+Scott Watson

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Helping Get UK Back To Work

Article published in UK print media

A Halifax based human resources consultancy has developed an online training resource which aims to propel workers facing redundancy back into work.

Summit Consulting and Training will next month launch the web-based training resource, which has been designed as a support tool for employers faced with having to make redundancies.

Thought to be the first of its kind in the UK, MyOnlineJobCoach.com offers expert guidance to jobseekers facing stiff competition in a tough economic climate.

The service includes more than 40 video tutorials which teach users a wide range of skills such as how to develop credibility with a recruiter, write a CV a recruiter actually wants to read, answer tough interview questions well and even how to deal more effectively with the inevitable setbacks unemployment can bring. And the service is proving a big hit with a number of employers who have stated their intention to include MyOnlineJobCoach as a redundancy support tool for their staff.

The launch of the service comes at a time when the latest UK Government figures report that more than two-and-a-half million adults are registered as unemployed and an increasing number of public and private sector organisations are reducing the size of their workforce due to spending cuts. Summit director Scott Watson’s own research identified that business leaders generally do want to support their redundant staff in securing their next role but either don’t know how to, or found traditional outplacement support services too expensive and difficult to use.

Commenting on the launch, Mr Watson says: “MyOnlineJobCoach.com is designed to provide users with step-by-step, results-focused training that will help them to maximise their ability to secure worthwhile job opportunities.” As the product is web based, users can access the programme 24 hours a day and have access for a full 12-month period.

Summit has trained companies how to identify, attract and hire high quality employees with clients including international corporations and public sector organisations for more than a decade. In addition to delivering projects throughout the UK, since 2008 it has delivered projects across the Arabian Gulf states.

Mr Watson continues: “This product provides users with the most up-to-date tools, techniques and information available and normally reserved for our corporate clients. “It’s pleasing to know that despite the tough decision company bosses face in making job cuts, so many of them are committed to supporting their staff in finding their next role.”

The site will launch on Wednesday, June 8.



Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Doctor not entitled to legal representation for internal disciplinary hearing

Doctor not entitled to legal representation for internal disciplinary hearing - Puri v Bradford Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

The High Court has held that, were internal disciplinary procedures are concerned, human rights law will only come into play where the effect of any disciplinary proceedings will have a considerable influence or effect on an employee’s right to practise their profession. While this decision echoes previous decisions on one level (and is arguably unsurprising), the decision of the Supreme Court in another case is eagerly awaited as it could have far-reaching implications for the way in which future disciplinary hearings take place.

As in previous cases on this topic, this case involved a doctor, Mr Puri, seeking to rely on European law to overturn the effect of a disciplinary hearing which he argued would deprive him of the right to practise his profession. The conduct of Mr Puri, a consultant urologist specialising in oncology, was investigated following complaints regarding his abusive and threatening behaviour. A subsequent disciplinary hearing resulted in his dismissal. The General Medical Council (GMC) did not impose any sanctions on him. He appealed the decision to dismiss him but, before that appeal could take place, sought judicial review in the High Court. Relying on recent case law, Mr Puri argued that art.6 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), which provides the right to a fair hearing, was engaged because the effect of the disciplinary proceedings was to deprive him of the right to practise his profession. He argued that art.6 meant that the disciplinary and proposed appeal panels should have been independent and impartial, rather than being (respectively) predominantly or wholly composed of trust members or employees. At the time of the hearing, Mr Puri was working privately in Leeds, but without opportunities to carry out the high-level cancer surgery in which he specialised.

The High Court stated that in ordinary disciplinary proceedings, where all that was at stake was the loss of a specific job, art. 6 would not be engaged. It is engaged if the effect of the proceedings could be to deprive an employee of the right to practise his or her profession (see Kulkarni v Milton Keynes Hospital NHS Foundation Trust). Referring to Hameed v Central Manchester University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, the High Court concluded that Kulkarni only envisaged art. 6 applying in exceptional circumstances. As regards Mr Puri, the High Court acknowledged that it was difficult for him to find, within the NHS or elsewhere, a post of the same seniority and speciality as the one he had held with the trust before his dismissal. However, it noted that Mr Puri’s contract with the trust was as a consultant urologist, and was not restricted to oncology. In addition, the GMC had decided not to issue a warning against him. Therefore, said the High Court, it would not be impossible for Mr Puri to return to a position in the NHS, and found that this was not a case where the effect of the disciplinary proceedings was to deprive Mr Puri of the right to practise his profession, either within or outside the NHS. Even if he might struggle to work in the future in his sub-specialty, he would still be able to work as a urologist.

