Friday, 30 March 2012


Advance preparation for an interview is the key to securing the job you want and it is best to find out as much as you can about the interview you will be attending. Interviews occur for selected candidates after the recruiter has read the application forms, CVs and covering letters sent by all the applicants. Employers will usually confirm details of an interview in writing, including requests for any documents to be brought along on the day.

It is becoming more common for recruiters to carry out an initial screening interview by telephone. This is an advantage for the company if there is a large amount of applicants to process. The interviewer will be able to learn more about their experiences, motivations and weed out those who are unsuitable. In addition, a telephone interview keeps costs down for employers and interviewees as there is no travelling involved.

In-person interviews for selected candidates, after initial screening, may be singular or in a series and may take different forms depending on the job involved. For example, competency interviews are structured so you can give evidence of your skills and abilities, backed up by examples of previous experience. If you have applied for a job that requires technical knowledge, you may be asked to discuss your knowledge in-depth with the interviewing panel.

If the job is one that involves the creative media, such as publishing, you may be asked to bring along your portfolio and discuss your work. In case-study interviews, you could be asked to make a presentation about solving a problematic scenario. The interviewers will be looking at how you identify key concerns and how you react under stress.

If you have a disability you need to inform the interviewers, who should make reasonable adjustments to make sure you are not disadvantaged. You may need to inform them of particular arrangements, for example, a ramp for a wheelchair or the provision of a signing interpreter.

If you have not been selected for interview or chosen for a job, you are entitled to ask for further feedback, including the interview notes. An employer is legally obliged not to reject a candidate on discriminatory grounds. If you think you have been discriminated against during an interview process, you may consider an Employment Tribunal claim. If this is the case, you should take expert advice from an employment solicitor.

Thursday, 29 March 2012

Further tax increases – now on pasties

Working families are struggling ever more with the Government’s cuts and increased living costs. For many families the availability of cheap fast food is a convenient way to grab a quick snack.

However, the Government is now considering introducing a tax on warm pasties. The increase in VAT is justified by the Prime Minister, David Cameron, as putting small business and big supermarkets on an equal footing.

At a press conference Cameron said, “I don't think it's fair, for instance, that the small businessman running the fried chicken takeaway is having to charge his customers VAT, but the big supermarket is isn’t having to pay VAT for their fresh hot chickens.

“I am a pasty-eater myself. I go to Cornwall on holiday. I love a hot pasty.”

Under the proposal, food sold above a certain temperate, yet to be confirmed, will be subjected to VAT.
Many companies are criticising the Government’s proposal. The Chief Executive of Greggs, Ken McMeikan, said that the Government has not fully realised the damaging effects that would follow if the policy was implemented.

“I think to a degree they have lost touch with the issue here - that for ordinary, hard-working families putting 20% on to a product that is freshly baked actually is going to make a severe dent in their pockets when they can ill afford it.”

During a Select Committee hearing, the Government was criticised by the opposition. John Mann, Labour MP, said that the proposal seemed overly complicated. “With the weather as it is today, a lukewarm pasty from Greggs is not VAT-able because the ambient temperature outside is the reference point, whereas if it is the middle of winter and freezing cold it is VAT.

"It is an extraordinarily complex situation when you are having to check with the Meteorological Office on whether or not to add VAT on pasties in Greggs.”

Any increase in product price is being received negatively by the public. The Government insists that it needs to cut the deficit but consumers are being hit hard by raising prices. The current proposal focuses on ensuring that small businesses are not unfairly taxed. However, few consumers will consider that a further hole in their wallet is worth it. Consumer spending is not as high as the Government would wish and with unemployment remaining high many workers are left struggling.

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Friday, 23 March 2012

Police officers may face pay cuts if they fail yearly fitness test

A review into the police force is suggesting that officers take an annual fitness test and that their salary is reduced if they do not pass.

At the moment officers only take a fitness test when they enter the force, as an indication of whether they will be able to handle the physical demands of the job. After that initial test no further ones are required, even if an officer spends his whole career within the police force.

The author of the review, Tim Windsor, said that it was surprising that officers’ physical well-being was not tested more frequently.

“I think the public will be surprised that after passing a fitness test at the point of entry, except in special units like firearms, physical fitness is not tested again in a 30, 35-year career.”

According to the report’s authors, it is not only in officers’ interest to stay healthy but also in the interest of the public.

In the report it is shown that it is not uncommon for police officers to struggle with their weight. The report’s figures indicate that 52% of all Met male officers are overweight. Furthermore, 22% are obese and one in 100 are “morbidly obese”.

Female Met officers also struggle with staying fit, with 32% being overweight, 16% classified as being obese, and 2% considered to be “morbidly obese”.

Professionals reason that the requirement on police officers to stay healthy and in shape will make sense for most. Sir Edward Crew, former West Midlands Chief Constable, worked on the report and said that, “We are not looking for supermen”, and further that most officers would look positively at the measures and see them “as a necessary protection for themselves and the public”.

Fitness is a central part of some jobs. For example, members of the Army are required to undertake a yearly fitness test in order to ensure that their body can take the pressure of the missions they may be sent on.

