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March 2, 2020
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1.87 million ‘economically inactive’ people to be targeted – what might the screening challenges be?

Staff shortages can be dealt with by training the 8.5 million people who are economically inactive. The BBC's Reality Check team look into how valid this claim may be.

Many of those people are students, carers, sick or retired - and fewer than two million of them say they would actually like to have a job.

Home Secretary Priti Patel was asked on the BBC's Breakfast programme about the ways in which businesses might be able to deal with staff shortages under the government's new immigration system.

"We have over 8.45 million people in the UK aged between 16 and 64 who are economically inactive," she said.

"We want businesses to invest in them, invest in skilling them up."

Economically inactive people are:

  • not employed - they do not have a job
  • not unemployed - they have not looked for a job in the past four weeks and/or are not available for work in the next two weeks

The latest Office for National Statistics (ONS) figures show 8.48 million 16- to 64-year-olds are economically inactive, so the home secretary is right on this.

The ONS breaks down some of the reasons they fall into this category.

The biggest category is students, who account for 27% of the inactive. They may be able to take on part-time jobs, but could not be relied upon to deal with the staff shortages that some business groups have warned about.

Another 26% of the inactive population count as sick - almost all of whom are long-term sick.

Next up, 22% of the inactive are those who are looking after their homes or caring for family members.

The fourth most common reason for economic inactivity is people who have retired before the age of 65 - that's 13% of the total.

There is a very small category - less than half a percent - who describe themselves as "discouraged workers".

The last 11% are classified as "other", which includes people who say they have not yet started looking for work, those awaiting the results of job applications and some who say they do not need to work.

The ONS says that of the 8.48 million economically inactive people:

  • 6.61 million do not want a job
  • 1.87 million would like a job

So those 1.87 million could be targeted by businesses seeking to invest in their skills - although there may be various reasons why they are not currently looking for work.

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February 28, 2020
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Why your business needs a thorough social media policy

TV presenter Alastair Stewart recently resigned over ‘errors of judgement’ on Twitter. The ITV stalwart had tweeted an obscure quote from the Shakespeare play Measure for Measure in which he referred to a black man as an ‘ape’. 

This is just one case that clearly demonstrates the risks of social media for businesses. There is no doubt social media has revolutionised the way people communicate. And with people increasingly creating and sharing content online, the nature of that communication has changed too. 

However, as people use social media both inside and outside of the workplace, this can present a unique set of challenges for employers and places greater importance on businesses adopting social media policies.

The way in which employees use social media carries risk for any business.  These risks include reputational damage, employees posting defamatory or discriminatory work-related comments for which their employer is potentially liable, the disclosure of confidential information – which could include commercially sensitive information belonging to the business – and infringement of third-party intellectual property rights. So it is imperative for businesses to put effective social media policies in place. 

The Alastair Stewart incident is just one of many high-profile cases reiterating the importance of ensuring a social media policy is well thought through. For example, the case of Crisp v Apple Retail UK saw an Apple employee dismissed for posting several negative status updates on Facebook concerning the company and its products. Mr Crisps’ subsequent dismissal was found to be fair on the basis that Apple’s policy had been clear on the consequences of social media misuse.

In contrast to the Apple case, an employment tribunal found that an Asda employee posting she’d be “happy to hit customers on the back of the head with a pick-axe” were not enough to warrant dismissal, as one of the factors was Asda’s policy. The Walters v Asda Stores case highlighted the importance of clearly setting out the consequences of posting harmful comments in a social media policy, especially those types of behaviours for which an employee could be dismissed. 

Similarly, in 2010 a pub manager who had been on the receiving end of verbally abusive comments from customers, later posted about these on Facebook. Because Wetherspoons had a clear policy on the consequences of inappropriate comments posted on social media, dismissal of the pub manager in the Preece v JD Wetherspoons case was found to be fair. 

While the outcome of any case depends on the facts, the content of a social media policy will be important if a business has to take action and enforce this. The types of clauses that should be mentioned include: rules about accessing social media sites while at work; information about any monitoring of employees’ use of social media in or outside the workplace; an outline of any prohibited use of social media; guidelines for employees required to use social media for business; and the details on the consequences of breaching the policy.

In today’s ever-changing landscape, where employees use of social media outside of work can give rise to risks, it is important to implement a social media policy tailored to the specific needs of a business. However, it doesn’t stop there – companies must also take steps to communicate the policy to employees. If businesses fail to understand the rapidly changing social media landscape we are now part of, they will fail to keep up. 

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February 27, 2020
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Salesman lied so much on his CV he ruined thousands of children’s education

Thousands of children’s futures were jeopardised by a salesman who blagged his way into a job running state schools, a tribunal has revealed.

When Johnson Kane co-founded the Education Fellowship Trust in 2012, he presented an impressive CV suggesting he was more than up for the job.

He claimed the Government had put him on the board of the British Airports Authority before it was privatised, that he had run a venture capital bank and that he was high up in John Lewis, when in fact he was a shop floor salesman.

Mr Kane, 67, earned a £160,000 salary for six years as chief executive of the trust, which collapsed after leaving five schools with disastrous exam results and millions of pounds in the red.

In 2017 the trust became the first in the country to give up all of its schools, after several failed inspections damaged the prospects of 6,500 students.

Files from an Information Rights Tribunal released this week show the Department for Education’s (DFE) failure to check Mr Kane’s credentials or handle whilstleblower disclosures properly.

Internal emails showed Government officials couldn’t verify the qualifications he had in 2014, but they sat on their hands until it was all too late.

One message said the DfE had ‘taken this as far as they can’ and would need Mr Kane’s written consent for a more in depth check, the Times reports.

An Information Rights Tribunal allows people to appeal against the Information Commissioner’s Office if their Freedom of Information requests have not been answered.

Mr Kane did work for the BAA as a commercial services director for 18 months having lied about his qualifications, but he was never on the board, the tribunal heard.

Former personnel director for the BAA John Mills told the tribunal how something about his claims didn’t add up.

He said: ‘The lies included naming a secondary school he had not attended and falsely claiming educational exam results.’

In 2014 the trust’s co-founder Sir Ewan Harper, who played an instrumental role in the academies policy in Tony Blair’s government, stood down from his post.

The decision to quit came after the Department for Education found ‘unusual payments’ and that Sir Ewan’s daughter had been working for a press officer.

They also found the trust had been renting its offices from his wife.

After the trust’s eventual downfall regional schools commissioner Martin Post forged a deal which meant all 12 of the trust’s schools were in the hands of central government.

Mr Kane got to stay in his job for one more year while new sponsors were found for the schools in Wiltshire, Northamptonshire and Berkshire.

The DfE said: ‘The Education Fellowship Trust has now closed. Since the introduction of regional schools commissioners, the department’s processes for sponsor approval have been strengthened, while senior appointments are a matter for academy trusts.’

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