News review: That was the year that was 2007

As the year draws to a close, Mike Berry looks back at the stories that made the headlines in 2007.

January

The year kicked off in swinging style, with the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) surprisingly backing the use of dancing at job interviews. This followed revelations that DIY chain B&Q had asked applicants to bop along to a Jackson Five track. According to the GMB union, potential employees were asked to dance to Blame it on the Boogie as an ice-breaker at interviews.

Being a union rep can seriously damage your career prospects, according to an exclusive survey by Personnel Today and the TUC. A study of 524 reps found almost all believed their prospects had been damaged by their personal involvement with unions.

February

Local authorities were working on radical financial plans in an effort to solve the multi-billion pound equal pay crisis. Councils were in talks with law firms that would allow them to set up trusts and borrow money to fund equal pay claims.

Greg Jones, HR director at South Wales Police, remained suspended from his job despite being found not guilty of rape. A jury unanimously cleared him after a two-week trial. Jones left the force later in the year by mutual agreement.

CIPD assistant director-general Duncan Brown announced his intention to leave his job for a private sector consultancy role.

March

Employers were again warned to tighten up their diversity practices after it emerged that Microsoft UK had stopped using a supplier because of its poor policy on the issue. Microsoft HR director Dave Gartenberg told Personnel Today that the global IT firm was looking at its suppliers’ diversity policies.

Employment experts warned that government proposals for greater use of mediation in resolving workplace disputes would fail unless the conciliation service Acas received more funding.

April

A radical shake-up of police training meant that officers were to learn their trade in supermarket aisles. The Met was preparing to sign deals with two major retailers in London to house the training of recruits. The force said it was constrained by the number of buildings it owned, and wanted officers trained in the community.

Linda Holbeche bagged the number two role at the CIPD, under the new title of research and policy director. Her appointment was welcomed by leading figures in the HR community.

CIPD chief Geoff Armstrong was paid almost £500,000 in 2005-06, according to figures in the institute’s annual report.

May

An exclusive story revealed that the £5.3bn Olympic Games was heading for industrial relations meltdown as a stand-off between unions and the Olympic Delivery Authority intensified. The issue of ‘direct employment’ on site was a sticking point, with construction unions refusing to rule out strikes.

Skills envoy Digby Jones broke ranks to attack government delays in launching the skills pledge. Jones said he had been pestering the government for months to launch the pledge, but it had kept “putting it off” – probably to wait until Gordon Brown took over as prime minister.

June

The government broke race laws with its controversial changes to the Highly Skilled Migrant Programme, according to the Commission for Racial Equality. A letter seen by Personnel Today said the commission had a number of “substantive concerns” about the changes.

Then education secretary Alan Johnson delivered an unequivocal “no” when asked whether companies should be allowed to award their own qualifications to employees.

July

A leading immigration expert warned that government plans to close down visa application outposts in more than 140 countries increased the risk of potential terrorists getting jobs in the UK. The warning followed the failed car bomb attacks in London and Glasgow, carried out by migrants working in the NHS.

New skills secretary John Denham instigated a government U‑turn, announcing a pilot scheme allowing employers to award their own qualifications.

August

Equalities tsar Trevor Phillips provoked a major furore in the profession by insisting that HR should be stripped of its diversity responsibilities. He said diversity was “no longer the sole province of HR” and specialist practitioners working outside the function were needed.

Communities secretary Hazel Blears definitively ruled out any extra cash to help councils ease their equal pay worries.

September

The government’s skills drive stalled after it emerged that only 50 extra firms had signed the skills pledge since its launch in June.

Basic HR failings in the Civil Service cost the taxpayer £628,632, as one in four sackings brought to appeal was found to be unlawful. The Civil Service Appeal Board said HR professionals were not following standard dismissal procedures.

October

‘Jackie who?’ was the question on everyone’s lips as the CIPD revealed the successor to Geoff Armstrong. Jackie Orme, chief personnel officer at PepsiCo, takes up the post of chief executive next April. Her appointment was greeted by a mixed reception from leading HR professionals, with some questioning whether she was the ‘big name’ the sector needed. Time will tell.

November

Sainsbury’s HR director Imelda Walsh was appointed by the prime minister to lead a review into when and how the government should extend the right to request flexible working.

Information commiss­ioner Richard Thomas called for new powers to prosecute companies that break data protection laws, after the government admitted losing two discs containing the personal details of 25 million child benefit claimants.

December

One year on from the Leitch Review, new skills supremo Chris Humphries admitted that employers were nervous about working with the government to improve the nation’s skills.

EU ministers discussing agency workers and working time failed to agree on implementing the directives, so employers can breathe a sigh of relief – for now.




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