A week in HR: News round-up and commentary

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HR weekDip into our new-look commentary to catch up on the latest goings on in the world of HR.

Older workers and those looking forward to a peaceful retirement have been dealt a double blow this week. The Guardian newspaper reports on age discrimination this week and finds that fame is no exception. According to the paper Selina Scott, 57 former ITN news reader is set to sue Channel Five, claiming that she was lined up as maternity cover for Natasha Kaplinsky on Five News but was discriminated against for being too old. HRZone.co.uk recently reported on predictions from The Age and Employment Network which suggested that women and older workers are the prime victims for the credit crunch chop, a claim that puts women like Scott first in line.

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In further gloomy news for ageing workers, a new report shows that the number of final salary schemes open to new members has dropped from a quarter last year to a record low, with a barely a sixth still open to new members. The report by Aon Consulting shows that on the flipside canny employers can use their final salary schemes as a prized asset to lure key talent as so few now exist.

June Grant, principal, at Aon Consulting, referred to the final salary schemes as being like 'gold dust' yet for more than three million workers retirement is just a dream as more immediate pressures of keeping a job present themselves.

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According to a new YouGov poll commissioned by the Trades Union Congress (TUC) more than 3.3 million workers or 13% of the workforce are not confident they will still be in their job in a year’s time. By region, workers in Wales are least confident about their prospects. Sadly they might just be right if predictions from the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) are to be believed.

According to the BCC's quarterly economic forecast , the jobless count is likely to increase by 250,000 to 300,000 over the next two to three years as the UK faces the very real possibility of a technical recession. Whilst flexible working might be the last thing on the minds of workers like these, a recent case illustrates how bosses can fall foul of the law.

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Knights solicitors based in Staffordshire have highlighted the dangers of turning down a flexible working request. Ms Coleman, who requested and was denied flexible working to allow her to adequately care for her disabled son, resigned. She brought a claim to the Tribunal against her former employer, stating that she was a victim of unfair constructive dismissal and disability discrimination.

According to Knights the controversial element of the case was whether a person could justly claim disability discrimination when it is not in fact them with the disability. Direct discrimination occurs when a disabled person is treated less favourably than a person without the disability. The European Court of Justice ruled that less favourable treatment of an individual on the grounds of the disability of a person closely associated with them is also unlawful.

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Also appearing in the dock is the Mark & Spencer whistleblower who leaked the retailer’s plans to cut redundancy terms for the company’s staff. The unnamed male employees, faces a disciplinary hearing this week. Recently HRZone.co.uk spoke to M&S to find out the truth behind the leak: "We are consulting with our national employee representatives on changes proposed to our company redundancy terms. Like any business we do this from time to time to ensure our policies are up-to-date and to make sure we're in-line with the market. It's our aim that our proposed new terms continue to be more generous than the majority of our competitors, and will remain well ahead of our statutory requirements." We await the outcome.

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If all this is too much of a reality-check after the long holidays then don't miss the top ten tips to beat the back-to-work blues as featured in The Times. By rediscovering what is truly important in your life, you can have that contented holiday feeling all year round, according to author Oliver James. Sounds good. Top tips include getting intimate with a bottle of your favourite holiday lotion – the scent will put you right back on the beach – good for your stress levels not so good for the pressing deadline.

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