This week’s letters

HR advisory group will help taskforce

I just wanted to clarify a couple of points made in your coverage of the
launch of the interim report from the Department of Trade and Industry’s
Accounting for People Task Force, (front page, 20 May).

Membership of the taskforce does include only one HR specialist, but it is
supported by an advisory group where I represent the Chartered Institute of
Personnel Development (CIPD), and which includes other HR experts in this
field, such as Richard Phelps from EP-First, and Gary Crouch of Unilever.

External reporting matters clearly have to involve the accounting
profession, and the support of a vanguard of FTSE chief executives, such as
Fred Goodwin and John Sunderland, will help ensure the spread of informative
and best practice reporting, rather than the sort of minimalist clichés and
employee photo-graphs that have characterised annual reports to date.

But as the interim report illustrates, the review is taking on board the
research, views and experiences of the CIPD and HR practice in a number of
leading UK companies. We will be publishing a follow-up study to our original
research on evaluating human capital early next month.

I agree the DTI review, and the likely requirement to report in the
Operating and Financial Review on the utilisation of human capital, represents
not just an obligation, but also a tremendous opportunity for the HR function
and employers. But this is not some sort of competitive battle for corporate
dominance between the professions.

There is no universal human capital accounting formula, and there needs to
be a high degree of flexibility in terms of what and how it is reported.
Improving the quantity and quality of external reporting information on people
in any plc is critical to understanding its performance and prospects, and to
reinforce the potentially powerful relationships between people, performance
and HR management in the UK economy.

Duncan Brown
Assistant director general, CIPD

Union demons have now been uncorked

The pro-union stance advocated by John Philpott, the CIPD’s chief economist
(Professional agenda, 13 May), explains why it has so little credibility with
senior HR people.

To tell us that "unions serve as an important channel, building shared
interest relations with employees to help raise productivity and improve
working conditions", is nonsense. He has obviously not been exposed to
those people who dominate our transport industries or those that restrict
progress in the financial services, broadcasting, manufacturing and teaching
sectors – not to mention the fire services.

It used to be true that bad management got bad unions. But thanks to this
Government’s legislation, now even good management gets bad unions. The tragedy
is that having got the demon back in the bottle, we have taken the cork out.

Mike Haffenden
Partner for strategic dimensions, Careers Research Forum

Working mothers are not freeloaders

I wish to question whether Stephen Overell’s unsubstantiated rant (Off
message, 13 May) has any place in Personnel Today. What exactly is his point?
That the Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC) should apologise to employers for
enforcing the Sex Discrimination Act because
"hormonal/knackered/overstretched women who want it all are taking you for
a ride"?

He says: "Men get away with things – this is sad, but it is not
primarily an employment issue". Oh no? Nearly 30 years of sex
discrimination legislation and long-term skills shortages says it is. The
appalling state of British management evidenced by your own paper’s research
says it is.

No doubt Mr Overell will dismiss my views as partisan and PC – if not
hormonal. But why does he think the workplace should be a hermetically sealed
refuge from attempts to reform society? After all, it is where most people
spend most of their time and have most of their interactions.

Moreover, does he not acknowledge that women, whether cursed with maternity
or not, have education, skills, aptitudes and experience that our economy
cannot afford to lose? Judging from this article, I suspect he would view the
business case for equality as ‘lefty’ feminist claptrap.

Working mothers and mothers-to-be are not freeloaders or sleepwalking
dullards to be resented or patronised.

Heather Falconer
Editor, Employers’ Law

Editor’s reply: Stephen Overell’s Off Message column is promoted as
"getting under the skin of the biggest issues facing the HR
profession", with the aim of promoting a debate, and that is exactly what
he achieved with his maternity piece.

He is a columnist who isn’t afraid of controversy and is prepared to
challenge the status quo. His article looked at maternity as presenting
dilemmas for employers and non-pregnant staff, and praises the EOC for
kick-starting a review on the subject.

Term depicts staff as statistics fodder         

What an irony. Your magazine majors on the DTI’s Accounting for People Task
Force (News, 20 May) and Jane King’s editorial is headlined ‘Stop the
accountants driving human capital’.

Does it not occur to you that using the most degrading term yet coined for
people within a business, "human capital", plays straight into their

If our own profession sees human resources – whether the function or the
people themselves – as no more than capital, how do we expect them to stop
counting us all as mere numbers?

Bernard Kingsley
Employee relations manager, Manpower UK

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