Victory over same-sex partner's pension
Campaigning by trade unions and lobby group
Stonewall has resulted in a major concession from the government
over pension rights for same-sex partners. The Civil
Partnership Bill, which is currently going through
parliament, gives a same-sex couple the right to register
their relationship. This will confer a range of legal rights
in relation to succeeding to tendencies, social security
and pension benefits, and the responsibility to provide
reasonable maintenance for the partner and children of the
Under the Bill, members of public sector
pension schemes will be entitled to survivor benefits, such
as a survivor pension, for registered same-sex partners.
However, the original proposals said that this right would
only apply from the time the partnership is registered under
the law – thus excluding any pensionable service that had
been accrued before the relationship had been registered.
Following intensive lobbying, however,
the government conceded the point and deputy minister for
women, Jacqui Smith, told parliament during the Bill's second
reading that rights to inherit pensions would be effective
The TUC described the move as a major breakthrough",
although it will continue to press for full equality in
relation to service before 1988 and for the provision to
be extended beyond public sector pensions.
Whistleblowers and their rights
A recent case, Street v Derbyshire Unemployed Workers
Centre (2004), has reopened legal issues surrounding
whistleblowers and disclosures made " in good faith'.
Street made disclosures alleging misbehaviour by her senior
manager to one of the bodies providing funds to her employer.
The senior manager was exonerated, and disciplinary proceedings
culminated in her dismissal. She made a complaint of unfair
dismissal, alleging she had been dismissed for making the
In the case, the Court of Appeal affirmed the Employment
Appeal Tribunal's decision. It said that to make a protected
disclosure in 'good faith', the person's predominant motive
must be "to remedy the wrong that occurred".
While the worker's disclosures were qualifying disclosures
under the Public Interest Disclosure Act (PIDA), they were
not protected, as they lacked the requisite good faith.
At first, the tribunal held that the worker had been motivated
by personal antagonism.
The Employment Appeals Tribunal agreed, saying that it
was not enough that a worker had a reasonable belief that
they were right. The Court of Appeal held that a person
might reasonably believe an allegation was true while also
being motivated by personal antagonism. It said that tribunals
should only find that disclosure was not made in good faith
where the prominent purpose for making it was an ulterior
motive, and was not in the public interest. P&I Team
Briefing no2 on whistle blowing outlines the implications
of the Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998.
Health & Safety
Will stress standards make any difference?
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has
launched management standards to help employers tackle workplace
stress, but since they are not legally binding, there are
claims they won't make any difference.
At more than 13 million working days a year and an estimated
cost of £3.7bn a year, work-related stress is the biggest
occupational cause of working days lost through injury or
The HSE has developed a continuous improvement model to
try and tackle the problem, which features a bench marking
tool to help managers gauge stress levels, compare themselves
with other organisations and work with employees to identify
solutions. However, many trade unions are concerned that
because the standards are voluntary, employers will ignore
them. Unions are also of the view that this should be backed
up by legislation. Jane Kennedy, Minister of State at the
Department of Work and Pensions, said that the Government
would not make the system mandatory because symptoms of
stress exhibited in the workplace do not necessarily all
originate there, as staff bring "all sorts of pressures
with (them) into work". Many law firms are of the view
that despite the voluntary nature of the standards, ignoring
them could leave businesses in hot water.
Fat-cats continue to line their wallets
The pay gap between boardroom executives
and employees is continuing to widen. In the year to 30
June 2004, the average total earnings received by directors
of the UK's 350 leading firm's rose by 16.1 per cent, according
to new research.
Yet the research shows the average total
earnings of all employees increased by only 4.3 per cent
over the 12 months. The research found that directors of
FTSE 350 companies today have an average salary of £213
for every £100 of wages paid to them in 1998.
The widening gap comes despite a number
of high-profile campaigns in recent years against 'fat-cat'
pay and successful share-holder rebellions that have seen
some leading firms reduce payouts to their top directors.
Financial experts have urged HR to play a more active role
in deciding executive pay to prevent accusations over fat-cat
Legislation poses no threat for employers
Evidence has emerged that employers have had little trouble
accommodating the changes in employment law that have taken
place in the last few years. Data from a survey of 300 employers
by law firm DLA show that the majority of employers believe
the changes in employment law have had a positive effect.
The only areas of employment legislation where employers
felt changes had been detrimental were working time, and
the issue of agency workers' rights. The survey also asked
employers questions on industrial relations. This revealed
that 32 per cent had experienced industrial unrest in the
previous 12 months (down from 49 per cent in 2003).
Scottish labour market remains buoyant
Research released from the Bank of Scotland's labour market
barometer, shows that Scotland's job market continues to
remain buoyant. However, there are fresh signs of staff
shortages and of a strong demand exerting an upward pressure
on pay rate. The Bank of Scotland's labour market barometer
which is based on a poll of recruitment consultancies, signalled
an improvement in job conditions, it also highlighted that
the number of permanent placements also grew. This research
was issued in September 2004. The research also highlighted
that growth in permanent placements also grew for the 14
month running, with consultancies generally reporting a
further sharp expansion of demand as clients raised capacity
to deal with higher workloads. Average weekly billings for
temporary and contract staff was also buoyant, increasing
to a 19-month peak. Pay rates rose markedly in both categories
reflecting keen demand and widening skills shortages. Just
under a third of consultancies reported higher pay rates
for permanent staff compared with August, with 2% signalling
a decline. Average hourly rates for temporary staff surged
to a ten-month high, out pacing the UK average by the widest
margin since November 2003.
Of Scotland's four main cities, the strongest increase
in permanent jobs came in Edinburgh. Official figures also
showed that claimant count unemployment rose by 900 to 91,000
on a seasonally adjusted basis.
Eighty three per cent of employers surveyed
in a recent poll said that they wouldn't be organising
a Christmas Party for employees this year. This is due
to staff not being able to behave. 2,000 employers took
part in the poll. The poll showed that 66 per cent of
employers had to deal with drunken misdemeanours such
as fights, arguments and post bash one nightstands. 21
per cent have faced health and safety problems and 10
per cent have had to deal with damage to the venue. Have
a great time over the festive period and when at an office
party, try to be on the best of behaviour