Letters from personnel Today 29 January 2008

Great, more health and safety legislation for us to contend with (‘Workplace health and safety regulations to be strengthened after MEP report’, Personnel Today, 15 January 2008).

As a health and safety consultant, I spend my day helping companies to come to terms with all the health and safety red tape. Yet, despite Alistair Darling telling us all a few months ago that he is going to reduce health and safety red tape, here we are being landed with a load more from Europe.

Assa Fetyia, Posted on personneltoday.com

Good absence strategy can be a powerful HR tool

Identifying the year-on-year rise in trends such as those in the CIPD’s Annual Absence Management Survey 2007 (Personneltoday.com, 25 October 2007) is only useful if these trends become catalysts for breaking the mould and reducing the number of sick days, which costs the UK economy hundreds of thousands of pounds per day.

The difference between public and private sector absenteeism suggests that public sector could learn from techniques used in the private sector.

Interestingly, the study shows 90% of public sector services are recording absence rates compared to only 65% of private sector services – throwing into question the accuracy of the private sector’s data and perhaps making the public sector’s rise last year a perception only.

Many HR absence strategies are merely bandaging existing wounds, reacting to issues once they have arisen. A ‘prevention is better than cure’ approach is the key, where employers take more responsibility for employee illness and invest in a same-day sickness process – providing professional medical advice when staff call in sick.

Through the provision of medical advice, HR would be able to marry the identification and tracking of the issue with a structure to reduce its impact on the business. This, in turn, could supplement and feed into existing HR data, giving HR departments greater control in the battle against absenteeism.

Lawrence Knowles, managing director, MidlandHR

EU meddling in working time is the last straw

In ‘Agency staff reprieve is only temporary’ (Personnel Today, 8 January), Katy Meves expressed concern at the impact the proposed Temporary Agency Workers Directive will have on the UK jobs market. She also said that attempts had been made to link this directive to the Working Time Directive (WTD).

But this was more than just an attempt. As recently as the 18 December 2007, addressing the EU Employment Committee, the Portuguese labour minister said the two directives were being looked at together. He also admitted that finalising this amalgamation of directives needed a vote, which had not been taken due to the risk of losing it.

But it is not just the UK that wants to preserve opt-outs from the WTD. Several other countries also want opt-outs, including Germany and Poland.

The attitude of our EU partners can be illustrated by two comments made to me in Employment Committee in 2005. One member said: “We don’t want the UK dumping their ideas on us.” Another remarked: “We don’t want opt-outs because that will give some countries an unfair advantage.”

More recently a member said that countries wishing to retain the opt-out had a “psychiatric problem”.

I fail to see how anyone can continue to support our membership of the EU.

Derek Clark MEP, member of the EU Employment Committee, UKIP

 


 

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