This week’s letters

Letter of the week
Responsibility is not HR’s alone

The news analysis "Firms will pay the penalty if HR fails new FSA
rules" (News, 11 December) suggests that HR professionals are not aware of
their responsibilities under the Financial Services and Markets Act 2000.

While the Act goes into detail about the new training and competencies
regime, it doesn’t state that HR will be held responsible for adhering to it.

Many organisations in the financial sector plan their training through the
line functions. The responsibility for having competent staff sits with those
members of an organisation who are one of 27 controlled functions, which does
not include the HR manager.

The briefings have been predominantly attended by compliance officers as
they have been tasked by their organisations to work out what steps need to be
taken to achieve compliance.

However, HR can and should play a key role in getting the training and
competence side of the Act in order. It is true to say that most firms are not
ready yet, but over the next year a best practice model will probably appear.

Until then firms will have to make their own decisions on what compliance
with the Act means.

Jan Hagen
Solutions sales manager, Wide Learning

Biased views stop refugees working

We would like to offer our endorsement of Personnel Today’s campaign
Refugees in Employment.

We also feel refugees and asylum-seekers are being actively hampered from
working through a combination of employer ignorance, media-backed public
prejudice and government migration policy.

Our new report A Poor Reception, Refugees and Asylum-Seekers: Welfare or
Work? (News, 18 December) urges the Government to make it easier for
asylum-seekers and refugees to work in the UK.

The report argues that they face unnecessarily high barriers to work. Best
estimates indicate that up to 80 per cent of refugees are unemployed, despite
many having high skills levels.

Key suggestions include ensuring that permission to work should be given
automatically after six months other than in exceptional cases. The Government
also needs to develop a national database of refugee and asylum-seekers’ skills
linked to the Employment Service and other relevant agencies (see p1).

Furthermore, a national scheme for recognising qualifications needs to be
developed along with standardisation of English language testing to help easy
identification of applicants’ language skills.

Perceptions also need to be changed through an education initiative designed
to shift public opinion and educate employers.

In reality, asylum-seekers and refugees don’t fit the popular stereotype of
scroungers. They’re young, skilled, willing and keen to work. It is a matter of
national disgrace that nearly four out of five asylum-seekers and refugees are
being excluded from British workplaces.

As a result, the Industrial Society has teamed up with the Foreign Policy
Centre and the Employability Forum to run a half-day conference at Canada House
in Central London on Managing Migration on 15 January. Home Secretary David
Blunkett is the keynote speaker and details are available from Monica Piercy on
020-7479 2000.

Gill Sargeant
Policy specialist, The Industrial Society

Applicants may bear tribunal cost

Your news story "TUC fears bill will weaken staff rights" (News, 4
December) and Christa Christensen’s article "In on the Act" (Legal,
18 December) on section 34 "anti-Polkey" provision in the Employment
Bill 2001 fail to make an important connection.

This section has to be viewed in context with sections 22 and 23. When these
are brought into force in late 2002 the "loser pays" costs regime of
the High and County courts could apply to employment tribunals.

The "anti-Polkey" clause will turn otherwise unfair dismissals
into fair dismissals and the applicant, or her trade union, will be liable for
the employer’s legal costs plus the employer’s costs of preparing for the
tribunal hearing.

The cost implications to applicants of losing multi-day equal pay, race, sex
and disability discrimination hearings are all too obvious. The CBI has campaigned
for these changes and it appears that the TUC is acquiescing in them.

Gary Morton
Barrister, Charter Chambers

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