This week’s letters

Record debate is just good

The debate on employee sickness
records being kept by employers continues (Letters, February 6).

If the rule goes on the statute
books, but with a clause that allows a contract of employment that includes the
employee’s permission to keep records of sickness absence, a precedent will be
set so other exceptions for contractual clauses to overrule statute will be
passed until suddenly, contracts will be all-powerful and the statute book

This will lead to unions
striking for fairer contracts which will lead to poor industrial relations,
more statute to redress the balance and lots of fees for the lawyers.

Alternatively, managers can
introduce a stick-on star system for their monthly multi-purpose planners ñ
gold stars for an individual’s full attendance for the month, silver for one
day off, all the way down to black. Where will it all end?

Can we please see a Minister
for Using Common Sense in Employment Law in the next Parliament?

Stuart Mallinson, Personnel
manager, J&G Coughtrie

Why do we need
to ask ‘How old?’

I was heartened to read that
there is to be a code of practice aimed at abolishing age discrimination in the
workplace, "European code aims to curb ageism"  (News, 23 January). I hope the article has
opened a few eyes to the need for action.

However, the response by Denise
Walker, head of corporate personnel at Nationwide building society, troubles
me. She was involved in creating the code, but tells us "it is not
something that can be brought in overnight".

In my opinion, it can be ñ
simply stop asking the age of anyone and everyone. I know we have to ensure
that people are old enough to be employed and if they qualify for development
grants due to their young age. But why ask for the age of someone who is over
18 (or 21 for some legislation)?

There should never be any need
for an upper age restriction. Too many skilled and experienced potential
employees are "filtered out" by this method ñ which is why we are
seeing reports of skill shortages.

There is a significant pool of
willing, capable and experienced workers who want to work with you ñ just give
them the chance.

Michael Perry, Principle
training designer and senior trainer, Wiltshire

Adult joke broke
all your own rules

I am writing to express my
serious concern at the article in Guru (23 January), which mentioned the
website adultstaffing.com.

While it highlighted the type
of site it might be, in a journal that frequently highlights the problems of
staff visiting porn sites on the Web, an invitation to readers to visit an
associated site is very unprofessional. I would contend that even putting it in
a humorous section is wrong for these reasons:

– It makes light of a problem
– It encourages readers to visit a site which may quickly link to others (I
only visited the home page to check out my concerns)
– It may put people visiting it at work in a dangerous position re their
company’s IT policy.

I normally appreciate the
balance between articles, advertising, news and humour. I believe on this
occasion you have made an error of judgement.

Jonathan Napper, Farnham, Surrey

factor must be removed

Having read the letter from Jim
Hoggart, "Keep tribunals in perspective" (5 December), I cannot but
wonder if he is living in the same world, never mind planet. 

I am the senior partner for a
personnel outsourcing company running the personnel function for 45 small and
medium-sized organisations and am regularly involved in responding to tribunal
applications. I also take up claims, without fees, for employees who have been
treated poorly.  

I have recently dealt with a
claim of constructive dismissal where an employee was issued with a written
warning for a confrontation that occurred with the applicant. Subsequently
three witnesses came forward to say the applicant incited the other employee,
and the warning was withdrawn.

While the company had every
opportunity to take disciplinary action against the applicant, it felt that
having behaved fairly by withdrawing the warning, it would let sleeping dogs
lie. The applicant then walked out, claiming her position had been undermined
by the warning being withdrawn, and this was the basis for her claim.

After three days at tribunal,
at a cost to a small business of the equivalent of £600,000-£800,000, her claim
was dismissed. This does not take account of the affect on the morale of the
witnesses, who were obliged to confirm on the stand that the applicant was
lying on aspects of the claim.

It is only right that there are
appropriate remedies for cases of unfair treatment, but this and similar cases
should be deterred from blatant abuse of the system.  

While agreeing with some of the
comments made by Mr Hoggart regarding the excessive use of legal support, there
is no substantial deterrent for people who have nothing to lose by taking a
claim, often on the basis of obtaining a "nuisance" payment.

