Councils take on challenge of new race relations laws

first_imgAmendmentsto race relations laws will make enforcing anti-discrimination policies a duty,not an option, for public-sector employers. By Paul NelsonAmajor step towards equality at work will be taken from next month with the introductionof new legislation for the public sector. TheRace Relations (Amendment) Act will force public authorities to eliminateinstitutional racism and promote equality of opportunity and good relations.Thekey difference between the 1976 Race Relations Act and the new statute is thatpublic authorities now have a duty to take action over race inequality. From2 April, public organisations will have to clearly define racial equalitypolicies and assess the impact that they have on the recruitment, retention andpromotion of ethnic minority staff. Annual results of the policies will bepublished. Thechairman of the Commission for Racial Equality, Gurbux Singh, warned HRprofessionals at a briefing this month that less than 50 per cent of local authoritieshave implemented an action plan to take anti-racism policies forward since theStephen Lawrence Inquiry.Hesaid, “Of course there are already examples of excellence and a great deal ofgood work is being done. But the excellence of the few only highlights theweaknesses that characterise the sector as a whole. All of us have the right toexpect the very best from everyone in the public services.”Manylocal government HR directors deny that compliance will be a serious problem.Francesca Okosi, director of HR at the London Borough of Brent, said, “Localauthorities should be better prepared than other sectors, as we have alwayscomplied with section 71 of the 1976 Race Relations Act.”Complianceis certainly on the agenda. Keith Handley, head of strategic personnel atBradford Metropolitan District Council, and the next president of Socpo, said,“Never, never, never should equality drop off the HR agenda. Local governmentand regional council HR teams need to take a lead on equality and show the way forwardto other sectors.” SomeHR professionals in local authorities admit hitting the legislation’s targetswill be difficult. DeborahMoon, corporate personnel policy manager at Medway Council in Kent, believesthat, if accurate, the CRE’s figures are a “massive concern” and a “majorchallenge”.Localauthorities that will struggle to comply are those that have only dealt withequality superficially in the past. TerryGorman, Socpo’s current president  said,“Most local authorities will have a statement, but if they have an action planthat means something is another matter.” Gormanstressed that recruitment will be the most challenging area of compliance.“Local government needs to improve its image, by tailoring HR policies andstrategies so they seem attractive to ethnic minorities,” he said.TheCRE has two roles within the new legislation. Firstly it will consult and helpindividual local councils draw up guidelines under the amendment, as well aspublishing general codes of practice in April.Butif the CRE believes that a local authority, or any member of the public sector,is not complying with the act then it has the authority to investigate thebody. The CRE will then issue recommendations resulting from the investigation.Ifstill not satisfied, it has the power to issue a legally enforceablenon-discrimination notice, and ultimately take councils to court.Singhsaid, “Make no mistake, the new legislation means that racial equality is nolonger an option, it is now a duty. If it does come to enforcement action bythe CRE, we will act with care and appropriateness, but also with vigour.”Butthe CRE has stated that legal action will only be taken as a last resort, andthere is a willingness among council HR directors to bring change. DilysWynn, head of HR at Worcestershire County Council, said, “When best practicewas first implemented we all called for legislative teeth, but there were none.This was later seen as unworkable and changed, so I think that this is thesensible way forward.”Okosiagreed, saying, “Now we must measure the outcomes and look closely at ourpolicies and the status quo, and if they are not working, correct them.”Experts’viewsGurbuxSinghChairman, Commission for Racial Equality–“Make no mistake, the new legislation means that racial equality is no longeran option, it is now a duty.”FrancescaOkosiDirector of HR, London Borough of Brent–“Now we must measure the outcomes and look closely at our policies and thestatus quo, and if they are not working, correct them.”DilysWynnHead of HR, Worcestershire County Council–“When best practice was first implemented we all called for legislative teeth,but there were none. This was later seen as unworkable and changed, so I thinkthat this is the sensible way forward.”KeithHandley Head of strategic personnel, Bradford Metropolitan District Council–“Never, never, never should equality drop off the HR agenda. Local government andregional council HR teams need to take a lead on equality and show the wayforward to other sectors.”TerryGormanPresident, Socpo–“Local government needs to improve its image, by tailoring HR policies andstrategies so they seem attractive to ethnic minorities.”Whatemployers will have to do from AprilAllpublic-sector organisations, including local and central government, the policeand NHS, will be subject to the Race Relations (Amendment) Act.Themeasures employers will have to implement include:–Monitoring the ethnicity of their workforce, and in applications for jobs,promotion and training.–Ethnicity policies will have to be reviewed and developed to make sure thatthey actively promote equal opportunities. The Commission for Racial Equalitywill assist employers in this.–Employers will have to consider equality issues when dealing with grievances,disciplinary action, performance appraisals, dismissals and other reasons forleaving.–Annual reports will have to be published, outlining policies put in place todeal with equal opportunities, their results and aims, objectives and policiesfor the year ahead. Importantly,the duty will apply to all work contracted out by the public sector. This willespecially affect local councils due to the extent of outsourcing. Allfirms employed by the public sector must have similar racial equality policies.Private companies are not covered by the legislation. Related posts:No related photos. Councils take on challenge of new race relations lawsOn 20 Mar 2001 in Personnel Today Previous Article Next Article Comments are closed. last_img read more

