The UK’s agencies were this week warned about new employment rights
that could make them vulnerable to costly lawsuits.
Gay rights, added protection for working mothers and possible
restrictions on the working week are all potential sources of conflict
as the law looks set to give greater power to employees.
As a result, the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising is revising
its employment guidelines. The move follows the removal of the upper
limit on damages payable by employers found practising sexual or racial
’We are moving into a high-risk situation with the possibility of some
agencies being put out of business,’ Mary Budd, the IPA’s employment
affairs advisor, said .
The updated advice - the first for two years - coincides with a steady
rise in the number of people working for agencies. The latest IPA
figures show 12,800 people working in member shops at the end of 1996 -
500 more than at the end of 1995. Agencies have an estimated 350 places
available for graduate trainees.
Simon Jeffreys, an expert in employment law, who was this week briefing
agency chief executives and personnel officers, said agencies could be
forced into expensive payouts if they ignore the impending changes.
’Things have changed very fast during the past two years,’ he added.
Among the new factors acknowledged in the revised guidelines is the
likelihood of an EU-inspired 48-hour working week, as well as changes in
UK law which forbid discrimination on the grounds of physical disability
or sexual orientation.
Agency chiefs will also have to come to terms with an increasingly tough
line being taken by the courts in sexual harassment cases and of the
support being given by EU legislators to gay workers demanding pension
rights for partners of the same sex.
Meanwhile, employers face greater legal responsibilties for the actions