This week’s news in brief: Asda share bonanza

Employees of supermarket giant Asda are set to receive a £3.5m share bonanza. The 6,000 staff are to be given shares worth about £600 each – double the amount paid to their colleagues who chose to cash in their options last summer following Wal-Mart’s Asda takeover.

HR pay out in front

Salaries for many HR positions are rising faster than overall salaries, research has revealed. A survey by consultancy William M Mercer in conjunction with SHRM found the median annual total cash compensation for top HR management executives with industrial relations responsibilities was £201,500 – up 5.1 per cent from a year ago.

Staff skills survey

More than 150 companies are better equipped to develop staff skills and improve competitiveness after participating in a two-year business support programme. The £500,000 European Union-funded Developing Tomorrow’s Skills programme helped the Nottinghamshire companies set up a survey identifying eight problem areas blocking the development of employees’ skills.

Graduates get better

The standard of graduate job-seekers has risen, according to Hugh Joslin, a graduate recruitment consultant. Joslin, managing director of Media Contacts, described graduates in 1998 as the worst crop he had witnessed in the business, demonstrating poor grammar and spelling. Most of 2000’s graduates were well-presented and were selectively selling themselves, he said.

Life sciences issues

Maintaining motivation and competitive reward packages and retaining key entrepreneurs have been revealed as major HR issues for life sciences companies. More than three-quarters of respondents to PriceWaterhouseCoopers’ Leadership in Life Services report said these issues are the most important facing the industry.

University pay parity

Universities should pay constant attention to maintaining equal pay between men and women, the Association of University Teachers has claimed. Giving evidence to the Equal Pay Task Force – set up by the Equal Opportunities Commission to examine pay differences between men and women – the association this month claimed women’s academic and related jobs are paid on average 18 per cent less than those for their male colleagues.

Childcare boost

Companies can boost their image by encouraging staff to take up to £105 of government cash per week to help pay for childcare. The Daycare Trust is promoting the Working Parents’ Tax Credit which it claims has boosted morale among staff with children. Daycare Trust spokeswoman Colette Kelleher said the credit is a “win-win situation for employers and working parents”.

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