Personnel Today presses for change

Pushing for progress in HR, Personnel Today has taken a stand on issues that
will make a difference to business and lobbied MPs for government action

Tribunals

Ground-breaking research by Personnel Today showed that human resources
departments are increasingly under pressure because of a surge in employment
disputes.

Nearly half of respondents said they are more likely to settle out of court
since the compensation limit was raised from £12,000 to £50,000 in 1999.

The sum spent by the 137 companies surveyed on defending cases in tribunals
was at least £1.8m. Firms taking part in the research also paid out an
estimated £700,000 on settling cases before they reached employment tribunals.

In November, the Government set out new measures to try and reduce the
burden on the tribunal system. The new Employment Bill – due to become law next
year – includes the requirement for employers and staff to use internal
grievance procedures before going to tribunal. The Government also introduced a
fixed period of consultation and tough penalties for either party if they don’t
try conciliation first.

Equal pay

Personnel Today strongly supported the Equal Pay Task Force’s recommendation
that employers perform mandatory pay audits. We called for senior staff, line
managers and employees to embrace the case for fair pay.

The Government outlined proposals to streamline the tribunal system for
equal pay claims, but claimed it wanted to adopt a voluntary approach to
further measures to tackle the divide. It appointed the Competition
Commission’s Denise Kingsmill to undertake a review of employers’ attitudes, to
report in December.

This month the Government unveiled new proposals to cut the pay gap
following the review. They included the right for women to know what male
colleagues of the same level were earning and called for the publication of pay
diversity in annual reports.

More radical proposals were ignored, however, such as the overhaul of the
Investors in People kitemark to include sex inequality, a research centre for
women in employment and public sector board pay being linked to diversity
targets.

The CIPD warned that if employers don’t adopt a transparent approach
voluntarily then legislation could follow.

Consultation

The internal communication of heavy job losses at steel giant Corus and car
manufacturer Vauxhall earlier in the year received widespread criticism for an
unsympathetic approach.

Former Trade and Industry Secretary Stephen Byers announced a review of
employers’ obligations to inform and consult staff over business restructuring
in the UK.

Personnel Today sent an open letter to the DTI to ensure that the views of
HR professionals would be included in the review. The profession was concerned
that the Government wanted a political quick-fix after bad publicity

DTI minister Alan Johnson responded and promised a "thorough and
wide-ranging review". But the review was overtaken by events in Europe.

In June, the UK Government was left isolated in its resistance to Brussels’
Information and Consultation directive and it was eventually agreed that it
would become law.

It will ensure that employers with more than 50 staff consult their
workforce in detail about redundancies and mergers much earlier than is normal
practice in the UK or face harsh penalties.

In October, MEPs pushed to make the directive’s implementation and penalties
less flexible. It is due to be agreed this week.

Refugees

Personnel Today launched a campaign to help refugees and
asylum-seekers into employment. Many organisations still face skills shortages
in key areas, and we felt it was in the interest of employers to be able to
recruit staff from the widest possible pool.

Despite refugees and many asylum-seekers having permission to
work in the UK, they face barriers to finding work. Our campaign is aimed at
persuading the Government to do its part in removing those barriers.

We set about finding examples of employers which have either
faced difficulties in recruiting refugees or are helping refugees into work.
Personnel Today’s exclusive story on Oxford Bus Company’s inability to employ
two asylum-seekers because of DVLA red tape has since become a definitive case
study.

In November, the magazine published joint research with the
Refugee Council that shows nine out of 10 employers want to take on refugees
and asylum-seekers to meet skills shortages. But many of the 255 employers are
put off by red tape and legal fears.

Over 60 per cent of the 153 refugees surveyed by Personnel
Today and the Refugee Council have been unemployed in the UK for more than a
year, despite many being well qualified and having work experience.

Personnel Today has addressed leading conferences on its
campaign, and has been invited to make a presentation to the All Party
Committee on Refugees in the House of Commons. We hope the Government will take
on board the campaign aims over the next year, starting with the White Paper on
refugees and asylum-seekers due to be published in January 2002.  

Personnel Today is asking the
Government to:

– Introduce a standard permission-to-work document for refugees
and asylum-seekers

– Commit to cutting red tape for employers who want to employ
refugees and asylum-seekers

– Develop a skills database of immigrants in the UK

– Produce concrete plans to co-ordinate the employment of
refugees and asylum-seekers

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