back to article Retailers risk libel nightmare over 'no-work' database

Shop staff who have been sacked or resigned while under suspicion of dodgy behaviour could soon struggle to find work, as some of the UK's top retailers are set to share information online about their employment history. But today a leading libel lawyer warned that the scheme to disseminate unproven allegations could prompt a …

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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Fewer Lawyers in the UK?

    In the US, libel lawyers would heartily encourage this, as it would be an almost guaranteed revenue stream for them.

    It's like herpes; the gift that keeps on giving...

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    Hmm

    "Falsification or forgery of documents"

    That's every MP and member of the civil service unemployable then. :oP

    This database is a reprehensible extension of NuLabour's Police State.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    Another thing

    'Mireskandari cautioned: "Frankly, if I have CCTV showing someone stealing from the cash register, then I'm confident I can sack that person, but I wouldn't want to share that information. It's a real risk."'

    Really? Just prosecute the bugger for theft. A criminal record will have the desired affect and it has the added safeguard of going through the courts.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    wrong

    There are some obvious problems with the idea that it would be ok to have a register on people based on accusations. People can go a long way of track if all some manager has to do is draw on gossip and presumptions. The lack of requirement for anyone to be proven guilty seems to be an obvious issue. The scheme is also designed to protect companies from wistleblowers - see the following point:

    "Causing a loss to the company or another party (e.g. Supplier)"

    It appears to be quite clear that any company whose business comes into disrepute because of the public becoming aware of its dodgy activity would have experienced a loss.

    It is scandalous that there would be any governmental agencies at all who would condone this type of register - especially a socalled 'labour' government..

    ... Paris because even she knows that we are ruled by the new aristocracy

  5. Karl Lattimer

    I'm no lawyer

    but I can tell you, I saw that coming a mile off.

  6. Gulfie
    Stop

    Big Brother...

    The idea that companies can document suspicion with no basis in formal evidence is extremely worrying. "Employee X was caught stealing from the till on CCTV but we preferred not to prosecute" sounds very definitive, but who will verify this statement - (a) who looked at the CCTV, (b) was the employee caught with the money, (c) was the till actually out at all?

    I agree with the anonymous cowards, the only safe way to record facts about employees undertaking illegal activities is through the police and the courts. Anything else is, in effect, hearsay because there has been no independent investigation...

  7. Shady
    Stop

    I can't wait for this to burn the employers who sign up for it

    True story, not a "what if"

    Many moons ago I was drummed out of a job as a checkout operator in a major supermarket chain, supposedly for "planning to come back at night and rob the place."

    As a (really, really) nervous teenager, I just caved, walked out without putting up a fight, and thankfully got another job within a couple of days.

    The manager who got rid of me was later convicted a year later for paying his shelf-stacker mistress two salaries and stealing thousands of pounds worth of cigarettes and spirits.

    What would have happended to me in this case? Would my name have been removed from the register after his conviction?

    Would I have had to prove that the manager acted with malice or was covering his tracks?

    I only found out about it by accident - what if I hadn't?

    Would my life be blighted now?

  8. Christoph Silver badge
    Paris Hilton

    Very useful

    This could be really useful for management even without actually putting someone on it.

    Just the threat of being barred from the job market will stop workers doing all those terrible things like refusing to sleep with the boss.

  9. Ross Ryles

    We don't supply references

    I thought most UK businesses had stopped providing references (apart from very basic things such as dates of employment) for fear of litigation. How do these companies think that providing them through an online database is any safer??? I'm completely stunned by it!

    As an AC said: If an employee commits a criminal offense then let the courts deal with it. I have no objection to a prospective employer looking into my (lack of) criminal record.

    Also, I'm not an expert on the DPA, but wouldn't they have to get consent to hold your personal data in the first place?