Target practice

first_imgTarget practiceOn 12 Jun 2001 in Personnel Today With studies showing that three quarters or more of investment in ITtraining is wasted, there is a strong case for targeting any spending on theneeds of the business as well as the individual.  So how do you ensure you get the best return to maximise businesscompetitiveness as well as personal development?  Rob McLuhan reportsMost industry leaders believe there can never be too much training, andcompanies which fail to provide it risk falling behind their competitors. Thelatest annual survey by ASTD, an international training body, shows businessesin the US are providing courses for a record number of employees, a trendthought to be matched in Europe. The bottom-line benefits are clearlydemonstrated, with successful organisations found to be those offering most inthis area. Yet training courses are like the seeds in the biblical parable, with manyfalling on stony ground. Research by PTS Learning Systems (since acquired byGlobal Knowledge) revealed that as much as 70 per cent of investment intraining is considered wasted within a few days, as staff fail to derive anybenefit from what they have learned. Other surveys put the figure even higher. A common problem is that companies overlook the need to link their effortsto business priorities. This not only wastes resources but can impose anunnecessary burden on employees, who may find themselves on a trainingtreadmill that exhausts them without delivering results. “You can send any member of your staff on lots of scheduled courses,but that won’t necessarily improve the quality of the individual, or take thecompany in the direction you intend,” says Pat Way, human capitaldevelopment director at QA, the UK’s largest IT training provider. Training needs to be targeted effectively, Way says, since being made to goon a course that the individual cannot usefully apply to their role is morefrustrating than not being trained at all. “It is equally tiresome for HRand IT divisions, because they are not getting the results they hoped for. Andit is galling for financial directors, who are not getting any return oninvestment.” The model of the learning organisation favours giving freedom to theemployee to choose courses that will aid their personal development. That canbe appropriate in many circumstances, but if handled with lack ofdiscrimination can end up merely providing them with a springboard to anotherjob elsewhere. At the opposite end of the spectrum, staff will simply be scheduled toattend workshops or carry out learning in a particular topic. This can be aburden if they are not told why they are doing it or what it will contribute tothe business. To provide the ideal alignment, Way recommends courses be chosen thatsatisfy personal aspirations as well as furthering business strategy. “Ifthe company allocates competencies to specific roles, a member of staff can gointo the system and find courses that fill gaps in his or her knowledge,”she points out. From the employee’s point of view, that level of involvement is highlymotivating because it enhances their understanding of how they can apply theirknowledge to the company. It also helps HR directors, who can see what eachindividual is achieving and pass that information on to line managers andfinancial directors. Paul Butler, CEO of KnowledgePool, believes that it is impossible toovertrain anyone in technology. “The appetite of the IT professional tolearn is boundless, as they constantly need to keep their skills up todate,” he says. “This morning I noticed one of my Web infrastructurestaff going to a class carrying six big books – that seems like a lot but Iknow how quickly these people absorb information.” Butler acknowledges, however, that from a business perspective productivitygains from new skills are not always outweighed by the amount of time peoplespend learning. “It can almost become an esoteric activity to continue to raise yourlevel of knowledge without ever putting it to use,” he says. “That iswhere organisations need to be careful, to ensure people have the opportunityto apply new skills.” There is also a practical limit to how much people can physically handle withoutbecoming overloaded, he points out. In the past this was naturally regulated bycost – organisations might spend up to £15,000 giving their IT professionalseight to 10 days a year of classes and workshops, a relatively high investment.But thanks to the arrival of inexpensive e-learning this inhibitor haslargely disappeared, encouraging organisations to pile on the pressure beyondthe ability of individuals to cope. Butler says he increasingly encountersorganisations with aggressive learning plans that may not be beneficial. “Some HR professionals have been seduced into believing that becausee-learning is low cost and flexible, they can get their staff to go through alearning process much quicker. But speed is not the real driver,” he says.KnowledgePool recommends a standard time of nine weeks for e-learning as theequivalent to one day in a classroom. If companies want that covered in onlyfour weeks they need to provide incentives so staff understand there is abenefit. This point is reinforced by Steve Dineen, CEO of Fuel, which specialises ininstructor-led IT e-training. He points out that companies can now takeadvantage of volume discounts, buying a library of content that containsseveral hundred courses. He says, “You think you are getting a great deal, with 1,000 units for£50 each. But price should not be the main consideration: where there is poordelivery, weak content and a lack of focus, frustration will result. Thestudent may get stuck, because the text is not explained well, and end upblaming themselves and the courseware.” In any case, the most important courses may not be contained in the libraryat all. The right approach, Dineen argues, is to tailor the training to theorganisation’s exact requirements, rather than buy a truckload of content thatmay turn out to have little application. Much of the material provided by manufacturers to train users in theirsoftware is quite comprehensive, and will not always be needed in its entirety.That makes it important to be selective. “A company might want to send someone on a course because they areresponsible for managing a Microsoft network. But it