Tag Archives: employment

Of chocolate and jobs

Last month I visited York’s Chocolate Story, a visitor attraction in the centre of the city of York. A very lively tour guide told us about the Quakers who established the chocolate industry in York, and we saw how filled chocolates are made (and got to eat some) and made our own chocolate lollies (and got to eat them too). The other visitors included several grandparents, who seemed to be enjoying the experience at least as much as their grandchildren!

As the UK population gets older, the leisure industry has observed that we are becoming far more interested in acquiring ‘cultural capital’. Since 2009 household spending on recreation and culture has risen faster than total household consumption (VisitEngland, 2013). Older people, whilst more numerous, are getting ‘younger’ wanting to undertake new experiences and acquire new knowledge and skills – whether it’s baking, gardening or learning about history or art.

This creates new employment opportunities that we should be actively promoting.  Rather than working in yet another retail mall, young people can acquire knowledge that they can then share. Enriching an older person’s life is far more rewarding than stacking shelves or driving a delivery van. Of course there are concerns that these will be low paid jobs. However older people, whose incomes have been protected most in the years since the recession are likely to be able and willing to pay, and indeed this could be a good transfer of cash from the old to the younger generation.

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Jo Swinson highlights need for better management to increase productivity

It sounds obvious, but well-,managed employees who feel part of a team with a shared goal perform better. Sadly, not all employees work under good managers who are able to get the best out of their teams. This week, Jo Swinson highlighted the need for good management as WSB reports:

“The role of good management skills needs to be more prominent in the thinking about productivity,” Swinson said.

One of the biggest challenges we face in dealing with the productivity dilemma in this country is about improving the quality of management skills.

She said the lack of managerial training was an “ingrained

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Some thoughts on zero hours contracts – Liberal Democrat record in government is better than Labour’s

Zero hours contracts have taken up a lot of bandwidth and airwaves today.

There is a narrative that goes something like: “There might not be mass unemployment but the jobs created under this government are all zero hours contracts”. That is nonsense. The proportion of the workforce on zero hours contracts is actually very small. It’s only about 2% of all jobs.

If exploitation is going on, even if it’s only a handful of people being exploited, it needs to be stopped. There’s no doubt about that. And Liberal Democrats in Government have stopped the scandal of exclusivity, the practice of not guaranteeing your employee any hours or any pay, but not letting them work for anyone else either. We’re way ahead of Labour.

Jo Swinson said at her campaign launch on Monday that she was thinking about something like ensuring that people would automatically have  rights if they were working consistent hours over a certain period, so she and Labour are not a million miles apart. However, I think that we need to be sure that thee won’t be any unintended consequences from such a policy. Think about it. If you were an unscrupulous employer, would you be inclined to make sure that your employees didn’t build up that consistent work pattern? Labour’s policy might not be the simple solution that they are trying to make out.

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Paul Burstow MP writes… Mental health and employment support must be available to all who need it

For most people, work plays a defining role in their lives. It provides structure, the money to live and enjoy life, and for the lucky ones, it can provide a sense of achievement and purpose. Every one of these elements is a component in supporting good mental health, and helps to explain in part the vicious cycle of mental ill-health and unemployment, as well as the critical role that employment can play in mental health recovery.

But it’s sadly not true to assume that work is always good for you mental health. Surveys have found the mild to moderate mental health problems – including stress, anxiety or depression – are the most common reasons people are signed off work, and mental ill health costs UK employers £26billion every year: £8.5billion in sickness absence, £15.1billion in lost productivity and £2.4billion in staff turnover. That’s an average of more than £1000 for every employee, so it’s in everybody’s interests to make sure that employers do everything they can to improve employees mental health, and to encourage them to seek support and treatment as soon as mental health problems develop. While there are some fantastic employers who ‘get’ mental health and its debilitating impact on their employees as well as their business, a recent survey conducted by CentreForum found that two thirds of people said they had been treated unfairly in keeping a job, and 75% said they had stopped themselves applying for work due to fear of discrimination. This needs to end.

That’s why the Mental Health Commission I chaired made the workplace one of our priorities for action. As we recommended, there should be a concerted effort to make UK businesses and services mental health friendly employers, with all organisations with more than 500 employees signing up to a mental health kitemark and 90% of these organisations on board by 2020. I am proud to be able to say that we established the first government funding for the Time to Change campaign – which works to end mental health discrimination – during my tenure as Minister responsible for mental health. It is fantastic that under Norman Lamb, the government have committed to continue funding this crucial work.  To maximise our impact, we now need to ensure that all public sector bodies have taken up the mantle, and use public sector procurement to filter this commitment throughout the distribution chain. At the same time, Norman Lamb has called on all FTSE 100 companies to sign up to the Time to Change initiative – and this is a call we should all echo.

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Opinion: Mental health problems in the workplace: prevention is better than cure #timetotalk

Time to talk 2015It is good to see that increased openness about mental health issues is leading employers to become more accommodating towards people who have such issues. However, there is one policy issue which needs more consideration, and that is the question of how we prevent working conditions and management practices which cause mental health issues in the first place.

Stress and anxiety are some of the most common triggers of mental health problems: the demands of many jobs and detrimental management practices, sometimes combined with an unhealthy work-life (im-)balance, are often a trigger for such problems. What always amazes me is that we can have health and safety regimes concerning physical health which have now gone so far that people joke about them – (but which really have made the world of work much safer), while many employers still seem to take little notice of working conditions which have a detrimental impact on workers’ mental wellbeing.

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Opinion: Stop state sponsorship of sweat shops

BBC News reports:

Outlining proposed restrictions on tax credits and child benefits, Mr Cameron said a migrant in work with two children was getting £700 a month on average in support from the state, twice the amount paid in Germany and three times as much as in France.

Let’s forget about migrants for a moment. Britain’s “generous” in-work benefits are payable to all. Should we be proud of our “generosity”?

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Opinion: Liberal Democrats must prioritise skills development

One of the depressing facts that came out from last week’s Joseph Rowntree Foundation report on poverty is that only 1 in 5 of low paid employees have left low paid work completely ten years later.  Also in the news recently were reports of severe staffing shortages of skilled staff in several sectors including construction and health/social care, leading to major recruitment drives overseas.   There is a real problem with skills development in the UK.

There are several reasons for this.  Since the recession companies have cut back on investment, and that includes training.  The increase in outsourcing in our public services has had an impact; some private providers have good long term training programmes, whereas others take a much more short term approach, particularly if they are fighting to win government contracts on cost. Another cause is the rise in self-employment – 15% of the UK working population is now self-employed compared to 13% in 2008.  Many of these self-employed are rehired to their original organisations but without many of the benefits including a training budget.

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