SecretariaI: Bulletin Board; No sex please, or we're suing

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The Independent Culture
EMPLOYMENT TRIBUNALS are set to swing further in favour of employees, following a new ruling in the Employment Appeal Tribunal. For secretaries, this means that if you think you've been unfairly dismissed, you've got more of a chance than ever of getting your boss back in court. First, because the increase in maximum compensation has risen from pounds 12,000 to pounds 50,000. Second, because the minimum length of employment that someone has to have had in order to take their boss to court has been reduced from two years to one year. And third, because there is a new rule that tribunals should take less notice of employers' opinions. Unfair dismissal cases usually hinge on whether the employer has acted reasonably and, until now, tribunals have far too often been swayed by what employers consider to be reasonable. Wondering what brought the much-needed change about? The recent case of factory employee Tony Haddon, who was sacked by Van den Burgh Foods for missing two hours of work after he failed to return from an awards ceremony where he was honoured for 15 years' loyal service. The tribunal found in the employer's favour, but it was acknowledged that any sane human being would regard the decision as "harsh in the extreme".

STRESSED OUT and undersexed? Forty per cent of women admit that the stress of their job is ruining their sex drive. Long hours, stressful working environments and dedication to their careers mean that they are increasingly successful in the workplace - but not when it comes to climbing into bed. The report, published by Zest magazine on Friday, also found that a quarter of women have periods of "drought", when they experience no sexual feelings whatsoever and admit that the reason for this is work, not a "lack of love". A separate survey by Management Today magazine found that one in five females feel that they have sacrificed having a family because of their career, while a quarter admitted that their sex life had suffered as a result of working too hard. If you're among the women who consider work as a raison d'etre, take heed.

INDULGING IN seasonal shenanigans at the office Christmas party may result in something far worse than a hangover, claims the Industrial Society. Every January, its legal helpline is flooded with calls from employers trying to sort out "tricky situations" arising from the Christmas bash. "Misconduct reaches its high point at the office Christmas party," agrees a spokesperson for the law firm Eversheds. "During the early months of each year, our caseload is dominated by employers who encourage staff to let their hair down - by providing a free bar, for example - but then try to discipline them for excesses such as fighting, sexual harassment, vandalism and drug abuse." Take the recent Christmas "do" in which three female office workers set upon a male colleague, stripping him near-naked. Although he enjoyed the attention, a number of other staff members did not and filed sexual harassment charges.

HAVING A bad hair day? Watch out, because research at Strathclyde University shows that employers are placing more and more emphasis on image. Just last year, three teenage girls were dismissed for being "too ugly" at a night-club in South Shields. And in October, Patrick Carroll, an offshore oil worker, was dismissed for being "too fat". Diana Holland, T&G national officer for women, race and equality, reported the case of three young women who were sacked from a motorway services restaurant. A new manager told them they were "not the sort we want to employ". One wore glasses, one was "too quiet," and the other was black.

KH

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