Trapped in uncertainty

Business hates uncertainty and it has had enough of it in the last two years
to cause insomnia for the masses. Widespread executive worry about corporations
in crisis and workers troubled by job insecurity have become the unhealthy
hallmarks of UK plc. This scenario looks set to continue at least until the
duration of the Iraq war is clearer.

Anxious investors were relieved to learn the waiting and diplomacy were over
and stock markets rallied, but the uncertainty for day-to-day business goes on.

In the tense, early stages of the last Gulf War, employers put a lot of
decisions on hold for a short time, with normality only returning once the
situation had stabilised. This time, the climate for business was already
sticky long before the declaration of war. So could this current conflict have
deeper consequences, cause further disruption and make matters worse?

HR executives give their predictions in this week’s news analysis (see p13
and personneltoday. com). The most pressing issue for HR continues to be one of
safety and security of the workforce. Much of this was addressed post-September
11, but will need revisiting as a matter of urgency.

If your HR team is fulfilling its core competencies, then it has no more
worries from the Iraq crisis than it had last week. A good deal depends on how
long hostilities continue and the impact they have on the economic outlook. A
global downturn might stop inflation-busting pay settlements but it will also
hamper investment and growth, with a whole host of repercussions for the people
issues within your organisation.

Those HR teams operating in sectors that could be vulnerable to the vagaries
of war should think about the likely impact and be proactive. HR’s role as a
responsible business partner, in good and bad times, could ultimately be put to
the test.

DTI must get its act together

Why is the DTI so much better at dreaming up employment regulations than
implementing them?

There are currently three potentially litigious developments in the
workplace for which there is no guidance.

Despite the Data Protection Act being in force for 18 months, HR is still
waiting for the release of a code on staff monitoring. The confusion around
monitoring is now feeding through to the tribunal system (see p1).

Furthermore, from next month, staff will be able to address equal pay issues
at work through a new questionnaire process, and union learning representatives
are set to win new powers to train other employees (see p16). Guess what? There
is no guidance available on these yet either.

Remember that crass New Labour phrase ‘joined up government’? Maybe it is
time for HR to remind the DTI what it means.

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