This week’s letter

Equal pay healthchecks are the way to attain pay parity

Conversations with HR and other representatives of several hundred
organisations across the public, private and voluntary sectors indicate that none
are overtly keen to perpetuate gender inequalities or other unfairness in

The launch of Personnel Today Management Resources’ One-stop Guide to Equal
Pay Reviews and the recently revised Code of Practice on Equal Pay are just two
examples of the high profile the subject continues to receive.

Why then does the injustice of unequal pay continue – apparently unabated?

Two key factors appear to block equity. First, the large amount of detailed
work perceived necessary to identify let alone achieve equality, when wider,
business-related reward issues affecting retention, motivation and cost
effectiveness demand attention. Second, the cost of retrospective correction of
long standing inequalities is potentially huge.

If pursued to the letter of the law, the latter would result in significant
corporate, if not national, bankruptcy (try extrapolating the several million
pounds Lancashire street-lighting technicians claim across the UK).

Some organisations, however, are working towards business-friendly pay
solutions, while at the same time resolving past and potential inequalities
most cost effectively.

Rather than pursue a relatively narrow, but complex and time-consuming equal
pay review, they conduct broader pay audits – incorporating an equal pay
healthcheck – and also addressing issues of market competitiveness, performance
and structural pay relativities. They provide a basis to minimise any potential
retrospective claims. Only by looking at equal pay in this wider, success
orientated way, will we achieve a significant reduction in the gender pay gap.

Derek A Burn
Director, DLA-MCG Consulting and author of Pay Audit – Equal Pay Reviews and

Rewards paradise is just not practical

Many organisations would like to link total compensation (salary, bonuses,
shares, etc) to an employee’s performance and ensure that the packages offered
are competitive enough to attract and retain top-quality staff.

However, when dealing with thousands of employees, time and budget pressures
mean that the allocation of rewards is not always aligned to individual
performance (ie, the law of averages takes over).

The losers in the scenario are the company’s key assets – its top

Effective incentive compensation can motivate employees to meet the goals of
the business. Break this link and the additional annual cost of meeting
increased salary and compensation expectations offers less intrinsic value to
the business.

David Blune
UK country manager, Callidus Software

Chippy yank should broaden his outlook

I was appalled at the views of John Torrance-Nesbitt’s views on diversity in
the UK (Letters, 11 November).

With such diversity in a nation where there are so many walks of life, you
can’t help but get a cross-section of backgrounds in a US firm.

The UK is smaller, therefore we have less of a pool of people to use. Would
it be OK for an employer to place people in a job just to show they are
diverse; or would it be best practice to put the best people in the job, even
if it meant they were all white?

I strongly believe in diversity in the workplace. My own experience came
from a large investment bank. We were keen to be diverse and eager to show we
were and proud of it. But I am white, heterosexual and female. Does that make
me bad at my job if I work with similar people because we were considered the
best candidates for the job? No. You can’t manoeuvre a diverse situation into
place – it evolves.

UK recruiters ask personal questions because they want to know a little
about you and about your life, so that you may fit into a particular culture in
a job. This procedure has nothing to do with being prejudiced.

I think John Nesbitt has a bit of a chip on his shoulder and I’m sorry that
he feels so bitterly towards us in the UK.

As a recruiting director, I think he should learn more about UK culture and
should refrain from such comments until he knows us better. Isn’t there a
native American saying that you shouldn’t judge a man until you have walked for
a day in his moccasins?

Details supplied

One vision at the top another at the bottom

Telling people you are a tax inspector or an estate agent at a party is
often seen as dangerous. But, lately, I have become more and more embarrassed
about working in HR.

There are some extremely poor practices out there and while companies can
hide behind their oft stated ‘vision and values’, rarely do they live up to
them if you work at the bottom of the pecking order.

My son is waiting to join the army and is filling in his time working for a
well-known oil company at a local service station. He is one among six. He is
continually abused and left out of any conversation. He has been disciplined by
his regional manager for being eight minutes late for work, when all the others
never turn up on time and frequently don’t turn up at all. His hours are
reduced when his manager wants to give a friend a few hours’ work. When he
works nights, he is often on his own through someone not turning up.

