Newsletter – January 2008 – Produced by QED Training Services

New Year Resolutions for Employers - By Law!

Key changes in legislation with important implications for employers come into effect throughout 2008. These include:-

Agency Workers’ Rights - A decision has to be made by the UK Government over European Directive proposals to give temporary and agency workers wider employment rights. The Directive gives these workers the right to equal treatment on issues such as pay, working time and holidays. The critical debate will be around the reduction in the qualifying period to six weeks in a job. Additionally, employment agencies will be required to observe a new law in April, which will give their workers the right to withdraw from services provided by the agency such as accommodation and transport.

Illegal Workers - February will see the introduction of tighter measures to deter illegal workers. Employers will be required to carry out more robust checks when employing people from abroad. Higher penalties will be imposed on employers who hire illegal workers, with a maximum fine of £10,000 for each illegal worker employed. If there is proof that the employer has knowingly hired illegal workers they could incur an unlimited fine and be sent to jail.

Workplace Consultation - In April, the existing laws on requirements to consult workers about changes and other work related matters will be further extended. Currently, the law only applies to businesses with over 100 staff. In April the regulations will apply to companies employing between 50 and 100 staff.

Maximum Compensation Levels for unfair dismissal awards will rise to £63,000 and the maximum weekly pay taken into account when making various awards will increase to £330.

Corporate Manslaughter legislation should make it easier to prosecute companies and other large organisations when gross failures in management lead to death. And Crown immunity to prosecution, which has been enjoyed by bodies such as government departments, is to be abolished.

Energy Performance Certificates will be required by a much wider range of commercial buildings during 2008. Increased awareness of energy use and the encouragement of investment in energy efficiency schemes has shaped the new legislation. Certificates addressing both these matters will be required on construction, sale or rent of commercial buildings over 10,000m2 from April, over 2,500m2 from July and all other non-dwellings from October 2008.

2008 will also see massive changes to, and the abolition of, Incapacity Benefit with a much more robust job and training focus. Recent losses of stored information on millions of public and private sector customers is certain to bring about changes to the Data Protection Act and stronger law enforcement powers for the Information Commission. Watch this space for news on both issues as the year develops.

We shall have snow?

Forecasters say that bitterly cold conditions will prevail across much of the UK in the weeks ahead. Transport difficulties and cold conditions mean that employers will be addressing recurring issues from previous years. So if the Met. Office proves to be right and you need advice on your health & safety responsibilities, send for our free fact sheet. It answers four key questions which often arise during our training courses, namely:-

  • Can staff be expected to travel to work in hazardous conditions?
  • Are employers liable for their safety if they do?
  • If temperatures drop, can employees be expected to stay at work?
  • What work activities need to be avoided in cold and icy conditions?

Christians only need apply! - "Suitably Devout" claim

A landmark tribunal case is about to be decided that will test how far employers are able to attach "genuine occupational qualifications" to their person specifications, in particular in relation to the religious beliefs of potential employees. Prospects, a charity with a policy of only recruiting Christians, is facing a discrimination claim from a former manager at the charity. Mr Mark Sheridan says that this staffing policy made his job increasingly difficult as he had to recruit staff who were not only qualified but "suitably devout". He says that this eventually forced him to resign.

Violence against Women - The Downing Street Petition

The Downing Street website has a new petition, which we encourage all our readers to sign. The petition reads:-

"We call on the Prime Minister to take urgent action to end the postcode lottery in violence against women support services, such as Rape Crisis Centres, to stem the tide of closures and ensure all women have access to these vital services. Every year, 3 million women in the UK are victims of gender-based violence. Specialised services are patchy in provision and in some places there are no services at all."

The petition is supported with a range of facts and figures about existing provision and signposts a report from the new Equality and Human Rights Commission entitled "Map of Gaps."

Government seek your views on faith

Communities Secretary Hazel Blears has launched a consultation into how Government can best support faith communities engage with one another and with their local communities. The consultation "Face to Faith and Side by Side" closes on 7th March 2008. Ms. Blears said at the press launch that as a multi-faith society, Britain had "many people of different beliefs and none, working and learning together." She said that over three quarters of those responding to the 2001 census had identified themselves as having a religious faith. A discussion paper together with full details of the consultation process may be obtained from:-

Department for Communities and Local Government
7th Floor
Zone H9
Eland House
Bressenden Place
London SW1E 5DU
O8701 226 236 and communities@twoten.com
Website: www.communities.gov.uk

Spiritual Intelligence- a short questionnaire

A colleague Liz Paxton is studying for a BA Hons. Degree in Contextual Theology accredited by Middlesex University. The course is specifically designed to prepare sponsored candidates for public ministry and Liz has been placed on the course by the Director of Lay Ministry of the Chelmsford Diocese of the Church of England. As part of her studies Liz will be completing a piece of work intended to explore the spiritual context of the workplace. A Management Trainer, Liz has compiled a short one page questionnaire related to the Spiritual Intelligent aspect of those involved in training work. If you can help Liz and would like a copy of her questionnaire, please get in touch with her at: liz@paxtonconsulting.co.uk

£10 million grants programme for equality schemes - do you qualify?

The new Equality Commission has just launched this £10 million grants scheme. It is aimed at funding grass roots organisations across all areas of equality. The Commission has developed three areas for priority funding. Applications from organisations working to promote good relations, raising awareness and engaging in case work will be encouraged. Examples include reducing the impact of hate crime, working with the media to promote greater understanding and providing legal advice to victims of discrimination. Full details of the new scheme can be found on the website of the Commission for Equality and Human Rights. The deadline for applications is 5p.m. on February 4th 2008. Organisations will be funded for a 12 month period starting from April 1 2008 and amounts awarded can be up to £120,000 per application.

"Straight" bouncer wins discrimination claim against gay nightclub

A female bouncer has won more than £6,000 compensation from a gay nightclub that discriminated against her because she is heterosexual. Sharon Legg who worked on the door at "Dreams" in Bournemouth told the tribunal that her manager had repeatedly called her "a breeder". She gave evidence of being frequently subjected to abuse because she was not a lesbian, with fellow door staff refusing to obey her instructions. The Tribunal in Southampton awarded her £3,000 for being harassed for being "straight" and a further £3,222 for unfair dismissal. The nightclub is considering appealing the decision.