This week’s global HR news in brief

Worldwide increase in workplace violence

The International Labour Organization (ILO) has warned of a worldwide rise in violence at work, and a growing variety of threats, which are increasingly psychological, rather than physical.

In its latest global study of workplace violence, the ILO said: “Bullying, harassment, mobbing and allied behaviours can be just as damaging as outright physical violence. Today, the instability of many types of jobs places huge pressures on workplaces, and we’re seeing more of these forms of violence.”

The report notes that professions previously regarded as non-violent, such as teaching, social services and library services, are suffering. Even in Japan, long regarded as a non-violent country, the number of disputes seems to be growing over time, the report states.

Germans develop lie detector test for new recruits

German scientists have developed a test which they claim can differentiate honest candidates from potential criminals in job interviews.

Each year, German firms lose about €3bn (£2bn) to staff who steal company property. But researchers from the Technical University in Darmstadt say their ‘psychological integrity test’ helps to identify applicants with a tendency towards deception and theft.

Tested on 363 employed volunteers and 200 convicted thieves, the survey showed dishonest participants saw theft in the office – even of a pen – as more or less normal.

The volunteers were asked to agree or disagree with 69 statements, such as: ‘You may take things that have been lying around the office for a long time’, and ‘It’s no wonder that things are stolen when people are so badly paid’.

Researcher Jens Hoffman said the test was difficult to cheat because if an applicant only gave neutral answers, “alarm bells would start ringing”.

Equal health benefits for gay couples now widespread in US

For the first time, the majority of the largest 500 listed companies in the US now offer health insurance benefits to same-sex domestic partners of staff, according to a report from the gay rights group the Human Rights Campaign Foundation.

Its figures reveal that 253 Fortune 500 companies provide equal benefits, with seven firms having added such policies in the past six months. That figure compares with 219 companies in 2004 and 246 in 2005.

Joe Solmonese, the group’s president, said: “While protection for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Americans has stalled in Congress, corporate America continues to surge ahead. It’s an issue of basic fairness and good business.”

Although 49% of the firms surveyed have not extended health benefits to gay partners, the entire Fortune 500 has taken steps toward friendlier policies, Solmonese added.

Netherlands to scrap civil servant retirement age

The Netherlands wants to abolish the compulsory retirement age of 65 for civil servants to encourage staff to work longer.

The decision is part of a package of measures to persuade older workers to keep active in the labour market for as long as possible. The government plans to actively target employers, staff and HR departments to highlight the possibilities for older workers.

The Ministry of Social Affairs said there were many cultural barriers preventing older staff from thriving, such as the public’s perception that people aged over 65 shouldn’t work.

The information campaign will focus on the legal position of staff aged over 65. “Both employers and workers must think of different conditions, and a more tailor-made contract,” the ministry said.

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