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  • With so many changes taking place in the aviation industry these days, there is one change that you can bet probably won’t be happening…phone calls taking place on a Southwest Airlines flight.
    At a recent Wings Club luncheon in Manhattan, the Southwest CEO and Chairman Gary Kelly said that he is personally against in-flight phone calls. Not only is he against them, he said 60% of customers in the airline’s survey “totally oppose” in-flight phone calls. This was said after Kelly admitted that “things change,” but this is one change he doesn’t foresee for his company.
    Additionally, Kelly added that passengers don’t necessarily need to make phone calls while they’re in the cabin because they are able to communicate via text and email using the inflight WiFi options.
    Southwest actually announced that it is the first US airline to allow gate-to-gate messaging, via the iMessage features and it is the first to open WiFi use below 10,000 feet.

  • While things look optimistic for the job market as a whole after the highest average weekly pay was recorded in London, it seems women might be facing a rude awaking in terms of compensation, according to new figures. The gap between earnings for men and women who work full-time has increased to 10 percent from 9.5 percent last year.
    The Office for National Statistics (ONS) revealed that in April of this year, the average gross weekly pay for full time employees was up a little over 2% from 2012. These figures also revealed that when looking at full-time earnings, men earned about £100 more than women. This gender pay gap was calculated by taking the difference between men’s and women’s earnings as a percentage of men’s earnings.
    While women are also three times as likely as men to work part-time, this pay gap affects these workers as well. The data revealed that the median pay gap was about £4.75 an hour, which disproportionately affected women.
    Human resource experts have been blaming the government for their lack of action to prevent this year’s “shock rise” in gender pay gap. Data has been hinting at this growing issue for years now and many HR experts see this as something the government should address.
    To make matters worse, the ONS added that there were 279,000 jobs paying less than the national minimum wage in the United Kingdom at this point in time.

  • Chancellor George Osborne announced a “job-rich recovery for all” while he outlined the government’s future economic plans in the Autumn Statement.           

    The key announcements included a few plans that came much earlier than expected.  The first are the plans to increase the state pension age to 68 in the mid 2030’s and to 69 in the late 2040’s.  Under the new rule, the age will vary based on an average life expectancy.  Ultimately, people will spend no more than a third of their expected life drawing a pension.  The “rule” is set to be reviewed every five years.

    The second announcement that was released earlier than anticipated is the personal tax allowance plan.  This is said to go up to £10,000, meaning that a typical basic rate taxpayer will pay £705 less income tax per year compared to 2010-11.

    The Chancellor also addressed the high levels of youth unemployment and the plans to require any young person (18-21) to undertake training from their first day of claiming benefits.  If they fail to do so, they will lose their entitlement.  Furthermore, funding for an additional 20,000 Higher Apprenticeships over the next two years will be increased.

    The hope is that this measure will encourage many businesses to take on young people, to help reduce risk and cover the costs of the additional training that under-21’s require.

    Osborne’s confirmation that the state pension age would increase attracted criticism from multiple unions.  One human resource expert said that the new plans would condemn millions of people to work until they drop.  This will effectively mean poorer people with lower than average life expectancies, which will fund the pensions for the more wealthy.

    As the workforce becomes more age diverse, the workplace will need to adapt in multiple ways, including management and development.  This proves especially true when the average working life span of a person could last over 50 years.

    While the overall impact of a growth on reducing the fiscal deficit is welcome, HR experts are still adamant about addressing this management deficit. 

