The rail regulator has announced that almost 400,000 passengers face daily delays in their journeys. Rail commuters have been hit hard by various problems, including flooding last summer, regular train and tube strikes, and the inevitable ‘leaves on the line’ in autumn.; Those who travel to work by road have their own problems.
The Chartered Institute of Personnel Development (CIPD) published their eighth national survey of absence management policy and practice in July. According to the survey the average employee now takes 8.4 days off sick each year, costing employers £659 per employee per year. It is inevitable that some employees will need to take some time off sick but long-term sickness and growing rates of short-term sickness can have a huge impact upon business. But what can businesses do to do tackle absence?
Office affairs are classic television comedy fodder. Think of any office-based 1970s sit-com and you will undoubtedly recall a male boss incessantly flirting with his pretty, young secretary.
Things have moved on a little since then, but, according to a recent poll, office romances are still rife. In fact, the survey showed that 59 per cent of the respondents freely admitted to having had romantic encounters in the workplace.
While this is often viewed as a bit of harmless fun and no business of bosses, the reality is much harsher. Many people have no idea that a fling could actually cost them their job. It’s only that bosses turn a blind eye to many affairs that the professional risks are kept to a minimum.
Is the national minimum wage (NMW) rises year on year this increases the importance of SMEs conducting a balancing exercise to ensure payment of sufficiently high salaries to enable recruitment and retention of quality staff, whilst at the same time seeking to minimise business costs as far as possible. Nonetheless, all SMEs/OMBs must comply with their remuneration obligations to pay the NMW and this is particularly important in light of the government’s proposal to introduce a stricter enforcement regime.
The National Minimum Wage Act 1998 entitles nearly all UK employees to receive the NMW, which was intended to protect from rogue employers those groups of vulnerable employees who are likely to be exploited.
The majority of the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act will come into effect on 6 April 2008 but will not be retrospective. So, you have plenty of time to prepare for this.
An organisation is defined in the Act as being: “a corporation (not including sole corporations); a partnership; a trade union; an employer’s association.”
An organisation will be guilty of the offence of corporate manslaughter in England or corporate homicide in Scotland if the way in which its activities are managed or organised causes a person’s death, and amounts to a gross breach of a relevant duty of care owed by the organisation to the deceased.
Having babies is not a modern fad. Yet the way that employers frequently mishandle issues affecting expectant women you’d think it was something unusual and new to them. Only four in 10 women believe their bosses know how to handle pregnant staff. And we’re not talking about making sure someone gives up their seat in the staff canteen – there appears to be a serious knowledge gap when it comes to maternity rights. It means companies are putting themselves in danger of being liable to claims of pregnancy discrimination.
This kind of discrimination costs employers up to £126 million every year in recruitment to replace the 30,000 or so women who lose their jobs simply because they’re expecting.
An investigation by the Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC) uncovered many factors relating to maternity of which businesses seemed completely ignorant. Some were even unaware that they could claim reimbursement for statutory maternity pay.
The Companies Act 2006 comprises of 1,300 sections, approximately one third of which are genuinely new, including the following areas:
Company formation and constitution;
Company members and directors’ duties and powers;
Derivative actions and secretaries;
Company meetings and political donations;
Company accounts and auditors;
Private and public companies, share capital and allotments;
Company takeovers and investigations;
Companies not formed under the Act and unregistered companies.
What should businesses have done already?
By now all companies should have made sure that order forms and other documents, whether hard copy or electronic, have been amended to include the company’s registered name (as opposed to just the trading name), number, place of registration and registered office. It is easy to overlook the updating of a company’s website in a similar way but such an oversight will make the company liable for a fine. Any officer of the company could also find themselves liable for a fine if they have authorised the issue of a non-compliant document.
No-one can be under any illusion that absence from the workplace is a persistent and costly problem for British business. The issue is more acute in the summer months as employers face increasing levels of sick leave and absenteeism, the timing of which is not always co-incidental.
According to the CBI, absenteeism levels in the UK are the main reason why UK productivity lags behind the US and our European competitors. Output per UK worker is half that of US employees and is significantly lower than that of both France and Germany. At any one time around 2.7 million workers are on long term sick leave costing employers some £11 billion.