Tag Archives: recession

Season Of Discontent

This year has seen an above average number of compromise agreements signed off by HR practitioners, as organisations make redundancies and restructure to cope with tough trading conditions.  Whilst the general level of such agreements has gone up in line with the increase in redundancy exercises, there is a group of HR practitioners who are reaching ‘burn out’  and struggling with the demands of their role.

It has been a difficult time for many in HR, particularly if they came up through the profession during the boom years.  The heartbreak of planning and implementing lay- offs and redundancies can leave an effect on HR as well as the individuals who have to suffer the consequences.

We are moving into a second phase now.   Some clients are making top up or follow on redundancies (many on a smaller scale than their first round), others are still implementing large scale restructuring plans.

Meanwhile, we are now likely to see a season of strikes.  Royal Mail and British Airways are trying to avoid strike action, but we are moving perilously close to a ‘season of discontent’.   If this spreads to other sectors, it will put further stress on the workforce, and on HR.

Many HR departments have put a lot of work into making contingency plans for swine flu.  It is time to pick up those plans, and see how they can be adapted to deal with strikes.  Strikes will affect many workforces, even if there is no strike at the particular workplace.  From delivery and transport problems onwards, other people’s strikes can affect your organisation.   

This has been an anxious year for many people, and the level of stress in some organisations is very high.  Individual worries over job security and money have a cumulative effect.  And for individuals who have escaped the cuts themselves,   adapting to change at work after colleagues were made redundant can be a big burden for some people.  

It’s worth remembering that although there has been bad news in many organisations, there is good news in many others.  But good news does not necessarily mean no stress, and forward planning, timely communication and negotiation will reduce unease and the tensions implicit in any change.  HR departments need to be properly supported as they start this second phase, so that they can deliver what the business needs without burning themselves out.   The health and safety legislation applies to HR as well!

Click these links for other blogs on redundancy :

http://irenicon.wordpress.com/2009/08/27/the-spaces-in-between/
http://irenicon.wordpress.com/2009/11/11/strategic-redundancy/
http://irenicon.wordpress.com/2009/11/09/redundancy-on-the-move/
http://irenicon.wordpress.com/2009/04/07/an-inconvenient-truth/

and link to this web page on Irenicon – http://www.irenicon.co.uk/Consultancy/redundancyforemployers.html

Annabel Kaye is Managing Director of Irenicon Ltd, a specialist employment law consultancy.   Tel: 08452 303050  Fax: 08452 303060  Website : www.irenicon.co.uk.  You can follow Annabel on twitter – http://twitter.com/AnnabelKaye and check our regular articles and news throughout the autumn on our blog site – http://irenicon.wordpress.com/

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Filed under employment law, redundancy, strikes

Equality and Reality

The Equality Bill is slowly making its way through Parliament. This long and cumbersome draft (over 500 pages!) is another attempt to ‘simplify’ employment law. It will trigger the rewriting of many a policy, the collection of more data, and ever more litigation as the new definitions and terminology are clarified through the legal appeal process.

Any organisation that allows its recruitment, management and retention policies to be governed by the ‘minimum’ provisions of employment law is doomed to constant rewrites and ‘add-ons’ that impede the organisation’s function.

A healthy organisation needs the best staff it can get at every level of seniority. It is highly unlikely that excluding women, people from a particular race, religion, orientation, age or disability will generate this result. Aside from any legal or moral argument, group exclusions are not an effective way to choose who gets which job. We might as well say everyone wearing shoes and not trainers today is the Board, and everyone else is not!

The problems of ‘indirect discrimination’ disappear if an organisation properly assesses what needs to be achieved and how. If there is a genuine requirement for a job to be done at a particular time, in a particular way, and there truly is no alternative, then imposing that requirement on an individual is unlikely to be indirect discrimination.

It is the lack of investigation of alternatives (and the lack of documentation of this process) that causes most of the problems. We still tend to think – the job must be done this way – because it is currently being done that way. This is a particular problem with the part-time/flexible working debate. Most organisations are happy to have junior staff work part time (duties permitting), but many declare that senior jobs must be accompanied by full time (if not full time plus) attendance. This stops at board level though, where many directors are on the board of multiple companies or organisations.

The ‘compliance only’ approach to equality can result in an ‘inputs measurement’ approach to work. But surely now more than ever before, the real issue is not the inputs but the results. It is results that deliver customer service, profitability and stakeholder approval. There are few organisations who can survive the next few years on ‘good attempt, nice inputs’.

The ‘compliance’ approach is neither necessary nor sufficient to achieve good ‘equality’ objectives. In fact the compliance approach can give ‘equality’ a bad name, in that it can come pretty close to imposing quotas or favouring one group over another.

Whilst there is a moral and political argument for putting historically disadvantaged groups into improved positions within society, in an employment context you corrupt the effectiveness of the organisation if you extend the concept beyond enabling those individuals to attain the necessary qualifications/experience/adjustments in order to be able to compete effectively.

We need the best people we can find to help navigate our organisations through these troubling times. Wherever those people come from and whatever ‘minority boxes’ they do or don’t tick on your diversity survey, it is vital to find the best, brief them well, and let them thrive.

 

Annabel Kaye is Managing Director of Irenicon Ltd, a specialist employment law consultancy. Tel: 08452 303050 Fax: 08452 303060 www.irenicon.co.uk

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Filed under discrimination, employment law, Equality Bill

Discrimination settlements and claims are rising

The increasing number of redundancies are having a predictable effect on the number of unfair dismissal claims, some of which are linked to discrimination claims alleging the redundancy selection methods themselves were unfair.

This week we have settled some discrimination related redundancy claims for sums in excess of £250k. These sort of settlements do not appear in the tribunal statistics since no claim was brought – they were settled via compromise agreements.

Our clients are also seeing an increase in complaints where they are recruiting with rejected candidates seeking to establish grounds for discrimination claims.

Business as usual is not really an option and it is doubly important to review all aspects of decision making to see if they have a discriminatory effect on any particular group.

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