Secretarial Bulletin Board: A contract killer of office romance?

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The Independent Culture
"LOVE CONTRACTS" are heading across the Atlantic to our shores, according to law firm Eversheds. It says staff involved in office romances may in future find themselves being asked to sign contracts confirming that the relationship is voluntary, a practice pioneered in the US. The reason? The growing number of bogus sexual harassment claims that are made when such relationships go sour. Imagine it. "Would you like to go out to dinner? You would? Great, I'll pick you up at 7.30. No, make that 7.20 and we can sign the contract first." Perhaps "love killers" would be a more appropriate title.

"YOU KNOW about printers, don't you..." "Can I receive an e-mail attachment on this system?" Sound familiar? Ever more secretaries find themselves having to double up as the office IT consultant, so it probably does ring a bell. Recruitment agencies claim there's a growing chance that you will be the only person in the office to have attended an IT course. If you are handling network and Internet issues and PC troubleshooting, make sure it's in your job description. You could be entitled to a better salary. The key lies in proving that you are indispensable.

A DESIRE for a more balanced life and better training opportunities will lead to the rise of the career temp, recruitment consultants Robert Half International predict. Turning away from full-time conventional work towards peripatetic "bursts" of employment is now a chosen career path for a rising number of secretaries. Indeed, recent research suggests that successful secretarial staff are increasingly tired of having plenty of money but a low quality of life.

A RISE in absenteeism within British companies means employers are having to take new, sometimes controversial, measures to persuade their staff to come back to work. Among the latest policies is the training of managers in counselling and questioning techniques. ("So you say you were indisposed with food poisoning... funny, then, that you were in a restaurant when I rang you on your mobile.")

There is also a drive to provide a figure for the number of "acceptable" days' of absence. ("I'm sorry but you'll have to come in today... you've already reached your 'flu quota for this month.")

Some firms also seem to be prepared to pay staff bonuses for good attendance. Larger companies of more than 1,000 employees, and government departments, have by far the worst absence sickie records, according to a new report by Gee Publishing - and the main reasons that are given are good old 'flu and backache.

LOOKING FOR the latest offers from recruitment agencies? Two worth checking come from Adecco and Blue Arrow. Adecco is offering its temporary workers up to pounds 15m in discount vouchers as a bonus for working during the Christmas and millennium period (20-31 December inclusive) and offers new and existing temps pounds 1,000 in vouchers for leisure activities including dining, accommodation and health clubs.

The second offer is promoted by Blue Arrow, which is providing fre]e, comprehensive training for all job seekers. The agency has found that employers are becoming more sophisticated and require better equipped secretaries than ever. So far, more than half of the 40,000 temps on Blue Arrow's books have taken advantage of the offer. If it sounds up your street, you can find out more by calling 01727 853891.

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