Tuesday, 26 July 2011

NHS staff must ‘blow the whistle’, say MPs

MPs have warned that doctors, nurses and midwives must report their concerns about their colleagues, known as ‘whistle-blowing’, or face their failure to report being investigated instead.

The warning came from the cross-party health select committee and was directed at the regulators. The MPs told the General Medical Council (GMC) and the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) that they must do more to warn NHS staff of their obligation to report their concerns.

The committee said this was important as many doctors, nurses and midwives are at a higher risk of being investigated for failure to report than they are of being investigated for their own poor performance.

The GMC said it recognises that it must do more in this area and said that it is committed to doing so. It reported that in the past five years it has investigated 80 doctors for failing to report their concerns about fellow NHS staff.

The committee chairman, the Conservative MP Stephen Dorrell, said: "If there are doctors or nurses who unreasonably fail to report serious concerns, they should be held to account.”

However, he acknowledged that sometimes NHS staff face disciplinary action for whistle-blowing.

Dorrell said: "There have been examples of people raising concerns, and then facing inappropriate or heavy-handed action from their employer.

"We intend to follow up and to examine what is appropriate and what isn't, in terms of how employers respond."

Peter Walsh, from the charity Action against Medical Accidents (AvMA) said: "Many whistle-blowers are affected by threats and bullying. They lack independent help and support.

"If there are doctors or nurses who unreasonably fail to report serious concerns, they should be held to account.

"However, the management who make it so difficult for staff to raise concerns must also be held to account."

The GMC is currently conducting an investigation into doctors at Stafford Hospital. Although their own practice is not being questioned, they are being scrutinised for their failure to report colleagues about whom they had concerns.

In order to allay fears of potential whistle-blowers, the committee did conduct a consultation into the strengthening of safeguards for whistle-blowers, which concluded in January 2012. The report is yet to be published.

For legal advice on whistle-blowing and your rights, or if you are an employer and you want to know how you should approach this, contact Job Justice today. We work with local employment solicitors throughout the UK and we can find the right one for you or your business/organisation.

Monday, 18 July 2011

‘Nutty professor’ hired in the Apprentice final

Another year, another series of classic television comes to an end. The latest person to have emerged as winner from a motley crew of contestants is 31-year-old ‘nice guy’ and inventor, Tom Pellereau.

We’ve had eight weeks of absolutely brilliant lines, such as Margaret Mountford asking smooth-talking Irishman Jim "What would you like to tell me about yourself? And try to say it without using clich├ęs?” followed by his reply: “I'm exactly what it says on the tin”. Oh dear.

We’ve enjoyed some rage-inducing decisions by the contestants and some great board-room backstabbing.

But it all ended yesterday when Sir Alan Sugar told Pellereau “You’re hired”.

The inventor of the curved nail file impressed Sir Alan with his story about his determination to get his invention noticed in the States. He managed to personally hand the curved nail file to Walmat’s buyer in the USA. Pellereau’s business plan for selling back-ache healing office chairs was less impressive as he managed to forget to include the word ‘chair’. Lord Sugar however, was more impressed with his proven record of selling.

Although, it has to be stressed, not Pellereau’s record of selling on the actual show. The winner had so far been the show’s serial loser, losing all but three of the tasks. Runner-up Helen Milligan had won 11 out of 12 tasks in comparison.

She may have been victorious if not for her horribly outdated business plan idea of a concierge service.

Unlike the previous six winners of the Apprentice, Pellereau will not be getting a job in Sir Alan’s vast corporation. Instead he will be handed £250,000 cash as in investment from Sir Alan and the pair will go into business together.

Sir Alan said: “I am a product man in my heart. I’ve made products and sold them to retailers, that’s in my blood and that’s what Tom is all about. It’s just a gut feeling and I’ve done a lot of things in my life on gut feeling.”

Pellereau said the decision to hire him over Helen left him stunned. He said: “I was shocked and almost thought Lord Sugar would take it away or change his mind.

“One of the reasons I think I have done well is because I lost a lot and people like losers. Now that I am the winner, are people going to like the ideas that I bring out? I hope so, but that is a very real fear.

“Lord Sugar has taken a punt on me and now it is time to shine.”

Thursday, 14 July 2011

“Try something new today and pay us a decent wage” say Sainsbury’s staff

Checkout staff from supermarket giant Sainsbury’s staged a protest about their wages yesterday outside the company’s central London headquarters.

The supermarket chain was holding its 2011 Annual General Meeting on 13 July while its staff protested outside waving slogans aimed at the group’s chief executive, Justin King, who earns £3.2m a year in salary and bonuses.

The checkout staff are angry that their pay has been frozen at the current minimum of £6.31 an hour, despite the company reporting a profit of £665m for the last year.

Their union Unite is calling for Sainsbury’s to increase their minimum wage to £8.30 for staff in London and £7.20 for those outside.

Jennie Formby, national officer of Unite, said: "It is only right that the dedicated workforce, many of whom are female and work part-time for family reasons, who form the backbone of this company are given a fair pay settlement which reflects the outstanding performance of Sainsbury's."

