is structural rather than cyclical.
"For staffing, that means cuts won’t just come from backoffice. It means
cutting into the bone."

www.onlinewsj.com

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