I recommend that Jim studies
how many cases are resolved by a payment solely to save the excessive fiscal
and employee-relations costs that often occur. The modern expression is
"get real", but possibly "check your facts" is more
appropriate, Mr Hoggart.

Colin Perkins, Senior partner, Personnel
Services and Management

Give me a
chance to fill skills gap

I find the talk of staff and
skills shortages in the HR sector very interesting (News, 16 January).

I am a graduate in business who
has been working for a small engineering company dealing with administration,
including personnel and HR software. I enjoy this so much that I have decided I
would like a job in HR. But where do I find one? I have applied for many
positions but got nowhere ñ because I don’t have enough HR experience.

I just hope that the HR sector
realises it is excluding many excellent candidates for assistant/officer posts
just because they don’t have a lot of HR experience. How are you meant to get
HR experience without working in HR?

Paula Laite, Via e-mail

Low pay
reflects poor view of HR

Maybe "HR profession sees
smallest rise in salary" (News, 16 January) reflects the attitude that HR
does not benefit the organisation and is not a real profession. 

Too many organisations lump HR
in with the overheads, such as accounts and print rooms.

HR graduates are often not even
seen as real graduates ñ a real graduate has done a law degree or accountancy.
They often don’t get an effective graduate development programme.

Iain Young, HR manager, Via

Care should start
before childbirth

It is a positive step for
employee health that employers are taking the work-life balance seriously.
However as far as parents are concerned, the focus seems to be on positive
treatment after childbirth. Companies should also be examining how they treat
staff during pregnancy.

Employers have a role to play
in supporting the choices employees make about work, health and lifestyle
during pregnancy. The national baby charity Tommy’s Campaign set up the
Pregnancy Accreditation Programme to improve conditions for pregnant women in
the workplace and commend companies with positive policies. Companies such as
Marks & Spencer, Rolls-Royce and the Department of Health are leading the

An NOP/Tommy’s Campaign survey
showed that one in four employers is negative or indifferent when a pregnancy
is announced and one in 10 women have been forced to cancel an antenatal
appointment because of pressures at work. 

Employers can implement simple
steps to improve their treatment of pregnant employees, thus aiding workforce
health and the retention of key staff.

Claire MacAleese, Account
manager, Tommy’s Campaign

scheme is a real bargain

I wanted to share a great idea
that our MD Steve Carter announced at our annual Year Start Party.     

In order to reinforce our
company’s commitment to ensuring employees reach a good balance between work
and home life, we have all had Tesco Direct installed on our desktops. This
means we can shop during work time and ensure our groceries get delivered when
we get home.

It is such a simple, silly
idea, but it has gone down a storm.

It would be interesting to see
if other companies are introducing any innovative benefits other than the usual
luncheon vouchers and health insurance.

Sarah Sable, HR officer, Robert
Half International

and cold, but Army course was well worth it

I was one of the hungry,
tooled-up Centrefile managers on the North Yorkshire Moors and I thought I’d
share with you what I’ve gained (Guru, 30 January, News 6 February).

1 Some major lessons in
discomfort. I’ve never had bruises on the insides of my thighs before (don’t
ask, but it involved a plank and a climbing frame). Army trucks, Army helmets
and Army rifles are all pleasures to be tried maybe just the once.

2 A healthy respect for the
British Army ñ it brings it home to you that they really do train to fight for
lives. It must be frustrating for them to have a bunch of people who, when they
say "jump" don’t say, "How high?" but, "Hang on a
minute I’m just checking my messages". 

3 The thrill of abseiling ñ something
I’d always dreaded, but it was so brilliant I went back for another go.

4 The knowledge that being
chest-deep in freezing water in an inch of snow is fine as long as you keep
clenching and unclenching your fists

5 Some valuable lessons in
teamwork and relationships. The Army culture of "your team is only as good
as its weakest member" really does bring out the supportive instincts and
some innovative thinking.

For any organisations thinking
of sending their managers on this course, I’d wholeheartedly recommend it (and
not just because those officers look fantastic in their dress uniforms).

But what did I lose? Just one
earring on the dance floor of the officers’ mess.

Deborah Wylie, Sales account
manager, Customer HR team, Centrefile

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