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Posts Tagged ‘Politics

Same-sex marriages pencilled for 2015

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In a boost for equal rights campaigners and the LGBT community, gay couples will finally win the right to marry in the UK, despite opposition from the religious community and some MPs.

Same-sex marriages have been a thorny issue for the government in recent months, with some prominent Conservative MPs denouncing the move towards equality as a “hostile strike” on the traditional view of marriage.

The first gay weddings could take place by 2015 at the latest. But since announcing the move, some Tory right-wingers have given their backing to a new pressure group, Coalition for Marriage, which accused the government of having no mandate for the move.

The Home Office begins a consultation next month on how gay couples can be given the legal right to marry in a civil setting such as a register office, according to the Telegraph.

“This Government is promoting a fair society where people respect each other,” said Lynne Featherstone, the Equalities Minister.

“I believe that if a couple love each other and want to commit to a life together, they should have the option of a civil marriage, irrespective of whether they are gay or straight. We are not changing religious marriage, or requiring religious groups to go against their traditions.”

Margot James, the first openly lesbian Tory MP, has backed the government’s plan, but looked to appease those in the church who are vehemently against it, claiming: “The government isn’t introducing a change that will mean churches have to marry same-sex couples if they did not want to.

“There are many gay people who are committed people of faith. They have a profound need to marry in a more traditional setting than would be provided by a civil partnership.”

Written by Andrew Hodges

April 7, 2012 at 9:52 am

Posted in Comment, LinkedIn

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New privacy policy implemented by Google despite EU warning

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Google, the internet company, has pressed on with its new privacy policy even though it has been warned by the EU that it contravenes European law.

The new policy will allow Google to share information collected on one service such as the Google search engine with others such as YouTube, Gmail and Blogger. Google have claimed that the changes will enable it to better tailor searches.

There has been, concerns, particularly in France that the new regime will breach European laws and a Europe-wide investigation has been launched. The CNIL which is France’s privacy watchdog has written to Google calling for a “pause” in the implementation of the new policy. They stated that: “The CNIL and EU data authorities are deeply concerned about the combination of personal data across services,”

The regulator added: “They have strong doubts about the lawfulness and fairness of such processing, and its compliance with European data protection legislation.”

Peter Fleisher, Google’s global privacy counsel responded by saying that he was happy to answer any concerns raised by CNIL. Writing in a blog Mr Fleischer stated: “As we’ve said several times over the past week, while our privacy policies will change on 1st March, our commitment to our privacy principles is as strong as ever,”

In the UK, campaign group Big Brother Watch have conducted a poll of more than 2,000 people which suggested that 47% of Google users in the UK were not aware of the policy changes and only 12% of users had read the new agreement. They have argued that more should be done to inform users of the changes.

Written by Andrew Hodges

April 5, 2012 at 8:43 am

UK’s “slow progress” on piracy laws attacked by the music industry

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A music industry report has attacked the “slow progress” of the UK in tackling piracy. According to the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI) the delay in implementing the Digital Economy Act has meant that levels of piracy have remained high.

The report from IFPI has identified the difference anti-piracy laws have had in countries such as France where there has been a 26% drop in illegal downloads due to the introduction of anti-piracy legislation.
Under the previous Labour Government the Digital Economy Act 2010 was rushed through Parliament but implementation of the Act has been delayed due to a number of amendments.

The main provision of the act is to introduce a system of sending letters to illegal downloaders pointing out that their activities are illegal and advising on how to avoid breaching the rules. The letters would not demand payments or threaten disconnection.

Several Internet Service Providers including TalkTalk and BT have challenged the Act in court as they see the Act as unfairly compelling them to police their users.

The delay in implementing the Act has drawn much criticism from the music industry including the international president of Sony Music, Edgar Berger, who described the delay as “definitely disappointing”, and commenting that “the first notices are now planned to be out by 2013”

A spokesperson for the Department of Media, Culture and Sport stated that the Government would “continue to work with the industry” on tackling piracy. They added: “If you create a song, a film, a book, you have the right to charge people for that content. We will help people enforce that right.”

Written by Andrew Hodges

February 10, 2012 at 11:14 am

Posted in Comment, LinkedIn

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Pension auto-enrolment delay confirmed

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SMEs concerned about meeting the upcoming deadlines for pension auto-enrolment can breathe easy after the government confirmed that the scheme has been delay until August 1 2015 at the earliest.

The extension means firms employing between 30 and 49 staff will now have to enrol staff until August 2015, with those employing fewer than 30 staff given until 1 January 2016.

Small businesses are struggling to thrive in the current economy, and the thought of increasing red tape was beginning to panic many of those who hadn’t already made dispensations for the original 2014 deadlines. As such, the Forum of Private Business (FPB) Chief Executive, Phil Orford, has welcomed the government’s extension, claiming “this temporary delay will allow small firms to now focus fully on running their business until the economy is back in firmer territory”.