is pointless making themsit there for a week if all they need to know is how it interacts with theprinters, back-up software and storage devices,” he says. Dineen points to another potential downside with content libraries, which isthat an individual can choose a course that fits their own long-term agendamore obviously than that of the organisation. That could enable them to take acompletely different career path to the one assigned to them. In theory that could even exacerbate retention problems rather than easethem: certainly the worry that overqualified staff will end up leaving issometimes cited by companies as an excuse for not investing in training. Buthow genuine is this risk? Problems have been shown to occur with high-level business education, withcompanies encouraging key staff to take an MBA and then failing to reward themwith appropriate roles. That can lead to frustration, as individuals lookelsewhere for opportunities to practice their new skills. But in most other areas the dangers are exaggerated, according to HenryStewart, chief executive of Happy Computers, who points out that surveysconsistently point to the retentive benefits of training. “The idea that training can lead to the loss of an employee is an urbanmyth that terrifies business people but has no basis in reality,” he says.”If you look after employees they will stay.” As an example he pointsto his own firm, which provides plenty of opportunities for training and enjoysa 2.5 per cent staff turnover. Stewart concedes, however, that it is possible to overtrain, especiallywhere courses are imposed from above with little consideration for the endresults. This is often exacerbated by inflexibility of training companies whichinsist everyone on a course take all its elements, even if they are alreadyfamiliar with many of them. He adds, “The idea of ongoing learning is great, with a certain numberof days set aside for training. But it is counterproductive if it is justfilling up the days with no return.” Frazer Chesterman, director of Training Solutions 2001, agrees. “If youput people on courses that aren’t relevant you won’t get good use of theirtime,” he says. “That should be completely obvious but becausetraining is often seen as a perk or a reward for good performance it is notalways taken into account.” He also recommends that companies don’t overdo it by trying to make peoplelearn too much in one go. For instance, workshop courses can be broken up intohalf days so staff can go back into the working environment and test out whatthey have learned. Getting buy-in from the individual is an essential element, stresses JohnAves, chief executive of Forum, part of FT Knowledge. This can be achieved bymaking courses easy to access. He says, “We live in busy times and one thing that makes people feeloverstretched is where training doesn’t flex with them. We do a lot of thinkingabout how to provide opportunities for people to choose when and how theylearn.” “Whatever the level of training, you have to make sure it is deliveredto them at the right time, at their desk or when they are ready for a newchallenge in their career.” Keeping them involved also means ensuring the course is relevant to theircurrent role and the strategic context in which they sit, as well as to theirpersonal aspirations. “If something is interesting to them personally butnot to the organisation, it won’t do much good,” he points out. Evaluation can also play an important part in making sure resources areproperly directed. Among other things, FT Knowledge measures the efficiency ofspend in training and development, and finds it can often save organisations upto 50 per cent of their previous investment. Inefficiencies often arise where courses are purchased in a fragmented wayby departments that fail to liaise with each other. That means the company canend up buying 15 variants of essentially the same topic from 10 differentsuppliers. On the other hand, Aves detects a big shift away from the wasteful tendencyto choose courses from catalogues towards specific training and developmentinterventions driven by the business. This increasingly ensures companiesinvest their training pounds in skills that add value. This approach takes full advantage of “blended solutions”, inwhich e-learning complements the classroom to offer a range of opportunitiesfor the individual in the way they access training. In common with manyexperts, Aves believes the ability for the individual to combine different modesof activity – with groups in the classroom, with managers or with an onlinetutor – creates higher quality learning than single disconnected events. Used wisely, that wealth of choice enables staff to take useful andsatisfying courses that advance the needs of the business, instead of enduringfragmented interruptions that serve no purpose. Tools that measure, monitor and align training to business needsSkills Dynamics (QA): Skills-and competencies-based automated training selection tool( E-dynamics (Docent/QA): Automated learning management system. Helps organisations tailor a learningstrategy, by identifying skills gaps, creating competency tables, and integratinginto existing infrastructure.  www.docent.comSurveys and Assessments (Dale Carnegie):Tools that measure five levels of training effectiveness, includingapplication, financial impact and return on investment. Competence Manager (John Matchett): Internet-based application that enables organisations to identify thetraining needed to meet strategic needs and comply with industry regulations.Can forecast, identify, classify, evaluate and analyse the skills, competenciesand gaps in the workforce.  www.jmlnet.comEvaluator (Resource Management Services): Reports and questionnaires to evaluate the effectiveness of training.  www.rmsuk.comCompAssess (SVI Training Products): Identifies individual training needs, maximising software skillsproficiency while minimising training time. www.svitrain.comQuality Standards for Evaluating Multimedia and Online Training,(McGraw-Hill Ryerson): Book that outlines four main stages in checking the usefulness of atraining package: business objectives; accuracy, depth and clarity; ease ofuse; instructional design.  [email protected] Previous Article Next Article Comments are closed. Related posts:No related photos.last_img read more

