This month’s HR news includes a look at upskilling, a surprise cyber breach ruling, engaging employees and why we shouldn’t be paranoid about androids.

Employer liable for data breach

Employers have a responsibility for ensuring their staff are sensitive to data confidentiality. This is the take-away from a recent High Court ruling which found that employers may be liable for data leaks by current or former employees. The supermarket Morrisons may have to pay compensation to those affected by a cyber breach after one of its former staff stole personal information and then leaked them via websites and newspapers. In the first data protection case of its kind, the judge ruled that the data leak left staff exposed to identity theft and financial loss and that the company was responsible for breaches in privacy. While Morrisons are appealing, it’s a salutary reminder to all businesses to review their information security procedures and ensure the appropriate staff are trained and there are checks and balances in place to prevent breaches such as this.

‘Fit for Work’ long-term sickness scheme to end

The government is axing a scheme originally established to help employers with staff on long-term sick leave. The national ‘Fit for Work’ occupational health scheme is to end in England and Wales on 31 March 2018 and on 31 May in Scotland. The service had offered advice to businesses and occupational health assessments for employees who were off sick for four or more weeks. The aim was to reduce long-term sick leave and manage staff back into work as soon as possible, the scheme has failed to have a significant impact. The government is now planning new support initiatives outlined in its paper Improving lives: the future of work, health and disability with possible changes to statutory sick pay.

Firms should upskill older workers

A survey has found that 62% of workers over 50 had not received any computer skills training. A report from Business in the Community suggests that employers need to do more to upskill and train older employees to prepare them for the digital economy. Only 22% of workers aged 50 to 59 said they felt their employer wanted them to make use of training opportunities while this figure was much higher for younger age groups. Employers should support older employees with development opportunities, recommends the report, The Missing Link An ageing workforce in the digital era, especially in view of the rising retirement age and the future skills shortage. There’s more information about upskilling here

UK businesses need to do more to engage employees

All UK business sectors need to up their game to motivate their employees. That’s the message from new research which found that less than half of UK workers (48%) felt engaged in their present roles. In fact, the overarching results showed that the UK fell behind other countries on employee engagement according to the survey by Qualtrics, in its UK Employee Pulse which gathers the views of 500 UK workers, (the survey is worldwide). Retail and hospitality sector staff were least engaged, while IT workers were most motivated. Key reasons cited for low engagement were lack of work/life balance (71%) and stress (55%). There’s more about employee engagement and why it’s important in this blog piece.

Android future to herald workforce changes

HR professionals could be called upon to redesign worker roles when robots take over routine tasks. This month saw the launch of a new report which set out how the growth of automation in the workplace could create as many jobs as it will eliminate. The Future of Work Commission says that far from more pessimistic predictions, automation and artificial intelligence will free the future workforce to concentrate on essential tasks and more creativity to generate greater wealth.

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