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Saturday02 August 2014

What do I need to know to keep up with changes in employment law?

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While the pace of legislative change for employers have recently taken over managing employment issues in my practice following the departure of our human resources director. I have heard there are a number of changes that employers have to keep on top of. What are they?

Although the rate of construction under the coalition government is rumoured to be likely to slow down considerably, there remains plenty for employers to have to get to grips with in the next year, the headline points of which are set out below.

The most significant of this is the Equality Act 2010, the majority of which will be implemented by October 1 this year. The act brings together the existing strands of discrimination legislation and introduces some new provisions. There is a huge amount of detail which is beyond the scope of this column. However, to give a flavour of what is to come, these provisions include:

  • Extending the definition of direct discrimination and harassment to cover “associative discrimination” (essentially discrimination against a person by virtue of whom they associate with) and “perception discrimination” (discrimination on grounds of perceived rather than actual race, belief etc).
  • Introducing “multiple” direct discrimination claims (currently due to be implemented in April 2011) based on a combination of two “protected” characteristics.
  • Introducing a claim for gender pay discrimination based on hypothetical comparators.
  • Extending the scope of permitted positive discrimination in recruitment to allow employers to recruit or promote someone from an under-represented group.

In relation to these last two provisions, some doubt remains as to whether they will be implemented following the change in government. But employers would do well to arm themselves with information about what the act means as soon as possible.

Another legislative change that affects employers right now is the Apprenticeships, Skills, Children & Learning Act 2009, in force from April 6, 2009, which introduces the right to request unpaid time off work to train or study. This right is available to employees of businesses with 250 or more employees who have completed six months’ employment.

It applies where the training or study will improve effectiveness at work and the performance of the employer’s business. The training can take the form of, for example, training provided in the workplace, a part-time college course and so on. Employers do not have to cover the cost of the training/ study, although in some circumstances may wish to do so. The amount of time allowed off is at the discretion of the employer, but employers will be required to consider all requests seriously, and may only refuse a request if they think that one of a number of specified business reasons apply.

In addition, the introduction of legislation in 2011 may require employers to take steps during 2010 to provide for the forthcoming changes. For example under the Additional Paternity Leave Regulations, fathers will be entitled to take more paternity leave, some of which will be transferable from the mother to the father. This right will apply to fathers of babies born on or after April 3, 2011. In essence, eligible fathers will be permitted to take a maximum of 26 weeks’ additional paternity leave before the child reaches its first birthday and will be entitled to return to the same job on the same terms and conditions as before the leave began. This right will only arise where the employee’s spouse or partner has returned to work with some of their statutory maternity leave untaken.

Finally, under the Agency Workers Regulations which come into force on October 1, 2011, a key provision is the principle of equal treatment of agency workers with the hirer’s own employees, in relation to basic working and employment conditions.

Employment law is one of the fastest evolving areas of law, heavily governed by increasing UK and European legislation. The above will hopefully give a flavour of what’s in store. PP

Show how you can add value
There is now much talk about “promoting the value of architecture to clients”. What does this mean and how do I promote value to my clients?

The prime purpose of the architect for the client is not to create “architecture” but to create value for the client from development or creation and improvement to buildings and communities. Good architecture may well create value but for your client this is a means to an end, rather than the end itself.

“Value” has several dimensions, not just the surplus of financial benefits over the costs, but also the delivery of greater satisfaction, improved performance and well-being. It is not just about the end product, but also the process of delivering it. For example, improving the speed, certainty and cost of the procurement and construction process all creates added value.

In 2006 Sebastian Macmillan, chair of the RIBA’s Research & Development Committee, produced an excellent publication for Cabe on this subject – The Value Handbook: Getting The Most From Your Buildings and Spaces (www.cabe.org.uk), which identified six different types of value:

  • Exchange value: The building’s commercial value. This is generally the prime concern for developers, but is also important to owners, investors and landlords.
  • Use value: Contributions that an effective building brings to its occupants through operational and organisational outcomes, such as improved productivity, profitability and repeat business.
  • Image value: The message communicated by the building, which contributes to the reputation, prestige and vision of the owners, occupiers and community. Grand Victorian town halls and Millennium Domes are prime examples.
  • Social value: The wellbeing and civic pride of the development’s occupants and users and local communities. This can be measured in improved social cohesion and health, as well as reduced crime.
  • Environmental value: The benefits to the environment through reduced use of resources, energy, carbon; and increased bio-diversity and long-term sustainability.
  • Cultural value: The contribution to the cultural heritage, sense of place and identity of an area. Not only iconic buildings, but also local environments that define the values of the occupier, community or nation.

Promoting value to your client is all about how you present your services to them, from your initial sales pitch through to your design approach and service delivery.

There are several tools available to help you and your clients with this, such as the Design Quality Indicators (DQIs) provided by the Construction Industry Council, as a method of measuring the value of the design and construction of new buildings, as well as the refurbishment and use of existing buildings (www.dqi.org.uk).

The RIBA provides a Value Toolkit, available to members and chartered practices (www.architecture.com). The institute also provides some information about a value framework for architects’ fees in its RIBA Good Practice Guide: Fee Management.

Your marketing approach should not be “what we do” (technical services, percentage fees), but “what we can do for you” (benefits to clients, value-added fees). All your promotional material, website and client proposals should be focused on the outcomes that your services and their finished products have provided, or can provide, to your clients.

Fees can be based on added site/ building value, improved performance of the building as well as operational advantages to the owners/occupants.

I would certainly recommend embracing this approach to improve your own value and remuneration as an architect. RB

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