Guide Dogs’ Association warns of eye strain danger

first_img Previous Article Next Article Comments are closed. Guide Dogs’ Association warns of eye strain dangerOn 1 Jul 2001 in Personnel Today Theimportance of taking breaks while working at a computer was emphasised by anawareness week CharityThe Guide Dogs for the Blind Association estimates Computer Vision Syndromecould be costing British employers more than £183m a year in lost working days.The most common complaints are eye strain, headaches, dry or irritated eyes andblurred vision.Thecharity organised an awareness week at the end of June targeting computer usersof all ages and launched a computer screen saver designed to remind workers totake a break.The”Eye Kon” is available on a free CD-Rom from the association ordownloadable from the Internet on its website, and makes a blinking eye pop upon the computer after it has been in use for 90 minutes.Occupationalhealth professionals are being encouraged to raise awareness among workers ofthe need to take regular computer screen breaks to protect their eyes andgeneral health.Theawareness week ran from 23 to 30 June, drawing attention to the need forworkers to take breaks, and is part of an ongoing campaign by the association.GeraldinePeacock, the charity’s chief executive, said: “While there is no evidencethat VDUs can directly cause eye disease, prolonged working or playing onscreen can strain eyes and aggravate existing eye conditions.”Throughour campaign, we want computer users, schools, colleges, employers and healthand safety specialists to take a fresh look at this important eye care issue.”On18 July, the charity is also running a Shades for a Day campaign designed toraise awareness of the need to buy and wear correct sunglasses. Related posts:No related photos.last_img read more

