News in brief: Grant for back study

Occupational health specialist Ethos has won a government grant to conduct a survey into the causes and prevention of back pain in the workplace. The Oxfordshire-based firm is to run the year-long project under the national Back to Work initiative. The company was chosen along with 18 others from a list of more than 330 applicants under the joint scheme by the Department of Health and the Health and Safety Executive.


Focus on car industry


A parliamentary committee is to head an inquiry into the state of the British car industry. The cross-party Trade and Industry Committee published an urgent report on BMW, Rover and Longbridge on 13 April and will extend its investigations into the future of vehicle manufacture in the UK. The committee will begin the inquiry this month and is due to finish at the end of July to report to the House in the autumn.


£5bn sickness bill


Illnesses such as RSI, back pain and stress caused by work cost the Government and employers £5bn each year, the TUC claims. It called on ministers last week to introduce legislation forcing companies to adopt back-to-work policies to deal with workplace accidents and ailments. Unions claim 25,000 people – the equivalent of 500 a week – leave the workplace for ever because of such injuries.


Pension rules change


Over half of employers running a pension scheme are considering changing the rules of their plan to avoid having to provide access to a stakeholder, according to a study by Capita. Employers have to provide access for staff to a stakeholder if they bar membership to anyone over 18 or with over a year’s service. Capita said one in three respondents would have to extend membership or offer access. Contact 020-7202 0526.


Clothes boss sacked


New Look chief executive Jim Hodkinson, who reportedly earned £1m last year, has been fired for patting a female employee’s bottom at an office disco. The women’s clothes retailer head admitted patting the woman’s bottom at London’s Grosvenor House Hotel on 6 March, following an awards dinner, at which he also made an inappropriate remark to a female executive from another company. After an internal investigation, Hodkinson, 56, left his prestigious job with a £600,000 pay-off.


Rail firms under fire


The corporate ethos of Railtrack and the recruitment procedures for Thames Trains were criticised in last week’s public inquiry into the Paddington rail disaster. But the Director of Public Prosecutions David Calvert-Smith has ruled out charges of corporate manslaughter against the companies.

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