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"the HR business professional cannot be a traditional generalist.....must act as a broker of service, a consultant to the management team, and a superb facilitator of change, rather than a traditional H.R. manager."

 David Ulrich,
 Harvard Business School
  Click on the links below to read about the following topics:

Employment legislation
Health and Safety
The Disability Discrimination Act (DDA)
Employment Act 2002
Dispute Resolution
Employment Equality (Religion or Belief, Sexual Orientation) legislation
Working Time Regulations

Employment legislation over the course of the last year or two, coupled with the shear weight of the legislative changes planned over the next few years is creating something of a crisis for all employers and a rapidly changing view of “good practice”.

We appreciate that employers often struggle with the demands of legislation whether from Inland Revenue, VAT, PAYE or Employment Tribunals, and that it is a constant challenge to keep on top of the flow and intricacy of new laws, and to reconcile them with effective management. Indeed the constant demand for entrepreneurialism often clashes with the detail required in the application of legislation!

At Bob Cunningham Associates we pride ourselves on a practical and pragmatic approach to ensuring that our clients avoid falling foul of Employment Law. We advise owner/managers, line managers and individuals on “best practice” and are able to audit existing systems to ensure that each business client is protected from expensive litigation.

We also realise that many organisations feel that they cannot afford employing senior HR staff or a full time lawyer and are consequently facing a real challenge in keeping up to date with the significant changes in both employment law and best HR practice.

Our approach is to help businesses ensure firstly that the HR and employment policies and procedures are correct by buying in specialist, experienced, outsourced services at a fraction of the cost of a full time, permanent in house appointment.

Secondly we can assist existing HR functions audit and tackle activities often out with either their capability or their capacity.

The challenge to employers not only will be generated from the raft of altered employment legislation, but also from existing Health and Safety legislation, under which lives the threat of stress-related litigation, which currently has no financial limitations.

The “duty of care” in dealing with the Health Safety and the well being of Staff, both physically and emotionally, is increasingly important. Based on a well proven Risk Assessment process BCA can assist as increasingly the Health and Safety Executive are focussing on stress-related illnesses and claims, both of which are a challenge to business management.

The Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) applies at present, and until October 2004, to all Companies with more than 15 employees. From October 2004 this “small employer” restriction is eliminated. This piece of legislation brings with it a range of anticipatory and actual requirements ensuring that employers do not discriminate against the disabled unlawfully in employment, education, access to goods, facilities, services and premises.

The employment climate both for employers and employees in general is rapidly changing with the increasingly complex Legal framework surrounding the “employment contract”.

Part time/seasonal/long term casual/fixed term staff are now covered by aspects of the Employment Act 2002 and as such have employment rights which, until recently, most employers believed applied only to “permanent” staff. The implications of the Fixed Term Employees (Prevention of Less Favourable Treatment) Regulations which came in to force in late 2002 are only now having an impact on the employment relationship. In essence employers “need to objectively justify any less favourable treatment”- a requirement which has a number of difficult implications for employers and employees alike!

Dispute Resolution, a key element contained in the Employment Act 2002, sets out a statutory minimum dismissal, disciplinary and grievance procedures which will apply to all employees and employers from October 2004. This new piece of legislation makes provision for disputes to be resolved within the workplace and therefore reduce the number of Employment Tribunal applications.

The standard dismissal procedure will normally apply where an employer wishes to dismiss an employee on the grounds of capability, conduct, redundancy, expiry of a Fixed Term contract, or retirement, or where an employer wishes to take disciplinary action against a member of staff on the grounds of conduct or capability. Highlighted in the Regulations are a number of “good practice” steps such as consultation, fact finding, witness statements, representation and procedural adherence.

Employment Equality (Religion or Belief, Sexual Orientation) legislation, from December, has changed and relatively few employers have altered their policies and practices to cope with the tightening of the Discrimination laws which are designed to protect the religious, sexual and other rights of employees.

All Employers need not only to comply with such legislation, but to ensure that their staff are trained on the implications of the legislation, as the employer could still be liable if employees are harassed or insulted by colleagues because of their sexual or religious beliefs. As an indicator of the cost of non-compliance, Employment Tribunals in 2002 awarded £6.4 million last year in cases of unlawful discrimination against staff, an increase of 65% compared to the total from the previous year. The majority of this amount –circa 50 %- was awarded for sexual discrimination in the workplace, 30% for race discrimination and 12 % for disability discrimination. Around £2 million was awarded for “injury to feelings”.

There is no limit on the level of compensation a Tribunal may set and with Age Discrimination scheduled for 2006, the potential cost of non–compliance is significant.

On balance the opinions of employers suggest that there is no place in the workplace for personal prejudices and that it is increasingly important to educate and train staff in organisations on the business benefits of Equality and Diversity management.

Working Time Regulations were introduced in 1998 to implement the European Working Time Directive, and make provisions governing various aspects of working hours and holidays, including limiting the number of hours per week an employee can be forced to work.

The Regulations provide statutory minimum entitlements to paid annual leave, daily and weekly rest periods and rest breaks. The 48 hour per week “opt out”, and the scope of the legislation, now covering all “non-mobile” workers in the Transportation Fishing and Offshore sectors are still contentious areas, subject to further clarification.



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