HR takes centre stage during times of change

Two major organisations make the headlines this week with moves that stress the importance, recognition and ever-growing status of the HR function. The first is the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), and the second is the Church of England.

The latter sets a milestone among dominant Christian institutions. It has announced that it is creating an HR department to deal with strategy and procedures for the first time in its history, servicing around 11,500 clergy in the UK. This means priests, like anyone else in employment, will at last be guarded by the Employment Act 1999.

It is extraordinary that it has taken so long to make this move. Until now, priests have not been deemed to be employees. If they had a problem, they were expected to talk to a more senior person, who may not necessarily have the personnel skills to deal with the issue. It remains to be seen whether the Catholic Church will follow suit. Certainly both have courted controversy over people and management issues.

The CIPD, meanwhile, moved in to its glossy new headquarters in Wimbledon, South London yesterday. It has rung the change with the news – exclusively revealed to Personnel Today – that it has recognised the need to raise its profile and spell out what it actually does to its members, opinion-formers and politicians. It has decided against becoming a lobby group, focusing instead on informing public policy debates, using the valuable information and statistics it has at its fingertips. This has come not a moment too soon. As the true representative body of HR, the CIPD should – and hopefully can – help steer political decisions and policies surrounding employment down sensible routes.

Talking of policies, ensure you digest our front-page story and be clear on redundancies. A landmark case has ruled that when an employer makes a redundancy, they should consider ‘bumping’ the person to a less senior role. The message is: don’t assume an employee won’t take such a job and, above all, keep a good paper trail to protect your organisation from unfair dismissal compensation.

By Penny Wilson, acting editor, Personnel Today

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