Flexible working: Blessing or curse?

February 20, 2010

When Nicola Schofield’s boss told her the firm she worked for was suffering from the financial crisis, she was more than happy to keep her job by working fewer hours.

“I have a four-year-old daughter who’s just started school,” she said. “My husband works away and I’m the constant element in my family. Now I work school hours, so I can drop her off and pick her up. The reduced pay is equal to the extra money I needed to put her in a nursery while I was working full time.”

Schofield’s boss, Vivienne Duke of the Leeds recruitment consultancy Equals One, said everyone in their small team of six worked flexibly. Duke herself works only four days a week, and the firm has recently taken on someone who works mostly from home. But while these arrangements were mutually convenient, Duke said they were prompted by economic necessity.

“Cost is the key issue,” she said. “We needed to reduce cos… [more]

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Time to flee the grind?

February 20, 2010

For many workers the start of September comes with a “back to school” dread. Managers returning from holiday feel low and dissatisfied with their lot, which often tempts them to look for a better job.

“We all come back and wish we were still on holiday,” said Stefan Lucks, a management psychologist at Pearn Kandola. “It’s an extreme version of Monday mornings.”

Everyone can be affected, but Ian Florance, who has written about postholiday blues, explains that middle managers are the worst hit. “Research shows that people are not stressed by the sheer amount of work, but more by their place in the pecking order.” Having time-out often wreaks havoc with the office hierarchy – something that matters to middle managers the most. “People come back and feel out of the loop. Then there are two choices – do you try to get back in, or do you simply stay out and leave?”

Work has its own rules and pace and… [more]

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City lawyers feel the chill

February 20, 2010

Britain’s top law firms expanded dramatically during the financial boom but, just as they rose with the City, they are now declining with it. One lawyer said: “Two American firms have gone under. I don’t think that’s going to happen in the UK, but we’re expecting a lot of jobs to be lost.”

Partners, especially those with equity in the business, should be particularly worried. They were once guaranteed jobs for life and earnings of more than £1m a year. Now more than 15% of the 12,000 partners in the City’s top firms could go.

Michael (not his real name) has been a partner in a second-tier law firm for more than 20 years. “My firm isn’t restructuring yet, but obviously we’re hearing about the top firms – the so called ‘magic circle’ – shedding dozens of partners in a bid to maintain profitability,” he said. “I’m worried about my performance – if I don’t deliver a certain profit, I earn less. B… [more]

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Green light for a boom in jobs

February 20, 2010

Sleek, black and curva-ceous – Christopher Pett’s top selling Reee chair is the epitome of stripped-down modern design. It is aimed at the café market, and many of the chair’s occupants will be unaware that they have encountered the materials before: the black plastic back and seat are made from recycled Sony Playstations.

Pett opened Pli Design in Dul-wich, London, in 2003 when he gave up his career in event management to handcraft environmentally friendly furniture with none of the exorbitant costs – or clunky appearance – usually associated with the tag. Now a period of rapid expansion has led to a full order book and a product range that includes bamboo coffee tables and a “grass” series of chairs and units constructed from a special wood-free straw composite that has a consistency similar to chipboard.

Pett said he didn’t expect to be at the forefront of a wave of new green jobs. “I ju… [more]

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Flexible working: It's the future

February 20, 2010

“WHEN you find yourself looking after triplets you have to accept conditions that would not be imposed on political prisoners.” Matthew Wilson is joking . . . well, sort of. He adds: “The saddest moment of my career was giving up working on The Archers.” At the time, 11 years ago, he was a sound recorder for the BBC, but when his partner gave birth to two boys and a girl the long working hours became impossible.

Today Wilson is a single father who has equal custody of his children. He now works as a BBC broadcast engineer. By tradition, it’s a male job but, despite this, he works on a flexible rota that has been adapted for his family requirements.

“The BBC has been fantastic. I look after the children on alternate weeks, so I work a short week and then a long week. Most of the blokes in the office are very active fathers so when I was granted custody they said, let’s see what we can do … [more]

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Car industry left in limbo

February 20, 2010

Few sectors have escaped the effects of the global downturn, but last week’s £2.3 billion government aid package to the car industry was a reflection that it had “fallen further and faster ” than most, said Lord Mandelson, the business secretary.

A dramatic drop in sales, and subsequent cutback in production, has left car workers with tough choices: work shorter hours for less pay, go on a part-funded “sabbatical”, or take redundancy.

“There are long faces on the shop floor,” said Paul, who is now in his late twenties and has worked for Jaguar Land Rover since leaving school. Though some Jaguar employees are taking sabbaticals on 80% of salary, he will not be one of them. “I’d rather be at work doing nothing than sitting at home spending money.”

Vauxhall workers appeared similarly unimpressed by the concept of a sabbatical, with only 15 out of 2,200 taking up the opportunity at the Elles-mer… [more]

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Banker's learn to settle for less

February 20, 2010

There are some tough choices ahead for Thomas Saltiel. After holding a senior position in banking for 27 years he is now back in the job market, one of thousands of City workers trying to “reinvent” themselves and coming to terms with the fact that their pay will be lower.

“It’s difficult to tell my young son to do his homework so that he can get a good job when he sees Dad at home all day. Looking for work in the City is still my main focus, and there are some strong possibilities. But I’m also thinking about using my skills to work in the not-for-

profit sector, or in the new area of renewable energy and green jobs. Obviously that would mean a pay cut and fewer benefits.”