…in brief

first_imgRelated posts:No related photos. …in briefOn 29 Jan 2002 in Personnel Today Previous Article Next Article This week’s news in briefTesco talent hunt Tesco has launched a nationwide recruitment drive for 600 managers. Thesupermarket chain is after applicants from a variety of backgrounds, includinggraduates and over-50s, with retail experience. Tesco, which promoted 800employees last year, is urging internal candidates to apply. Store and sectionmanager positions are up for grabs because of Tesco’s current expansion.Applicants can apply online. salaries up 5% NHS chief executives received a 5.3 per cent pay increase for the year to 31March 2001. The NHS Boardroom Pay Report 2002, which analysed 380 trust annualreports, claims increases varied from 0 to 35 per cent. Including allremuneration, the average chief executive annual salary is £89,000. pay gap An EOC report reveals that while women now account for 30 per cent ofmanagers in Britain, they still earn 24 per cent less per hour than malemanagers. Women and Men in Britain: Management, also shows men dominate in nineof the 11 named managerial groups – exceptions being office, and health andsocial services managers. Ryanair flies high Budget airline Ryanair is to create 3,000 jobs after ordering 100 new Boeing737-800s in a £6.5bn deal. The new jobs include 800 new pilots, 2,000 cabincrew and 400 engineers and operations staff. Delivery of the planes, which canseat up to 189 passengers, will continue until 2010. Ryanair has an option for50 more of the planes.  www.ryanair.comPensions off-target Stakeholder pensions have failed to attract the low-income earners they weredesigned for, according to Britain’s biggest insurer CGNU. It claims theschemes launched last spring primarily attracted wealthy retired people lookingfor a sound investment. This is instead of providing low-cost pensions forpeople who would not otherwise put money aside for retirement. Comments are closed. last_img read more

Alliance helps manufacturing jobless

first_imgStaff made redundant at the Jacobs plant closure in Sheffield are beinghelped into new work by a mutual assistance scheme set up by the EngineeringEmployers’ Federation. The EEF’s Sheffield Association is sending details of redundant staff to thealliance members. Association director Gordon Scott said: “In this way we get straight tothe people needing both management and shopfloor workers. We don’t becomeinvolved in the actual recruitment – our job is to alert member companies tothe availability of well-trained people with experience in the industry.” Scott said the association has had a lot of interest from firms sincedistributing a list of available staff. “Although we haven’t placed people with everyone who has contacted us,we have been able to help find new jobs for hourly operatives and salariedstaff. Several senior managers are also in line for new jobs,” said Scott.He added: “We have had a difficult time since 1999, losing about 8 percent of our industry’s workforce locally. But there are engineering sectorswhich are picking up well and they inevitably find that skills shortages aredeveloping.” Alliance helps manufacturing joblessOn 5 Mar 2002 in Manufacturing, Personnel Today Features list 2021 – submitting content to Personnel TodayOn this page you will find details of how to submit content to Personnel Today. We do not publish a… Previous Article Next Articlecenter_img Comments are closed. Related posts:last_img read more

Nursing and industry make uneasy bedfellows

first_imgShe said that one of the greatest challenges is in bridgingthe gap between business culture and the health needs of employees. The combination of nursing and industry does not work, wasthe controversial claim presented by Elaine Hunt, managing director of the PTHGroup, an OH consultancy. Sharing her experiences of setting up OH practices in adiverse range of organisations, Hunt said there could be a number of reasonswhy she is called in. Previous Article Next Article An organisation might need to comply with Government healthinitiatives, be reacting to a serious workplace incident, or is perhapsfighting for an important contract that requires a competent OH professional onsite. Whatever the reason, said Hunt, OH professionals shouldnever compromise their role in the interest of keeping the client happy. Related posts:No related photos. Comments are closed. Nursing and industry make uneasy bedfellowsOn 1 Jul 2002 in Personnel Todaylast_img read more