The other aspect of Mr Puri’s case was his complaint that although the disciplinary panel was constituted in accordance with the trust’s procedure, neither the panel, nor the proposed appeal panel, were art. 6-compliant, because they were neither independent nor impartial, consisting largely of employees of the trust. The High Court stated that, even if art.6 had been engaged with regard to Mr Puri’s disciplinary proceedings, it would not have held that compliance with art.6 required a disciplinary panel comprised of people external to the trust, or that the composition of the disciplinary panel was non-compliant. The High Court also held that neither the loss of the right to be employed in a particular job, nor the loss of professional reputation, are sufficient 'civil rights' which would engage the fair hearing requirement of art. 6.

The scope of art. 6 is very much a ‘live’ issue in employment law at the moment. Ironically, Mr Puri’s case was not helped by the fact that the decision of the GMC (not to impose any penalty on him) weakened his case in the High Court as it showed that he might be able to secure employment elsewhere. The reality is that the imminent decision of the Supreme Court in R (G) v Governors of X School will be more important than any Court of Appeal judgment in this case as it will hopefully give definitive guidance on how art. 6 should be interpreted in the context of workplace discipline.

Published with kind permission of Craig Gordon, HR Bullets.

Former employer liable to ex-employee for negligently written email

An employer was liable in damages to its former employee for negligent misstatement when it send, six years after he’d left, a disparaging email to his subsequent employer which led to his dismissal. The fact that this information was not contained in a formal reference was irrelevant: it was eminently foreseeable that the damaging information would cause loss to the ex-employee and as such the ex-employer owed him a duty of care.

It’s well known that employers owe a positive duty of care when they provide a reference for a former employee. If the reference is inaccurate or the employee can show that they’ve suffered a loss (e.g. failing to get a job as a result, see for example Bullimore v Pothecary Witham Weld), then the provider of the reference can be liable in negligence.

Mr Mckie, a 58-year-old art historian, had worked as teacher at Swindon College for seven years until he left in 2002 with a glowing reference. In 2008 he started work as the Director of Studies at the University of Bath. The university was responsible for overseeing degree courses at FE colleges and part of Mr McKie’s new duties involved liaising with and visiting Swindon College, his former employer. Shortly after he had started work in his new post, the new HR Director at Swindon College sent an e-mail to the university stating that the college would not allow Mr Mckie onto its premises because it had safeguarding concerns in relation to its students and there had been serious staff relationship problems during Mr McKie’s time there. He added that Mr McKie had left the college before any formal action could be taken and that he understood that similar incidents had arisen at another FE college. The contents of that e-mail resulted in Mr McKie’s summary dismissal by the university.

Mr McKie brought a High Court claim for damages in negligence - as he’d only worked there for a few weeks he couldn’t bring an unfair dismissal claim. The court was satisfied that Mr McKie was a highly respected member of staff while at Swindon College and that the contents of the e-mail were ‘fallacious and untrue’ and its preparation had been ‘sloppy and slapdash’. The court referred to the House of Lords 1994 landmark decision on references, Spring v Guardian Assurance plc, where it was held that an employer who provides a reference in respect of a former employee has a duty to take reasonable care in the preparation of that reference and will be liable to the employee in negligence if the reference is inaccurate and the employee suffers loss as a result. Mr McKie argued that the e-mail was in fact a reference, and that the college owed him a duty to take reasonable care in supplying it. The court rejected that argument as this was plainly not a reference situation: the email had nothing to do with his appointment. But it nevertheless upheld Mr McKie’s claim. He had suffered financial damage by losing his job with the university; the damage was ‘eminently foreseeable’; there was a close enough connection between the negligent e-mail and the damage suffered; and the relationship between Mr McKie and the college was sufficiently proximate to give rise to a duty of care, even though 6 years had passed since he’d worked for the college.