“We believe this will also allow small business the extra time to plan for and subsequently implement the scheme successfully,” he added.

The level of pension contributions will also be phased in over time to help employers and individuals adjust, the government has revealed, with full contributions not necessary until 1 October 2018.

But while business groups have embraced the government’s decision, workers’ unions have been less thrilled, with TUC General Secretary, Brendan Barber labelling the delay as “deeply disappointing”.

“Everyone agrees that we face a pensions crisis, with two out of three private sector workers not in any kind of workplace pension,” said Mr Barber. “(The government’s) announcement does not just hit the staff of small employers. What’s worse is that even workers auto-enrolled this year will now have to wait until the end of the staging process before they get their full contribution.”

For more on pension auto-enrolment and how it may affect your business, contact our employment experts today.

Written by Andrew Hodges

February 6, 2012 at 11:06 am

EU to pass digital ‘right to be forgotten’ law

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The European Union is set to pass new laws which will require social network sites such as Twitter or Facebook to delete details published about users if they are requested to do so. The changes will also allow consumers to insist that companies holding data about them, such as with Tesco’s Clubcard, to have this information removed.

The new rules will apply to any company offering services in an EU country but it is thought that the changes will take more than 2 years to be implemented. It is hoped that the changes will make it easier for users of sites such as Facebook and LinkedIn to not only delete their details if required but also to transfer their details from one service to another. There will also be an obligation on companies to provide clear information to individuals on how their data will be used. In addition any organisation with more than 250 employees will be required to appoint a member of staff as a data protection officer.

Viviane Reding, the EU Justice Commissioner claimed that the “proposals will help build trust in online services because people will be better informed about their rights and more in control of their information”.

She added: “Today vast amounts of personal data are transferred and exchanged, across continents and around the globe in fractions of seconds”

“The protection of personal data is a fundamental right for all Europeans, but citizens do not always feel in control of their personal data.”

Written by Andrew Hodges

February 5, 2012 at 11:04 am

Posted in Comment, LinkedIn

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Private landlords at risk following UK riots

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With the country still reeling from the nationwide riots, the National Landlords Association (NLA) has warned that evicting council house tenants who took part in the mayhem risks shifting the problem of anti-social behaviour into the private-rented sector.

The government’s proposals to evict those council house tenants who participated in the riots have come under fire from members of the public and the opposition.

This week, David Salusbury, Chairman of NLA, voiced those concerns, claiming that the “evictions will simply move these problem tenants into the private-rented sector”.

“There is currently no system in place for private landlords to perform background checks on tenants exiting social housing, leaving them ill-equipped to manage their tenancies effectively,” he added.

“Local Authorities cannot deal with the problem of anti-social behaviour by expecting private landlords to blindly absorb convicted tenants.

The NLA believes it is difficult to see how the government’s controversial initiative will resolve the deeper problem of anti-social behaviour, and the call comes just days after the NLA asked the government to let tenants living in private rented accommodation choose how their benefits are paid to landlords.

“Thirty-five per cent of landlords let properties to recipients of local housing allowance, representing an estimated 420,000 landlords, so it is important that they are considered within this proposal,” added Mr Salusbury.

Written by Andrew Hodges

October 5, 2011 at 2:06 pm

Posted in Comment, LinkedIn

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Flexible working could reduce absenteeism

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The proposed benefits of flexible working continue to mount as a new survey shows that employees using the scheme would no longer skip work.

The Kronos Absence Survey, commissioned by The Workforce Institute at Kronos Incorporated and conducted by Harris Interactive, found that 43% of UK employees admit to having called in sick to work when they were not actually sick.

That number increases amongst younger workers, with 65% of the 16-24 age group admitting to taking bogus sick days, compared with just 25% of the 55-64 age group and 40% of the 25-30 age group.

But when asked what their employers could do to prevent them from calling in sick when they were not really ill, the top response from those surveyed was to offer employees the opportunity to work flexible hours.

In total, 50% of respondents would like flexible hours; 39% would like the opportunity to take unpaid leave; 33% would like the option to work from home occasionally; 32% think that more paid leave is the answer and 27% would like the chance to take ‘duvet days’ – days that can be taken as leave at short notice.

According to the results, the top two ways to spend a fake sick day are staying at home and watching TV or staying in bed. However, taking care of a sick child was also high in the list of reasons, showing the need to give some individuals – like working parents – access to flexible hours.

For more on the idea and how it can be used among your workforce, contact our employment experts today.

Written by Andrew Hodges

October 5, 2011 at 9:52 am

Posted in Comment, LinkedIn

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