My son is often threatened with violence while working nights. Add to this the
fact that he is paid less than the others and when he asked for the same money,
he was told that he would only be given his pay rise if he opted out of the
Working Time Directive. He has reported all of these things to his manager and
is not allowed to contact HR direct.

All this from a company that trumpets the usual blurb about protecting the
health and safety of its employees, keeping open channels of communication, and
operating with the highest moral and ethical standards. Can anybody point me to
any company that truly, and I mean in the opinion of its employees, meets its
own exacting values?

Details supplied

Radical tactics will cut the sick queue

With all the associated problems with sickness absence and the almost
impossible situation that HR professionals are placed in, is it time for
radical thinking?

My suggestion is that employers should be able to insert a clause into
employment contracts and/or works rules which state that if a staff member has
a specified period of sick leave over a certain period, then that automatically
makes them redundant as they are no longer able to carry out their duties to
the required level. Prolonged and/or frequent sick leave must be close to being
a frustration of contract or a breaching of the implied terms.

Or am I missing something?

Robert Hicks
HR manager, Company details supplied

Employers should care about childcare

I completely agree with the Daycare Trust’s and One Parent Families’ call
for the Government to develop a system of accreditation and registration for
friends and family who care for children (‘Informal Childcare Keeps UK Ticking
Along’, 4 November, PersonnelToday.com).

There are simply not enough formal childcare places available and typical
nurseries are quite costly, which means many [working] parents have no option
but to leave their children in the hands of grandparents or willing friends.
However, I strongly believe it is also time that employers took some
responsibility for childcare and woke up to the benefits of helping valued staff
return to work, while providing the best care for their families.

The provision of a childcare facility in the workplace can be substantially
less expensive for parents due to government subsidies and possible employer
subsidies, and the locality between parent and child provides close support.

Furthermore, studies we’ve done show that employees are more productive and
far more reliable if an on-site nursery is provided, since parents don’t need
to worry about the care of their children. Such a system also helps to increase
happiness levels at work and in turn positively impacts motivation and
productivity levels.

In addition, an on-site childcare facility is a fantastic staff benefit,
which can increase staff loyalty and help attract and retain good staff.
Figures from the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development show that
almost a quarter of working parents with an annual household income of under
£20,000 stop work as a result of becoming a parent. A workplace nursery can
encourage employees to return to work for the company that has invested in
their development rather than taking their valuable skills elsewhere.
Alternatively, they may simply feel that balancing childcare and work would be
too difficult – an increasingly important issue as the UK continues to face
skill shortages.

Justin Palmer
Managing director, Principio

Professor’s attitude makes the blood boil

The sadly misinformed attitude of Professor Richard Scase and others like
him (Opinion, 21 October 2003) is one reason why stress is a rapidly increasing
problem for UK plc.

Like many of the ‘stress is for wimps and skivers’ school of thinking, he
confuses pressure, which all of us need to some degree to perform at our best,
with stress, which is the unhealthy outcome of excessive or unrelenting

He is concerned at the difficulty of distinguishing between work-related and
externally induced stress and wants ‘a quantifiable, scientific measure of
stress’. Presumably, he believes that if you can’t measure it, you can’t manage

This is precisely why stress is an issue for organisations – unless we
employ automata instead of human beings, no measure will be satisfactory.
Everyone has a different ‘pressure threshold’.

If Professor Scase wants employees to bring 100 per cent of their
commitment, creativity and energy to the workplace, and to embrace change
positively, then he will need to put some effort into understanding what
motivates them, and what is going on in their lives, out of work as well as in

It should not surprise him that people accused of skiving tend to live up to
their reputation. He should perhaps ask himself some serious questions about
why the employees with whom he is familiar just can’t face getting out of bed
for him.

Elizabeth McCaw
Director of consultancy and training, ICAS

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