Before this financial crisis began, unemployed City workers could expect to spend between three and six months looking for another job. Now that period is far longer and the search is becoming more competitive by t… [more]

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Finance staff can't bank on a job

February 20, 2010

It was a picture that tugged at the heart strings — a distraught employee at the investment bank Lehman Brothers being comforted by her fiancé, a Barclays banker, fearing that the September pay cheque she was relying on to pay for her wedding might not arrive. “We may have to postpone our wedding,” said the woman. “It’s a difficult time.”

It was also difficult for Robert Hillary, 24, who arrived for his first week in technology equities to discover he no longer had a job. “I never thought I would be made redundant so soon in my career — my first day,” he said.

In all some 5,000 British staff lost their jobs. Vic Daniels who runs the financial-sector website Hereisthecity.com reported that “people arrived to find themselves cut off and isolated from the outside world. Then they were called together by video conference and told — it’s over, move on.”

In an unprecedented week, months of … [more]

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Diversity a pillar of success

February 20, 2010

Times are tough – even at Tesco – but not as tough as elsewhere in British retail, according to figures out last week which showed the grocery giant had racked up an 11% rise in first-half profits despite what chief executive Sir Terry Leahy called “powerful economic headwinds”. The announcement came as Tesco, which is already the UK’s biggest private-sector employer, would be adding another 6,000 jobs to its 273,000 strong workforce.

“I started with Tesco as a Saturday boy. I became a store manager, then a regional manager and now I’m the retail director and a board member,” said David Potts who, like Leahy, started work as a shelf stacker.

Strong staff retention and the home-grown nature of Tesco management are some of the retailer’s key strengths, according to analysts.

Andrew Kasoulis of Credit Suisse said: “Tesco has consistently good management, the top tier have all worked for the … [more]

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Charities face hard times

February 20, 2010

here are parts of London where consumers care passionately about the ethical origins of their cocoa-butter body scrub. Until recently these people may have spent little time sorting through the racks in charity shops, but they are now the best hope for a struggling sector that is having to make staff redundant as its income falls.

In the depths of the recession it is acceptable to carry a Selfridges bag in one hand and a Primark bag in the other – a contradiction marked by the decision of Mary Portas, a retail adviser best known for her tele-vision series Mary, Queen of Shops, to open a charity outlet near the Louis Vuitton store at London’s Westfield shopping centre. Portas said she wanted to revamp the “slightly smelly” and “irrelevant” charity-shop image, but charities themselves claim they had the idea first, and the impetus is economic rather than image.

“Retailing is our second-biggest so… [more]

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When the job market freezes

February 20, 2010

Tony McLaughlan plays bass guitar in a band and enjoys skiing, quiz nights and photography. “I’m an ordinary electrician from Luton,” he said. He pursues his hobbies alongside his job; the difference is that when he fin-ishes the afternoon shift he emerges into a world where it is snowing and seals are playing on the beach in front of ice cliffs.

In November, McLaughlan, 49, left Luton and joined the British Antarctic Survey at the Rothera research station on the Antarctic peninsula. He did so knowing that he was committing himself to 18 months in some of the most hostile conditions in the world. “I haven’t been through a winter here yet,” he said. “But by the end of March we’ll be completely cut off until October.”

The sea will freeze over and stop shipping, while snow and wind make it impossible for planes to land. Along with only 20 other “winterers” as they are known, McLaughlan will live … [more]

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Soothing the pain of redundancy

February 20, 2010

Christine Yuen did not expect to be a banker for life. She went to work for a branch of HSBC in Canada as a cashier because it was better paid than working in a clothes shop. Eleven years later, Yuen, 29, was still with the company, having acquired a master’s degree in finance and moved to London.

“I was working in corporate banking by then, on the team that managed retail accounts such as Coca-Cola and Tesco. They were the first to be hit by the downturn. One day I discovered that most of my team were being made redundant.”

To her shock, Yuen found herself out of a job, too. “It had never occurred to me that I might be made redundant. The impact was more emotional than financial. The confidence was knocked out of me and I was full of self-doubt. I thought maybe I am bad at my job. Maybe I deserved to lose my job.”

Shock, loss, denial and anger are emotions commonly associated with redu… [more]

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Jobs go down the tube at big pharma

February 20, 2010

If only there was a pill to make it better. With job losses in the thousands, the giants of the pharmaceutical industry have a headache. You might have thought that companies that produce and sell drugs would be fairly immune to the effects of the recession – after all, people still get sick, even in a credit crunch – but apparently not.

Over the past few months several pharmaceutical giants have announced mergers and reorganis-ations. British-based Glaxo Smith Kline recently announced it might shed 6,000 jobs globally as part of a restructuring programme, with an undisclosed number to go from its 18,000 UK workforce.

Merck, Astra Zeneca and Pfizer have also announced thousands of job cuts, and Roche’s decision to merge with the American biotechnology company Genentech this month was the third announcement of its kind since January.

The problem, said Dr Paul Martin of the University… [more]

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Axe hangs over council jobs

February 20, 2010

Working in local government was once considered a rock solid, if unexciting, career. With a workforce of more than 2m, the public sector may often be a region’s largest employer. Now this could change. Council employment could drop as the recession deepens.

Local authorities claim that, far from escaping the recession, they have been trapped in a pincer movement of falling income and rapidly increasing demand for services. With few authorities willing to sacrifice public services, or significantly increase council tax, the latest industry surveys indicate that local councils could lose up to 40,000 jobs.

Victoria Price is an administrative manager for Essex County Council. She said she was deeply worried by the council’s controversial announcement that all public services could be outsourced to private companies, putting at risk more than 6,000 jobs. “I’ve worked here for 20 years and my husba… [more]

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