  • A recent study performed by Howard University and University of Southern California revealed that some people actually hate the use of cell phones more than other people in a work environment. While this statement might not be surprising, the findings of this survey might be.
    The study, which examined what US professionals consider to be appropriate behavior during work meetings, found that women over 40 earning around six figures and working in the Southwest are the most likely to be annoyed when workers text, take calls or surf the internet during meetings.
    The report, called Perceptions of Civility for Mobile Phone Use in Formal and Informal Meetings, was based on two studies. The first surveyed 204 employees at a beverage distributor on the East Coast and a random survey of 350 professionals nationwide. The end result identified clear and significant gender, age and regional differences when it comes to perceptions about using smartphones.
    Respondents were asked to rate the appropriateness of eight cellphone activities during informal and formal meetings. These things included: making or answering calls; writing and sending texts or e-mails; checking texts or e-mails; browsing the Internet; checking the time; checking incoming calls; bringing a phone to meetings; and excusing oneself to answer calls.
    Women are twice as likely as men to be offended by smartphone use during meetings. Professionals in the West, however, are far less accepting of this activity during meetings than those on the East coast of the US.
    Sixty-six percent of respondents said that texting was rude even at informal business lunches. Not surprisingly, though, the data revealed that younger workers (21-30) were more than three times as likely as those over 40 to consider it to be completely appropriate to check text messages and emails during formal meetings.
    Finally, it was found that workers with higher incomes were far less accepting of mobile phone use in meetings. It is an assumption that this stems from the fact that many higher income professionals are often in higher-status positions.
    There has been an abundance of research done on the effect and impact cellphone use has on productivity, but there is very little research done on social norms associated with cellphone use in work environments. In instances where this data does exist, it wasn’t broken down by gender, income or region. This particular published report is extremely eye opening for human resource professionals, especially when trying to determine what is office appropriate behavior.

  • The government officially confirmed it would be proposing shared parental leave for new mothers and fathers from April 2015.
    Currently, new parents are able to share some of the existing 52 weeks of maternity leave. The father is able to take up to six months off after the baby is 20 weeks old, only if the mother has returned to work.
    The proposal came from the coalition wanting to give working families more choice in how they balance their “work and caring commitments”. The proposal’s plan calls for the mother reserving time with the baby for the first two weeks of leave after the birth of baby. The plan then says that the remaining 50 weeks of leave can be shared between the mother and father. This remaining 50 weeks would not have to be taken in one continuous block either.
    While the proposal would allow families far more flexibility, it leaves little room for disorganisation. Employees will be expected to plan their leave, giving at least eight weeks’ notice of any leave in order to “support businesses in being able to plan their workforce”.
    It was recently confirmed that either parent could reserve the right to return to the same job if they take a total of 26 weeks leave or less.
    Human resource experts explain that while it is already illegal to dismiss a woman because she is pregnant, or on leave, this proposed plan would allow for a more fair society.
    HR experts are also calling this a major step for gender equality because if passed, the proposal is likely to be followed with better pay rates for participating fathers in order to encourage take-up.
    The new proposal is included in the Children and Families Bill 2013, which is currently making its way through Parliament.

  • The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) have officially moved forward with their new policy surrounding sleep apnea assessment.
    The newly published online Fact Sheet posted recently by the FAA said that it is “not changing its medical standards related to OSA (obstructive sleep apnea), but that they are “considering requiring AME’s (Aviation Medical Examiner) to calculate the body mass index for each pilot and air traffic controller” using a formula provided by the FAA.
    Those that have a BMI of 40 or more will have to be evaluated for OSA. Those diagnosed with OSA will have to be treated before they can be medically certified. While this is not completely new, requiring AME’s to calculate the BMI and then performing a sleep assessment based on that calculation would be. Those pilots diagnosed with OSA would then have to apply for a special issuance medical certificate.
    The Fact Sheet also explains why the FAA feels justified in its concerns. The NTSB cited OSA as a contributing factor in an incident in February 2008. Both pilots aboard a Mesa Airlines flight fell asleep in the cockpit. The captain was found to have undiagnosed OSA. The FAA is trying to keep more incidents like this to a minimum by enacting these new standards.

  • American & US Airways flight attendants have found their voice and they are not letting up.
    American Airlines will become the world’s biggest carrier after merging with US Airways and the rival flight attendant unions are fighting over representation of the 24,000 flight attendant.
    Cabin crews at American Airlines are represented by the Association of Professional Flight Attendants, or APFA, while US Airways are represented by the Association of Flight Attendants, or AFA.
    The what seems like, interminable dispute, is showcasing one of the many issues airlines face when combining unionized work forces in the industry. After all, pilots from US Airways and America West are still talking about their issues some eight years after their merger.
    Last Wednesday, APFA President Laura Glading released a memo citing that the US Airways camp gave her an ultimatum to abandon efforts and begin talks on a proposal drafted by the opposing side. She refused.
    Roger Holmin, US Airways’ group president, said that the problem is a “concessionary” labor contract that Glading’s group negotiated last spring with US Airways management. This is looked at as an “unusual” deal in the industry.
    Holmin said that the APFA-US Airways agreement would give flight attendants terms that would be on par with what Delta & United have.
    The merger is expected to close by mid-December if all goes according to plan.

