This week’s letters

Hand employment law back to laymen for simplification

Reading an article in Personnel Today on the increasingly adversarial nature
and complexity of Employment Tribunals (Features, 15 June), I was struck by a
quote from Caroline Noblett of Hammonds law firm. She said: "It’s hard for
laymen to understand the legislation as lawyers and barristers do".

Isn’t this the essence of the problem? As a layman, employment law should be
simple to understand and apply. But so much has been hijacked by lawyers and
government officials that nothing is simple anymore. For example, can anyone
explain to me – in less than 1,000 words – the full ramifications of statutory
maternity pay and leave? Reading the Department of Trade and Industry’s
guidelines on the subject makes your brain hurt – or at least it does mine.

I thought the Acas Arbitration Alternative to Employment Tribunals was
designed to get back to the original idea of the tribunals – a cheap, quick,
informal means of settling employment disputes. Whatever happened to that
scheme? Has it, as I suspect, been buried by the legal profession’s vested

My plea is for a return of employment issues and disputes to the realms of
common sense and practicality, and away from the grip of lawyers, who often
seem to live on Mars in respect of having a sense of the practical and
meaningful in today’s workplace. And please don’t interpret this as purely an
employer’s perspective. I believe the increasing ‘legislation’ of employment is
as much a detriment to the worker as it is to the employer. All parties would
benefit from the workplace being declared a lawyer-free zone.

Ken Owen
Personnel manager, Reeds Rains

Get realistic about work-life balance

It always amuses me when the employer is condemned as the bad egg because
the ‘work-life’ culture does not allow employees time off to organise
themselves, or nurse their latest hangovers (Letters, 8 June).

I work for an engineering company (yes, we are still out there) which treats
it’s 1,600 staff very well. But we also strive for equal status. It would be
unfair to those involved in production processes, who must be at work at a
given time, if we allowed all of our office-based staff flexible working.

The theory that self-certified sickness should be based around a culture of
trust is naive. We tried this approach for years and it worked when the company
was relatively small because the feeling of camaraderie, and a certain amount
of peer pressure, helped to keep absence rates low (that said, it still only
runs at an average 2.5 per cent).

However, since we have grown (by 100 per cent over the past eight years), we
have seen an increase in sporadic absence. Feedback suggests this is mainly
because we are a successful company and "can afford it". This has
nothing to do with the company’s culture, which is extremely understanding and
paternal in it’s outlook. But it has everything to do with a certain type of
employee attitude: that work is something that interferes with the rest of
their life (this was actually said to me once by an individual I was
disciplining about their absence).

I have no doubt that some employers are not offering terms and conditions
that have any flexibility or understanding of workers’ needs. But both sides
need to be balanced. Companies have to do whatever they need to survive. No
matter how difficult it is to organise your doctor’s appointments and childcare
if you are working, remember that life becomes immeasurably more difficult if
you are not earning any money at all.

If companies can accommodate flexible working and a certain amount of
absence without going bust, fine. If not, as the old saying goes, you can
always leave.

Details supplied

Waste of 12 years on CIPD qualifications

I read with interest the many letters about the value of the Chartered
Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) and would like to add my own
experiences and opinion.

About 11 years ago, I completed an MBA while working full-time with a son of
four and a baby who arrived just before my final exams.

Some time after, I read in a journal that the IPD was keen to accredit
applicants with other relevant qualifications on to their qualifications route.
I was told that I would have to submit all course content details, and ask the
university to vouch the coverage of IPD outcomes. This was a long process with
no real guidance, and for which I was only accredited with the core management

Dismayed but undeterred, I went on to complete the electives route a few
years later by distance learning. During this time, I was advised by IPD that I
could probably get the core personnel and development strand by portfolio
completion. Again, this was unsupported, and a bureaucratic minefield. I
managed to get a brief meeting with an IPD adviser, who looked at my portfolio
in progress and said all was fine. It took a year to put together, and after
the expense of assessment fees, I was told I’d be better off doing the course
as my knowledge was fine, but my experience was not broad enough.

More dismay! But I completed the core personnel and development by distance
learning. Then I had to do a management report, which I thought had been
covered by my MBA.

I did all that was asked of me, and my kids are now in their teens. My
career? Well, while I learned lots about lifelong learning, the glass ceiling
and work-life balance, I am still at the same level as I was 12 years ago.

The CIPD must not keep moving the goal posts. Standards can be maintained,
but the CIPD needs to clarify routes to achievement and make them accessible.

Jan Ferguson, ACIPD
Programme manager for business studies and teacher training

Shear brilliance of guest editor edition

I would just like to say that although Personnel Today is always good, the
15 June edition was brilliant. The articles chosen by Beverley Shears were very
relevant to my current role, and covered the priorities for my customers. I
really admire Shears’ style and common-sense approach. She is a great role
model for HR, showing businesses that we are an integral part of what they do.

Paul Butler
Employee relations manager, London Underground

CIPD has to practice what it is preaching

I have been reading endless correspondence on your letters pages about the
Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) qualification and
whether it is worth the effort. I agreed with many points raised. Here is my

After leaving school at 16, I did a Modern Apprenticeship in business
administration at a well-known automotive company. Due to my interest in
personnel, I pursued a certificate and three years of studying for the CIPD.
Fortunately, my company was supportive, paying for my course fees and letting
me go to college one afternoon a week. I also got time off for revision. My
company then gave me a short-term junior post in the recruitment department.

I found the course interesting – it covered theories and best practice
standards, and gave further insight into other areas of personnel. But at the
time, I did not find it useful due to my job position and the little experience
I possessed. I believe anyone with other commitments, such as children, or who
had little academic/specialist experience or had joined HR from another
profession, would have found the course a bit of a struggle.

The CIPD has extremely high standards and expectations. Its course rightly
covered all aspects of personnel, but I felt it was targeted to those in
generalist roles. I was in a specialist category with little experience and, at
times, I was unable to contribute to classes. I felt I did not learn as much as
I could have done had I been in a generalist role, where I could relate my own
experiences to best practices.

I passed the exams and completed the course in 2002 (when I was 21). I then
gained a generalist role, at a different company, although still in the
automotive sector. Most of the theories I learned have now been forgotten. My
company generally expects that because I am CIPD qualified, I know everything
about personnel and how to handle various situations.

I feel a bit of a fake. The qualification did not equip me with the
essential ‘personal skills’ that I could use in the workplace, such as how to
react when someone approaches you with a personal problem. And as I did not
take a module in law, I am unable to answer questions I feel I should know.

On reflection, I feel I completed the CIPD course too young, and before I
was more experienced in a generalist position.

The CIPD should practice what it preaches. Training needs to be targeted to
those with specific needs. There is now the option of studying through the NVQ
route. The CIPD needs to go a step further to support those in the
specialist/little experience category. It should put emphasis on personal
skills development and employment law.

Lastly, the yearly membership fees do not justify what I get out of
chartered membership. Twenty-five pounds would be a more acceptable charge.

Details supplied

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