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Pirate

    Job for life:

    1. Get on this database (without actually committing a crime.)

    2. Leave job.

    3. Apply for job elsewhere (Where they will use this database.)

    4. Be rejected for job.

    5. Sue.

    6. Repeat 3 to 5 until sufficient cash to buy yacht / house / island....

  11. Gordon Ross Silver badge
    Thumb Down

    Too late..

    "The regulations mean that only allegations made after the NSDR goes live can be included."

    It means that Ant 'n' Dec (or ITV) won't be going on the register...

    *sigh*

  12. Liam Johnson

    use it selectively

    >> It' will be at the final stage of the recruitment process

    Yeh, right. They are going to go through a manpower intensive round of interviews with a person and then just before giving them a job, have a quick look at the database. Oh dear, back to square one.

    >> and it cannot be the decisive data

    They were accused of theft, but that is OK, ‘cause we are a bank.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Grounds

    Hmmmm - would suspicion of war crimes be grounds for going onto this register?

  14. Glen Williams
    Thumb Down

    Can already be done, surely?

    In a lot of jobs where you have a position of trust, companies and public sector employers can perform a Police background check.

    With a police background check any returned results would surely be confirmation of guilt of a crime, or at the least issues that have been reported to the 'proper' authorities and therefore much more reliable.

    I have been in positions where I needed to agree to this check to allow me to work, and I have no issues with this.

    I know these background checks can take quite some time, and it not as quick as logging onto a website. However surely a better use of the money going into this would be to help streamline the Police check process?

    Rather than this absurd guilty because you can't prove your innocence rubbish.

  15. Dennis Price Silver badge
    Dead Vulture

    *Disclosure: Mireskandari is retained by The Register.

    Lordy... I remember when El Reg didn't have two pennies to rub together (what was Drew and Lester's other other site? The Rock or something?).... and now they have lawyers retained?

    Wow.

    Thinking about it, I guess so. With all the "skip this ad" and pages going with MS, HP, Dell, etc colors depending on the ad, I reckon they would need lawyers and have the wherewithall to pay for them... sad commentary really. Bet they drink import beer now.

    *sigh*

    At least I still have my Vulture pin from back when El Reg did bullshiite contests... just memories now...

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Joke

    But what have you to hide?

    If you're a good worker, you shouldn't be worried about this. It will only be used for completely honest and good reasons.... now, back to work before your slacking is noted as causing a loss....

  17. Geoff Spick
    Thumb Down

    Blue Collared?

    Look at most major retail shops and you see the "We prosecute all shoplifters" stickers or similar. Surely this would apply to staff as well, so why the need for this at all?

    Sounds very a)dubious and b)redundant

  18. Joe Montana
    Thumb Up

    Wide open for abuse

    Just reading the phrase:

    "Causing a loss to the company or another party (e.g. Supplier)"

    Merely by leaving you could cause a loss to the company, if you were any good at your job then the company loses now that they no longer have your services...

    It's also quite easy for vindictive bosses to use any excuse to put someone they don't like on the register, it's not uncommon for people to be extremely angry at losing staff, especially to a competitor.

    For actual criminal acts, we already have the criminal record system... If you catch someone on CCTV stealing from the cash register, go to the police... That way future employers can check the police criminal records database, and the accusation will be proven by their conviction.

  19. Adam Christie-Grant

    BMW Sales to employment Lawyers...

    Must have gone through the roof when they announced this... Jeez the ease of sueing EVERYONE I must go read a law book Im sure I could sue them....

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Oh gosh defamation all round

    People will just start to respond in kind.

    Photographs of HR people will be stuck up on servers outside of UK reach, along with various allegations. I am sure some will start to move it to families as well just for the hell of it.

    This idea just encourages nastiness, black balling is very dodgy and illegal in the UK, so should be interesting to see the fallout on this one.

    I have known companies to run internal blacklist on suppliers (which also contravenes data protection laws), oddly those companies don't tend to stay in business too long.

    Really shop workers should unionize and put the chains out of business, they are better off making a cooperative and filling the market gap themselves.