Make the running now on UK competitiveness

first_imgWe should not be pessimistic. Michael Porter’s assessment of UKcompetitiveness was not as grim as some had feared and, as he says, industrymust build on past successes. As befitting one of the world’s most admired management thinkers, Porterdelivered an impressive overview of the state of UK productivity and has givengovernment, business and economists much to think about (see page 3). By pulling together the legacy of the past with the challenges of thepresent, he has done the DTI and UK business a huge favour. He has outlinedwhat has to be done and brought a new focus to future action. Raising the productivity stakes in line with the US, France and Germany willbe a long haul, but there is much in Porter’s study that HR can act on now. He wants the private sector to drive the next phase of economic development.His call for investment in innovation and labour force skills is music to theears. He wants business leaders to be in the thick of national competitivenessinitiatives, and he highlights the need for upgrading of skills among low tomiddle managers. Inevitably, Porter’s optimism cannot hide the depth of problems facing UKmanufacturing, but his remarks should provoke a practical response from theDTI, and will certainly lead to yet more academic research. But don’t wait for others to tell you what to do. In other dynamiceconomies, it is business that has done all the running on competitiveness, nottheir governments – we should do the same. And we should not assume that allthe answers lie in the US, Germany and France. They are not without their owndifficulties, as the feature on page 16 shows. HR, as always, has a fundamental role to play in this. The Porter lecturegives you the ammunition to lobby harder within the business for more progressivepeople management practices, and to take the lead in designing and implementingstrategies that are hard for your competitors to copy. While competitiveness and productivity are a hot topic, it is wise tocapitalise on it. By Jane King Comments are closed. Make the running now on UK competitivenessOn 28 Jan 2003 in Personnel Today Previous Article Next Article Related posts:No related photos.last_img read more

Thousands of firms neglect audits

first_img Previous Article Next Article Related posts:No related photos. Just 0.002 per cent of the thousands of companies trade union Amicus askedto undertake an equal pay audit have actually done so. The union wrote to more than 9,000 companies in December 2001, asking them tocheck men and women’s pay rates. Just 1 per cent agreed to do so, and it wasrevealed last week that since then, only two per cent of these have completedan audit. Gail Cartmail, Amicus national secretary for equalities, said the figuresshow that employers will not undertake equal pay audits unless they are forcedto do so. “This shows that the voluntary approach advocated by government andemployers’ organisations doesn’t work,” she said. “The only way is tomake pay audits compulsory.” The union also wants men to strike if employers do not pay their femalecounterparts an equal wage. It has asked male union members to sign an equal pay charter which supportsstrike action if employers refuse to conduct equal pay audits to uncover whereand how pay gaps appear. Amicus claims the only reason a company would refuse to carry out an equalpay audit is to conceal discrimination against women in the workplace. Last week, a report by the Equal Opportunities Commission revealed that only18 per cent of large employers and 10 per cent of medium-sized employers haveactually conducted a pay review, or are in the process of doing one. The majority (54 per cent of large and 67 per cent of medium-sizedemployers), do not plan to carry out a pay review at all. Comments are closed. Thousands of firms neglect auditsOn 1 Apr 2003 in Personnel Todaylast_img read more

Joined up HR initiative to boost recruitment drive

first_img Comments are closed. Joined up HR initiative to boost recruitment driveOn 29 Apr 2003 in Personnel Today Related posts:No related photos. Public sector employers in the London Borough of Tower Hamlets have formedan innovative partnership to help beat the HR challenges faced by governmentemployers. Public sector organisations including the council, police, Jobcentre plus,NHS, housing association and education authority have all been involved indiscussions to develop common HR solutions. Cara Davani, head of HR at Tower Hamlets council said the scheme initiallybegan as a one-off seminar, but has grown into a regular partnership. “We are trying to identify the common themes that arise for all thesebodies in Tower Hamlets and then identify a single strategy to deal withthem,” she said. The group, which includes HR and senior management staff from the variousagencies, are looking at strategies to help motivate staff, improve recruitmentand retention, and at ways to attract more young people into local government. “We’ve identified some common problems around recruitment andremuneration across the public sector in the borough. We’ve done the analysisand know where the gaps are, so now we’re collectively promoting the boroughand making ourselves attractive as employers,” said Davani. One common problem the group has identified is the cost of living in thearea and the team hopes a co-ordinated approach will bring some answers. The group also wants to use the forum to highlight the attractive side ofworking in the public sector in Tower Hamlets. The scheme aims to encourage members of the local ethnic community to feelthey can go for a wider range of jobs in the public sector. By Ross Wigham Previous Article Next Articlelast_img read more