Friday, 27 April 2012

How to change your career

You may be dissatisfied with the career you have at present, or you may have a dream career that you want to pursue and neither of these situations are unusual. Many people these days change their career, even in their forties or fifties. Having a portfolio of different jobs need not be seen as a negative aspect either, especially if you have achieved transferable skills and gained experience through varied employment.

The first step is to find out what new career would suit you and many working people start by using their hobbies or interests as a guide. For example, you may do voluntary work with the elderly, or perhaps you enjoy independent travelling. You might try to find out what appeals to you about these activities, how they fit in with your previous working experience and educational qualifications and how you could capitalise on any special skills you have learned.

Once you have decided on the new career you want, you should find out what it will entail. For example, will you have to attain new qualifications and how much will they cost? How will you support yourself while you retrain? What is the typical workday like for someone in the career you desire? Finally, what are the prospects in that field of work? For example, there may already be plenty of reflexologists in the town where you live.

There are careers advisers and other agencies that can help you look at the choices you might have for changing career and they can also give advice if you have decided on the course of action you wish to pursue. For example, the Sector Skills Councils can give advice about careers in particular industries.

You may need to study for a higher qualification or even an academic degree for your chosen career. There are shorter Foundation degrees and certificate or diploma courses to consider, as well as full honours degrees. Universities and colleges may not require traditional entry requirements from mature students and the best advice is to study the prospectus and then ask to talk to someone in admissions about fees and course structures. It is possible to study part-time so that you can work to supplement your income, especially if you have family commitments.

Finally, there is no time like the present, to make that change.

Friday, 20 April 2012

Can my employer force me to retire at any age?

In the UK the Default Retirement Age (DRA) was set at 65 for both men and women in 2006, often resulting in forced retirement. If an employee wanted to work beyond that age, they had to make a formal request to their employer. The employer then had a duty to follow the proper procedure, including at least one meeting with the employee, when considering the matter. However, the employer was at liberty to refuse the application as they wished.

The DRA was abolished on 5th April 2011. However, if your employer had given you notice of the date of your retirement before that date and the proper procedure had been followed, your employer can still force you to retire at age 65 or over. Therefore, forced retirement is still possible if an employee reached 65, or any higher retirement age as normal in a particular company before 1st October 2011. Due to the maximum amount of retirement notice being one year, under the old system, the last forced retirements will be in October 2012.

It may be the case that an employment contract stipulates that an employee must retire at a certain age (known as Employer Justified Retirement Age), however, an employer will have to show fair reasons for this. For example, if a job involves strenuous physical activity or high mental readiness, an employer may be able to argue for a particular retirement age on health and safety grounds. If the employer proceeds with retiring an employee but is unable to justify forced retirement, the employee may be able to make a claim to an Employment Tribunal citing age discrimination or unfair dismissal. If an employee is faced with this situation, they should seek the advice of a specialist employment lawyer.

It is the case that employers are within their rights to start disciplinary proceedings or dismiss employees on grounds of non-capability, no matter what their age. However, it is unlawful to use a person’s age as a reason for disciplinary action, due to age discrimination rules. Employers also must not victimise an older employee if they have made a complaint about forced retirement or about harassment because of their age. Thus, the Equality Act 2010 together with the abolition of the DRA means that all employees should have equal job security, no matter how old they are.

Thursday, 12 April 2012

Government’s employment law reforms take effect

The Government’s changes to employment law came into effect recently. One effect of this is that employees will not be able to claim for unfair dismissal unless they have been with their employer for two continuous years.

This means that the qualifying period for claiming unfair dismissal has effectively been increased by one year. The Government hopes that this will boost the economy and work as an incentive for employers to take on more staff.

However, union representatives strongly disagree. Brendan Barber, the General Secretary of the Trade Union Congress (TUC), said that the new policy is likely to have negative effects on the economy.

“The Government's proposals to weaken unfair dismissal rights risk generating a hire-and-fire culture in the UK and will lead to the creation of insecure employment which is here today and gone tomorrow.

“Cutting back on protection against unfair dismissal will do nothing to boost the economy. If people are constantly in fear of losing their jobs it will lead to even less consumer spending, and losing your job is one of the worst things that can happen to anyone, especially when unemployment is so high.

“Businesses have told the Government that above all they need the economy to be growing and the banks to get lending again. The Government appears to be reacting to pressure from backbench Conservative MPs rather than actual business concerns.”

The Department for Business insists that the move will allow employers to employ more staff as they will not be discouraged by fears of being taken to court.

TUC remained concerned that the policy will disproportionately affect those engaged in part-time and temporary employment, who may end up without any protection from unfair dismissal.

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