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @ Ross Ryles re: consent

    They'll just write it into your contract that you give consent for this.

  22. Omer Ozen
    Coat

    Re:We don't supply references

    @Ross Ryles you might have a point here.

    As far as I am aware, it is illegal to give bad reference and providing input to a db whose sole purpose is to provide respective employers with potentially damaging info about the person in question might just count towards it.

    's ok I didn't wear a coat today. Damn too hot!

  23. Fatman Silver badge
    Stop

    Questionable motives

    If I get this correctly, any employer could provide information that can be detrimental to the future employment of a former employee without any vetting by this "registry". Tell me, what is to stop an employer who finds himself in one of these situations from being "vindictive":

    a) Employee's family situation (sick child, spouse, parents, etc) causes absenteeism. Employer reports as "unreliable".

    b) Employee gets a better offer elsewhere, and on providing notice, gets told to "leave immediately". Employer reports as "left without notice".

    c) Employee asks for pay raise; or is promised a pay raise that never materializes, and decides to leave. Employer reports as "morale problem".

    This registry carries a lot of potential for abuse by employers; and I for one would love to see one who "smacked down" a former employee, "smacked down" themself.

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Flame

    Nation of shop keepers?

    Nation of park keepers, more like!

  25. Trevor Watt
    Stop

    Supposition or fact?

    Anything that has not been decided in a court is simply supposition, a company that has CCTV of money being removed from the till has not, based on that act alone, any evidence of theft.

    So to put 'Dismissed for theft' or 'Dismissed on suspicion of theft' is a very dangerous thing to do.

    Also there is also data protection to think about, will potential job applicants be told that their being offered a position is dependent on them agreeing to being put on a shared database should they be dismissed? What about those already in employ? Will they be coerced into agreeing?

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    RE: consent

    I bet it will be much like the way they use the DPA for Credit checks "by asking for this job you alow us to tell whoever the hell we want and you cannot hold us in any way responable for cock ups"....

  27. Lyndon Hills

    Data Protection Act?

    There is already something similar to this, but in terms of Trade Union Activists. I don't remember all the details, but I think they keep all the records on papaer as it avoids having to deal with the DPA. Presumably this comes under that legislation, so one has the right to request access to ones records, and have corrections applied?

  28. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Register of lying lawyers

    I've never met a lawyer that doesn't lie his/her arse off.

    And it would kill (*) two birds with one stone. It would be a complete register of all lawyers.

    (*) no pun intended to recent events but i for one will not be shedding a tear.

  29. Jamie
    Paris Hilton

    Why are you worried???

    Take a look at the track record and then take a guess on what the probablility is of this actually getting off the ground and working.

    I have better chances of being Paris's long lost love child she never knew she had.

    (I know about the supposed impossibility of that statement, but it is about Paris)

  30. Mike Richards Silver badge

    Better idea

    They could share information about the staff they should avoid hiring - you know those who are incompetent; those more interested in talking to their colleagues/friends than the customer; those that can't be bothered to say 'please' or 'thank-you', or even respond to a greeting; those who won't give extra help to disabled customers, the elderly or foreign tourists; those who know nothing about the products; the snooty ones who think they're better than you are (no, I'm on *this* side of the counter because I can afford to shop here) and those who are solely interested in angling for commission.

    Such a scheme could kill off Dixons and every perfume counter in the country.

  31. Billy Goat Gruff

    Superb idea

    Really, it is.

    I hate petty crime and the fact we all have to suffer stupid laws because of it. Bring back common sense - if someone is caught thieving then it's not likely they will be prosecuted. You think it is? You're wrong. And the petty little oik will probably cause physical damage if they can, and they're very likely to get a free go at unfair dismissal...

    The average company has little choice but to mutually agree to part ways. In an ideal world they'll send out references which say why, but why should they put the effort in when they can get sued? Perhaps it's to their advantage to shut up and let the competitor employ the little bleeder.

