This month’s news

Consultation with staff law

All major UK employers will be forced to consult with their staff via
national works councils if proposals drafted by the European Commission become
law. According to a document leaked to Personnel Today, the French Government
will make the proposals a priority when it takes over the presidency of the
Commission in June.

Rapid response needed

Employers must respond to a parental leave request within seven days.
Pinsent Curtis partner Karen Seward said employers needed staff who can respond
fast. The employer can postpone leave where "the employer considers that
the operation of its business would be unduly disrupted". But if the
request sits in HR departments for three weeks it will not be possible to
refuse, said Seward.

Record fine for Railtrack

Railtrack has been fined a record £150,000 after a judge accused directors
of "corporate inertia" over rail safety. The fine, the biggest
against Railtrack for safety breaches, followed the death of a driver in 1993
when he was hit by an express train as he used a trackside telephone. Railtrack
admitted breaching the laws by not acting quickly enough to identify the
dangers posed.

Avoid breach of regulations

Employers are being advised to take extra measures to avoid breaching the
Working Time Regulations. This follows warnings from employment lawyers at
Wragge & Co that the vast majority of staff will be covered by an implied
obligation to work extra hours, meaning they cannot be exempted from the
48-hour-week rule. CBI director of HR policy John Cridland said it was
important to assess if staff were putting in the extra hours entirely of their
own volition. Any doubt as to genuine consent means the derogation should not
be applied.

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