Tests looking at employees’ physical fitness are designed to ensure that they are fit enough to carry out their job duties and that the physical pressure is not harming them.

What are your experiences on jobs and fitness requirements?

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Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Is my employer allowed to look at my email account?

Employees may be able to access their own personal email accounts, as well as company email accounts, on the same workplace system and there is usually no ban on a reasonable amount of access to your private emails at work, or on using your business email to send the occasional social message. It may be tempting to think that employers are not allowed to read your emails at all, however, this is not the case.

Under the Telecommunications (Lawful Business Practice) (Interception of Communications) Regulations, employers must have their employees’ consent if they wish to monitor business email accounts. This consent may be said to have been obtained if notice is given in the employment contract or employee handbook, or if a clear workplace policy is instituted and advertised by the employer.

A workplace policy or contract can regulate how much private use may be made of the business email system for example, and the length of time any information from your email account is stored by your employer. An employer should also state why monitoring is taking place and the sanctions that will be imposed if employees disregard the rules.

On the other hand, an employer can monitor business email use without their employees’ consent in a number of situations, according to the Regulations, so long as they have informed employees that emails may be monitored. For example, employers may create records in case a dispute arises, they may ensure compliance with legal rules, they may ensure customer care and they may seek to prevent crime.

However, these rules do not apply to the monitoring of a personal email account that it held with an outside provider and accessed from work. Additionally, an employer must take care not to read personal emails sent from a business account. If it appears that your personal emails have been read by your employer, without your express consent, you may wish to raise the matter as a grievance with them. If the matter remains unresolved, you could take legal advice from a solicitor who specialises in information technology law.

Finally, section 13 of the Data Protection Act allows you to claim compensation if you have not agreed to the way an employer uses personal information about you collected from your email account and this use causes you distress and injury.

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Families struggling with unemployment and homelessness

Many families are struggling in the current financial crisis. Numerous people have lost their jobs and are finding it difficult to pay bills and have had to take on debt. Even worse, many have lost their homes.

According to recent figures from the Department of Communities and Local Government the number of homeless people in Britain grew by 14% last year. Such an increase has not been witnessed for several years.
The Housing Minister, Grant Shapps, stressed that it is important to seek help early on if you are finding yourself low on money. “I would urge anyone in difficulty to seek early support. The clear message is, the earlier you act the more options are available to help you avoid homelessness.

Families are amongst those affected by the rise in homelessness and it is estimated that 69,460 children are currently homeless. The Chief Executive of Shelter, Campbell Robb, said that the Government needed to react to prevent the number from further increasing.

“Amid growing economic gloom and rising unemployment, increasing numbers of ordinary families are falling victim to our housing crisis. Some may be priced out of the housing market, forced to bring up their families in a revolving door of private let after private let.

“Others may have to leave the areas they have always called home, driven out by the cost of housing. And for those we are hearing about in today’s figures, the worst has happened, and they have lost their home altogether. We must see radical, urgent action from government to address our broken housing system, or thousands more families will suffer as a result.”

Lacking employment is not only difficult on a financial level but can also be an emotionally traumatising experience as long-term unemployed often suffer from low self confidence and can, with time, become depressed.

Families are not only struggling with ensuring that their income covers any expenses but with child-care costs rising some parents are finding it difficult to get a job that pays them enough to put their children in day care.
The current financial climate is affecting the whole of society and professionals are increasingly concerned that more and more children are living in poverty and that many youths are not finding employment.

Have you been affected by losing your job or your home? Let us know...

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Monday, 5 March 2012

Poor numeracy skills harming UK economy

A recently set-up charity, National Numeracy, has said that the low level of numeracy skills in the UK is harming the country’s economy. The charity claims that poor numeracy skills is a hindrance to people finding work and to individuals’ understanding of bills, receipts and train timetables.

Figures published by the Government show that close to half of the country’s population have only primary school-level knowledge of maths. National Numeracy said that poor understanding of maths increases the risk of social exclusion and criminality.

The charity said that a part of the problem is that for many English it is a “badge of honour” to proclaim that they can’t do maths, which is something that is not witnessed in other countries.

Chris Humphries, the Chairman of National Numeracy and former Chief Executive of the UK Commission for Employment and Skills, said that more needs to be done to combat poor numeracy skills.
“It is simply inexcusable for anyone to say 'I can't do maths'. It is a peculiarly British disease which we aim to eradicate. It doesn't happen in other parts of the world. With encouragement and good teaching, everyone can improve their numeracy.”

He said that a high prevalence of low numeracy skills was not only damaging for individuals themselves but also to society as a whole. “We are paying for this in our science, technology and engineering industries but also in people's own ability to earn funds and manage their lives.”

A spokeswoman for the Department for Education said that they envisioned a part of the solution being teaching maths for more years. “We want the vast majority of young people to study maths up to 18 within a decade to meet the growing demand for employees with high level and intermediate maths skills.
“We are undertaking a root-and-branch review of how maths is taught in schools, attracting the best maths graduates into the profession.”

In a time when employees need to stand out as much as they can to employers and show skills in diverse fields it is no wonder that low numeracy skills are a cause of concern for politicians. The UK economy is still in a vulnerable state and many are unemployed, especially youths.

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