    Now with a database any company can put their tuppenny worth in and have it managed by an external agency, intelligent people will be able to query that database and make changes. By law.

    So the only objection I can see is abuse. But the possibility of abuse has always been there, which is why there are free unfair dismissal tribunals. And if the company does a traditional reference you have no right to see it, so it could say anything. With this system you have the right to see, make changes and, yes, sue malicious allegations.

    There is more transparency and less possibility of abuse.

    But the real benefit is to society. Make the f*ckers unemployable except scraping gum off the streets, and maybe the rest of us won't continually be treated as criminals.

  32. Igor Mozolevsky
    Paris Hilton

    This might be an obvious solution, but...

    "Mireskandari cautioned: "Frankly, if I have CCTV showing someone stealing from the cash register, then I'm confident I can sack that person, but I wouldn't want to share that information. It's a real risk.""

    I'd definitely share it with the police...

  33. Mike Moyle Silver badge

    Well, if they made it completely fair...

    ... You know, like if they gave prospective employees access to the database and included information:

    ... like listing managers who promise benefits then just "accidentally" never have enough hours available for you to qualify...

    ... like listing managers who hire for one job but give assignments that should be done by a higher-level and don't pay accordingly...

    ... like listing managers who expect services outside of normal workplace duties ("Can you run out and pick up my dry-cleaning...?")...

    ... like listing managers who expect "services" (*WinkWinkNudgeNudge*) outside of normal workplace duties...

    No...?

    Hardly useful, then.

  34. ImaGnuber

    I wonder...

    ...what would happen if employees started a similar no-proof-required database?

    "I left because I suspected [Company Whatever] were [doing something illegal and dangerous]"

    "I left because I suspected [Company Whatever] was involved in the production and distribution of child pornography."

    "I left because I suspected prolonged and heavy drug use by all levels of management at [Company Whatever] ."

    "I left [Company Whatever] because I suspected supervisor so-and-so was demading sexual favours from the younger male staff members."

    Think it would be tolerated? Even if someone stated "This is not just about running people through a database, it will be at the final stage of the job-seeking process and it cannot be the decisive data. As a prospective employee you're going to use it selectively."

    Where the hell is your government and why haven't they stomped this into the ground?

  35. Stewart Haywood
    Flame

    I'd rather become .....

    a white farmer in Zimbabwe than return to England to live!

    I can remember the days when an Englishman could sit on a train

    smoking a cigar, drinking a beer, reading a smutty mag' and telling the

    boss what he thought of the company with no fear of being fired, arrested

    for having dirty thoughts or shot by MI5. Good grief, you could even fall into a coma on a bus without having barbed projectiles fired into you and getting zapped. Now all you have to do is not do something that the boss cannot prove that you did do and your whole life is on the rocks.

  36. Wayland Sothcott Bronze badge

    Private policing

    Information is power. This info is very powerful, if you can get it. The data protection act has very little power. Police and Home Office love database. It could be it's time has come. I expect it will recieve a license from the government same as Phorm.

  37. Red Bren
    Paris Hilton

    Why doesn't the AABC do something useful?

    These companies could save themselves much more cash if they maintained a list of failed directors that had to be paid off after a huge cock-up.

  38. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Just like lie detectors

    "...the records will be made without the involvement of law enforcement or the courts..."

    Sounds like a common theme - the more people that get tagged as "criminal" the better, according to the authorities - no need for due process.

    Democracy just keeps getting more and more...chinese.

  39. Anonymous Coward
    Pirate

    "As an employer you're going to use it selectively."

    As an employer, if you use it at all, you will use it on EVERYONE in order to avoid claims (and suits) of unlawful discrimination.

    The real issue, as has been pointed out many times above, is that there is no independent vetting of the accusations as would occur with things like criminal convictions. One wonders how many Hicom Business Solutions management would have appeared in the database if it had existed many years ago.

