Monthly Archives: October 2009

Age and decay

The government is going to review compulsory retirement ages in 2010 after the ‘Heyday’ decision.  Until then, it is not age discrimination to make someone retire at 65.    Meanwhile, there is speculation that the state pension retirement age is going to move to 67.

The government has a number of options:  to remove the limit completely, to substitute an older limit, or keep things as they are.  It seems unlikely they will keep things as they are since this will tip workers into claiming social security (if they don’t have enough pension provision) at an earlier age. 

Many employers are closing final salary pension schemes to new entrants – some even completely.  Pensions are part of pay, so great care needs to be taken not to accidentally constructively dismiss the workforce when doing this.

A unilateral reduction in pay (or status) can trigger a constructive dismissal claim if the employee resigns in protest.

Final salary pension schemes had a great disadvantage for flexible working, since, depending on the rules, spending the final few years working part time or at a lower paid job could really damage pension prospects.

Money purchase schemes, whilst suffering the disadvantage of fluctuating values, do have the advantage that higher contributions at an earlier date are unaffected by any later reductions.

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 – https://irenicon.wordpress.com/

Leave a comment

Filed under employment law

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 :

https://irenicon.wordpress.com/2009/08/27/the-spaces-in-between/
https://irenicon.wordpress.com/2009/11/11/strategic-redundancy/
https://irenicon.wordpress.com/2009/11/09/redundancy-on-the-move/
https://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 – https://irenicon.wordpress.com/

5 Comments

Filed under employment law, redundancy, strikes

Security at work

Security rules won’t protect the organisation if people can’t do their job without breaching them.  And they’re no use if people can’t understand them.   Good security rules are brief, clear, and practical.

But good, clear, practical, workable, brief security rules are only half the battle.  What the organisation does speaks louder than what it says, and if senior managers don’t themselves honour the spirit of the rules, comply with the detail, and act when breaches take place ‘on their watch’, security problems will be endemic in the organisation.

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 – https://irenicon.wordpress.com/

Leave a comment

Filed under employment law

Security at work

Many disciplinary rules properly specify breach of security or data handling rules as gross misconduct offences, which leave employees open to summary dismissal.  But the reality is that these long documents are often breached in minor, if not major ways, and the smart employee knows that some ‘rules’ count and some do not.  And there’s often a fascinating discrepancy between how breaches of such rules are interpreted in different sections of the same organisation.  Some managers will only take action if faced with a blatant (and proven) breach, whereas others monitor proactively for compliance, and keep a managerial eye on smaller breaches and trends.  These differences in approach cause problems for the whole business, and undermine the fairness of dismissals.  But fundamentally they derive from over-complex rules.

Sometimes the rules get stuck in being over-specific.  I once saw a rule – “do not steal from the petty cash box whilst wearing gloves”.  I always wondered if it was OK to be a bare-handed thief in that organisation.  Perhaps it was also OK to be a bare-faced liar.  But I’ve also seen rules that are so wide ranging that no-one could comply.  How about – “We require our staff to be totally honest at all times.”    I would hate to ask anyone in that organisation what they thought about my latest haircut!

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 – https://irenicon.wordpress.com/

Leave a comment

Filed under employment law

Security at work

Reports indicate that theft and fraud in the workplace are increasing, as the recession and its after effects continue.

UK employment law places great emphasis on rules, policies and procedures.  You won’t find much about this in statute law, but the ACAS Codes, best practice advice and case law combine to promote written rules and policies.

These pressures have led to the development in most organisations of operation manuals, staff handbooks and training manuals, and these usually contain the security do’s and don’ts.  The rules ideally will cover security of goods, money, information and people.

There is an interesting tendency for these documents to get longer and longer — rules get added over time, as specific breaches are identified and dealt with.   This means that some security rules become so long that they have the unintended effect of making controls harder to enforce and breaches harder to challenge, not easier.

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 – https://irenicon.wordpress.com/

Leave a comment

Filed under employment law

Benefits – are they really so great?

Why not let people make their own choices, within a range that works for the employer? For example, you could set basic annual leave entitlements, and let workers take salary sacrifices as a trade off for enhanced leave.  Perhaps some people would rather have a discount on their gym membership than medical insurance? 

Our idea of equality has become an idea of uniformity.   But there are ways to be equal that do not involve standardisation of everything.  Small organisations tend to work on the basis of a salary without any benefits.  Many organisations have changed company cars into car allowances. If we extend that idea, we could convert all our packages to ‘cash’, and then allow grown-up individuals to make choices about what benefits they want.  Then we can show pay transparency across a spectrum of options, without having to work out whether a medical insurance scheme is or is not equivalent to a small car loan scheme.

Unless your staff are working across a variety of jurisdictions and tax bases, why not keep it simple?

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

Leave a comment

Filed under benefits, pay

Benefits – are they really so great?

There is an argument for giving staff access to ‘cafeteria style’ benefits, paid out of net taxed income. These arrangements allow employees access to ‘wholesale rates’, without tying individuals into employer-specific schemes.  Then employees can establish a “personal benefit package” which, like a personal pension scheme, does not automatically end when changing jobs.

From the employer’s point of view, this makes TUPE transfers so much easier administratively.  It also keeps contractual pay entitlements clear and simple, and avoids the need for contractual clauses making some or all benefits ‘non contractual’ or substitutable.

One of the ‘advantages’ of the old company-style benefits packages was that they promoted lack of pay transparency, but of course this is in fact a disadvantage, causing complications when it comes to diversity or equal pay.

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

Leave a comment

Filed under benefits, pay