Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Opinion.(European Court of Justice)(Viewpoint essay).

Pass me the blood pressure tablets. Once again, many of my colleagues in the HR profession seem to have spent the last few months taking violin lessons while the European Court of Justice (ECJ) has been busy trying to start fires.

In a week when the ECJ ruled, not unexpectedly, that those on long-term sick leave will be entitled to the equivalent of 57.6 weeks (post-April) pay per year, while those who are blessed with being healthy enough to attend work and keep their organisations running will only receive 52 weeks pay, we still seem to focus on campaigns to scrap the default retirement age and navel-gaze about not being taken seriously by the rest of the business ('HR must adapt to survive recession',Personnel Today, 20 January).

I'm glad that your Legal Opinion in the same issue at least welcomed the ECJ decision as ending uncertainty, although I would forego the certainty if it would potentially save my organisation a few thousand pounds.

Perhaps HR would gain more credibility from management teams if it lobbied the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, the CBI and other employer bodies. If the default retirement age should be opposed on the grounds of 'principles' - as argued by one commentator last week - then surely this fundamentally flawed ECJ ruling must be vigorously opposed?

Sorry, must dash - I've just seen another bandwagon in the distance.

Martin Manning

Personnel manager,

Epwin Group

Public sector clearly way behind the learning curve

Your article on the consequences of the credit crunch for council HR jobs ('HR jobs slashed',Personnel Today, 20 January) was interesting as it served to highlight how the public sector still lags a long way behind in the modern HR world.

As a consequence, departments will almost inevitably be significantly over-staffed, as confirmed by the views of Lord Jones recently when he said of Whitehall officialdom: "Frankly the job could be done with half as many, it could be more productive, more efficient, it could deliver a lot more value for money for the taxpayer."

It is sad to see Westminster City Council HR director Graham White's comments that some in HR are only just realising that line managers should be responsible for recruitment, reward and performance.

Having worked in the electricity industry, before and after privatisation, I can speak from experience of how accountability to someone other than the public paymaster brings a very sharp focus to everything you do, not just in HR, but in all areas of the organisation.

It must be understood that HR cannot simply walk away without equipping managers with the skills to take on this element of responsibility. Many managers have achieved their status because of their skills in the job, but this will not automatically mean they can manage staff.

So careful and thorough development programmes are needed before HR can become the "small powerhouse of HR support" that White foresees. Come on public sector, do keep up.

Mike Townson

Details supplied

Apprenticeships quango is simply reinventing wheel

I read with frustration the article on a new apprentice sharing scheme ('Apprentice sharing scheme to be available in next 12 months',Personnel Today, 20 January). The fact that more money is going to be diverted into yet another government quango is, quite frankly, infuriating.

Because many government initiatives are poorly thought through, and even more poorly implemented, the vast amount of money allocated never reaches the proposed beneficiary.

Why can't this initiative be overseen by local education authorities or the proposed new Skills Funding Agency, or any government organisation that already exists? Why do we need yet another new body to further confuse already confused employers?

In addition, the report calls for employers to create their own training associations. Where on earth have these people been? Group Training Associations already exist, but successive governments have gradually strangled the funding streams to them in favour of further education colleges to the point that many have struggled to survive.

If civil servants are going to publish reports like this, the least we can expect is that they do their research thoroughly. It also appears that, once produced, no-one actually questions the findings (a similar thing happened with the Leitch Review and we are only now seeing the fallout).

I would suggest the report is not worth the paper it is printed on. However, I have no doubt that vast amounts of public money will still be spent on this initiative with no tangible return.

Brian Marshall

Details supplied

In tough times sabbaticals offer way to gain new skills

I am writing in reference to your article about KPMG staff being told to take sabbaticals on reduced pay for up to three months ('KPMG staff told to take sabbaticals to save jobs',, 20 January).

I run Skills Venture, which organises sabbaticals in Kenya during which UK business people provide mentoring support and skills input to local entrepreneurs. The scheme gives people asked to take a sabbatical, or who have been made redundant, the opportunity to make good use of their enforced break.

By working with small businesses in Kenya they get a completely new perspective on life and business.

Full details are available on our website I am sure that this would be of interest to your readers.

Will Snell


Skills Venture

Source Citation
"Opinion." Personnel Today 211 (2009). InfoTrac Small Business eCollection. Web. 2 June 2010.
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