The company is failing to pay staff fairly when compared to its main rival, Tesco. Tesco pays its staff a minimum of £7 per hour.

One of the protesters, Debbie Walker, is paid £6.71 an hour and has been with the company for 15 years. She travelled from Ellesmere Port, near Liverpool, to join the protest. She said: "I don't really have enough money to live on. I get paid just 40p more than my daughter, who only started this year. What's that for loyalty?"

A spokesperson for Sainsbury’s said that only a “small proportion” of those who were paid “above the market rate” were having their pay frozen.

Justin King said the company pays it staff “absolutely competitive wages” and is “very proud” of its competitive pay record.

For more information on the law relating to pay, contact Job Justice today and we can find the right solicitor for you.

Monday, 11 July 2011

Can ex-News of the World journalists sue their former employer?

Employment law specialists have offered a ray of hope to ex-News of the World journalists who may be worried about getting another job within the media because of their employer’s involvement in the phone-hacking scandal, which by all accounts is due to continue, both with further revelations and public inquiries, for quite some time.

A House of Lords judgement in 1997 established that, in principle, employees can sue their former employers for damages if they struggle to find further employment because of their employer’s damaged reputation.

The court’s judgement in the Malik v Bank of Credit and Commerce International case set the precedent for employees to sue their employers if their corrupt conduct has made it difficult to find a job within the same industry.

News of the World journalists who are worried that they will be unable to find a job because they’ll be tarred with the same brush as News International, Rupert Murdoch’s company that owned the now defunct newspaper.

The City of London law firm, Silverman Sherliker, has offered its services to the former News of the World employees who are concerned that the allegations of phone hacking will diminish their professional reputations, according to the Financial Times.

The law firm said: "News of the World employees are... distressed about the potential long-term career damage that they may suffer by being... unjustly tainted by the acts of others”.

Bringing a claim for damaged reputation is difficult and therefore such actions are rare. However, in the House of Lords judgement, the judge did say that the "difficulties of proof cannot alter the legal principles which permit, in appropriate cases, such claims for financial loss caused by breach of contract being put forward for consideration”.

The legal action would concern the implied duty of mutual trust and confidence between the two parties in an employment relationship. It is possible to argue that by damaging an employee’s professional reputation through association with the disgraced employer can be a breach of this implied duty.

Employment law experts could be giving News International cause to consider just how many ex-News of the World journalists will be re-employed elsewhere in the giant media corporation, in order to avoid being sued by them for damages.

Job Justice works with specialist employment solicitors throughout the UK. If you have been affected by this issue, or any employment issue, please get in touch today. We can help you find the right employment solicitor for your needs.

Monday, 4 July 2011

Driven out for not wearing make-up, says Harrods sale assistant

Melanie Stark, 24, has resigned from her position as sales assistant in the HMV section of London’s Harrods department store after her managers told her she had to wear makeup if she wanted to continue to work there.

Miss Stark, who scored 94% in a mystery shop, which is an undercover assessment by management to see how staff perform, said she was “exhausted, stressed and upset” by her on-going battle with the famous store.

Harrods has a strict uniform policy for both men and women. The section for “ladies” calls for “timeless, sophisticated elegance”. The section on make-up says: "Full makeup at all time: base, blusher, full eyes (not too heavy), lipstick, lip liner and gloss are worn at all time and maintained discreetly (please take into account the store display lighting which has a 'washing out' effect)."

Miss Stark had worked for Harrods for five years, three of which were part time while she completed her philosophy, religion and ethic degree at King’s College London. She was handed a copy of the dress code along with her contract, but she did not wear make-up to work and she was not challenged on this until August 2010.

A senior manager who was conducting a floor walk sent her home after she refused to put on make-up at work. The next day she was told to work in the stock room and was kept out of sight.

Miss Stark was offered a make-up consultation to ‘see what you look like with makeup'.

In a letter to Harrods at the time, Miss Stark said: "To be told that one's face is inadequate is extremely degrading."

She said: "I was appalled. It was insulting. Basically, it was implying it would be an improvement. I don't understand how they think it is OK to say that."

The matter appeared to settle down with no further issue being made until three weeks ago when a new floor manager said: “Girls. I want you to be made up.” She was briefly sent to the Bayswater HMV store while Harrods thought of a solution but Miss Stark had already decided to resign rather than go through the same treatment again.

She said: "Make up can change your features completely, especially if I was to wear all of what they were asking. I would look like a different person to me. And I never chose to look like that."

A legal expert with Equal Justice solicitors, Lawrence Davies, said that she may have a claim under the Equalities Act 2010: "On the facts, she performed her role well for five years without makeup, so it is clearly not a valid prerequisite for her role."

Another solicitor, Clare Murray from the law firm CM Murray, said she may have grounds to sue the department store in an employment tribunal for sex discrimination.

If you’ve been in a similar situation to Miss Stark and want some legal advice about your position, get in touch with Job Justice today. We can assess your situation and recommend a local employment solicitor who is right for you.