James Tait, employment lawyer at Browne Jacobson, comments: ‘Employers now need to be very careful indeed when providing comments about former employees whether by way of a reference or not. They should not be fooled into thinking that making verbal or e-mail commentary of this nature will simply be forgotten purely because it is not a formal reference. Such comments are equally as important as though provided in the form of a reference. If slapdash comments are made which cannot be substantiated, and if the employee loses out as a result, the employer can be held to account. In some cases, the damages could be significant. Employers would therefore be well advised to review their systems, and ensure that staff are made aware of the fact that if enquiries are made of a former employee then comments, whether by way of a reference or otherwise, should only be made by authorised staff who are aware of the implications of this case’.

Published with kind permission of Craig Gordon, HR Bullets.

Trust in leaders at a record low

Employee confidence and trust in senior leaders has dropped to record lows as the economic downturn continues to erode workers’ standard of living and undermine job security, according to the CIPD’s spring 2011 Employee Outlook survey. The proportion of employees saying their standard of living has worsened in the last six months has increased to 37% from 31% in the previous quarter. Public sector employees are most likely to say their standard of living has worsened (47%) compared with 35% of workers in both the private and voluntary sectors.

Although job insecurity has edged up since the previous quarter, with 21% of employees thinking it likely they could lose their jobs as a result of the downturn compared to 20% last quarter, there is again a big difference in the sectors. Almost one in three (30%) public sector employees say it is likely they could lose their job compared to 19% of those in the private sector and 27% in the voluntary sector. In all, 21% of respondents say their organisation is planning to make redundancies, rising to 58% among public sector respondents. In all 29% of voluntary sector employees say their organisation is planning redundancies, as do 10% of those in the private sector.

Perhaps not surprisingly against this backdrop, the net proportion of employees agreeing they have confidence in their senior leaders has fallen to a record -31 from -23 for the previous quarter, while the net trust score has also fallen to -8 from -1 over the same period.

The survey also finds that job satisfaction has fallen over the last three months from +39 in the last quarter to +34 this quarter - its lowest level since the CIPD started the survey in spring 2009. Employees working in the voluntary sector remain the most satisfied (+44), followed by public sector workers (+38), with private sector staff least satisfied (+33). On top of this, the proportion of staff looking for a new job with a new employer has increased to 24% from 19% for the previous quarter. Like last quarter, respondents from the public sector are least likely to be looking for a new job and those in the voluntary sector most likely to be doing so.

Employer attitudes to CSR are crucial for employee engagement

Employer attitudes to CSR are crucial for employee engagement

Most employees want their employers to do more towards CSR (corporate social responsibility) and charitable giving, according to a survey conducted by LeapCR – and nearly two-thirds of them believe that having paid time off during working hours to commit to charitable initiatives would significantly improve employee engagement.

‘This correlation between employee engagement and CSR initiatives can’t be ignored by employers wanting to increase the productivity of their company’, said Malcolm Scovil, CEO of LeapCR. ‘If employers don’t get to grips with the expectations of employees then they face punitive recruitment costs and unsatisfactory levels of productivity from a workforce that feels its motivations are being ignored’.

Among the other key findings were that:

* 49% of employees said they were more likely to stay with an employer that encourages its workforce to donate time or raise money for charity within working hours
* 75% of employees want their employer to balance commercial success with good CSR strategies, including supporting charities
* 52% of employees believe that their employer should do more to encourage charitable giving during working hours
* 51% of employees felt that companies have a duty to commit to charitable acts and CSR
* 59% of employees of all ages said their ideal employer would consider allowing interested staff to take one (paid) day off every month to support charitable initiatives
* 15% of employees would take a significant pay cut to work for a company that has the right attitude towards charities/CSR
* 69% of Generation Y (aged 20-30) said that there were more engaged with their employer when they can undertake charitable initiatives within the workplace
* more than half (56%) of the Generation Y respondents said that senior management was ‘out of touch’ with their age group

It was also evident from the survey that UK employers are either not taking CSR seriously or failing effectively to communicate what they are doing to their staff. Just 58% of all employees know if their company has a commitment to CSR and a similar percentage (57%) felt their employer could do more in that area.

Malcolm Scovil said: “The reality is that the UK workforce passionately cares about CSR and expects their employer to share that commitment. If employers fail to meet these expectations, either through a lack of CSR initiatives or a failure to communicate what they are doing to their staff, then they will find themselves struggling to remain competitive’.

Published with kind permission of Craig Gordon, HR Bullets