  • A longstanding human resources issue has been the debate over employees who smoke: Should they get more breaks than employees that don’t smoke? Is it fair to say no? To avoid some of this conflict, some companies are announcing a ban against hiring smokers altogether…But is this even legal?
    The University of Pennsylvania Medical System is the latest employer to announce that it will no longer hire smokers. Oddly enough, there isn’t actually a federal law that protects smokers or entitles them to equal protections when it comes to hiring, promotions, etc. This is mainly because the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission does not recognize smokers as a protected class. There are, however, 29 states that offer protections to smokers.
    In the event that your company falls in one of the states that protects smokers, it is actually illegal to refuse these tobacco users work.
    However, in the event that your company is NOT located in one of those 29 states, the employer IS permitted to enact a smoke-free hiring policy and keep people that use tobacco out of the workplace.
    While human resource experts differ greatly on whether or not this is a great rule to enact, a 2009 study by the Journal of Tobacco Policy & Research did find that smokers take more sick days than non-smoking employees.
    The research also revealed that smokers have higher medical costs than a comparable non-smoker in a three-year period.
    Experts who disagree with the ban claim that it is quite the slippery slope. If the decision was based on health-related costs, than who is say that a ban shouldn’t be placed on hiring over weight employees who could suffer from diabetes or high cholesterol?
    It is also argued that good talent could potentially be turned away because of the smoking ban. Is it really worth it at that point?
    Unfortunately, data does not lie. Every analysis of programs like these does show that they are cost-effective in improving absentee rates and time lost because of illnesses related to smoking.

  • Russian officials are continuing investigations into the Tatarstan Airlines Boeing 737 crash that ended fatally for all 50 people onboard.
    A grainy Kazan airport video was released and shown last Sunday by Russian television stations, leaving a plethora of questions including what caused the incident. The video is short but shows a dot of light that aviation experts claim is the Boeing aircraft plunging to the ground in a near-vertical crash. The video ends with a blinding fireball that was once a Boeing 737.
    Russian investigators combed through the wreckage on Monday after the incident, once the fire was put out. Shortly after news broke of the accident three aviation experts from the NTSB, four Boeing experts and one member of the FAA were all making their way to the scene.
    The Kazan airport traffic controller contacted the plane before the crash and told officials that the flight crew told him they were not ready to land as they were approaching but they didn’t specify why. The Investigative Committee officially released a statement saying that they are considering three possible causes: a technical issue, pilot error or weather conditions.
    Luckily, both of the plane’s black boxes have been found but are both slightly damaged. Many members of the aviation industry have ruled out bad weather as a likely cause, due to the fair weather conditions at the time of the accident. Investigators are also looking into the company’s records to find the history of this craft.
    The carrier has had good safety records to date.

  • The United Kingdom Royal Air Force (RAF) received its first Boeing RC-135W Rivet Joint intelligence-gathering aircraft, according to the Ministry of Defence (MoD).
    This is the first of three RC-135W’s that the UK has on order from the United States Air Force (USAF). In preparation for their Rivet Joint system, the RAF’s 51 Squadron flew 32,000 flying hours and almost 2,000 sorties with the USAF.
    The RAF’s RC-135W Rivet Joint is actually a converted KC-135R tanker and will be a vital part of “project Airseeker”. The Rivet will provide electronic capabilities that were previously handled by the Nimrod R1 (retired in 2011).
    The Rivets weren’t expected until 2014 but were delivered early after the aircraft completed the flight trials at L-3’s facilities in Texas ahead of schedule.
    Air Vice Marshal and Director of Capability at the Joint Forces Command, Phil Osborn, explained that this delivery is a critical step in re-establishing a world class UK airborne signals intelligence capability.
    The UK is the first export customer for the Rivet Joint and the British aircraft was delivered with a system that matches the standard for the latest update for the US Air Force Rivet Joint fleet.