  40. George Johnson
    Thumb Up

    Open to abuse by a certain demographic!

    Little 16 year old Johnny Chav, takes first job, doesn't really want it, nicks £50 out of the till, gets blacklisted. DSS tells him to get a job or he gets cut off, he tries 3 places but is blacklisted, can't get off the blacklist and says f**k it and stays on the state scroungers list for the next 3 years. After 3 years, gets a job, nicks something, cycle repeats. Upshot is Johnny Chav, never has to work again and has a perfectly valid reason why he can't get a job.

  41. Anonymous Coward
    Dead Vulture

    Proof

    You apply for a job and you think it's going well. At the end of the process you get a letter saying your application has not been successful but they will keep your details on file in case a suitable position opens in the future. You prove it was because of what the database said.

  42. ratfox Silver badge
    Unhappy

    Not happy about this

    I understand that employers do not want to go through the hassle of lodging a formal complaint against an employee. They would lose more time than it is worth.

    But if you're not confident enough to go to the police, you should not be able to put an employee on this database. Especially for something as flimsy as "Causing a loss to the company or a supplier". What does it mean?

    "Oh, the sales are lower than before you arrived (which happened to be Christmas season), so you must be the cause we are losing money now. Get out, you're on the list".

    If you put somebody on the list, you should be ready to show proof of the employee dishonesty (and being lazy or inefficient is NOT being dishonest) in front of a judge.

    Also, the employee should be told. I understand there is a risk the employee might attempt to retaliate by burning the shop down, but it is unacceptable to make it impossible for people to find a job without their knowledge.

  43. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @ImaGnuber commerce black list ?

    Maybe that would be a good idea to do ?

    I hear that in some contries (Belgium, Japan) it is hard to find good staff ?

    Maybe the employees should start a similar thing where you can rate a company for being a good employer or not ?

    I would be very much in favor for something like this when it uses measurable metrics and made sure that (former) employees stories are checked and proven before put in the database. That way companies will maybe start realizing that it is difficult to run a business without staff.

  44. This post has been deleted by its author

  45. Phil

    Fortunately

    Our defamation/libel laws are very litigant friendly in the UK; the burden of proof lies with the defendant in a trial, which is why every tom dick and harry sues for libel in the UK as opposed to anywhere else.

    I give this thing three weeks before the company running it is sued into submission.

  46. heystoopid
    Unhappy

    So

    So , would not the Fuzz and Defective lazy plods want to add this list of degenerate employees to generate a plausible list of new offenders suspect list as well as a supplement for the usual suspect to stitch up for any crime list !

  47. John D Salt

    Make your opinions known

    Gentle readers may perhaps wish to discuss these matters in more depth with two of the gentlemen principally responsible for this database. Their contact details, according to a recent press release, are:

    Mike Schuck (Chief Executive)

    Action Against Business Crime

    Second Floor,

    21 Dartmouth Street

    London, SW1H 9BP

    T: 020 7854 8956

    e-mail: Michael.schuck@businesscrime.org.uk

    Web: www.businesscrime.org.uk

    William Price (Director)

    Hicom Business Solutions

    Red House

    Brookwood

    Surrey, GU24 0BL

    T: 01483 794850

    e-mail: william.price@hicom.co.uk

    Web: www.hicom.co.uk/businesssolutions

    Personally I should be interested in a list of the companies participating in the scheme. They surely wouldn't wish to conceal their participation, would they?

    All the best,

    John.

  48. David Neil

    @ Lyndon Hills

    Paper records are also liable to DPA access requests.

  49. Anonymous Coward
    Pirate

    We've been there, ...

    ... seen that, done that and got the t-shirt back in the '80s, thanks to the wacky antics of fun-loving Norris McWhirter and his misleadingly-named "Freedom Association".

    That one got shut down in the end and so will this one. It won't stand a chance in court, if they even get that far.

  50. Tawakalna
    Stop

    true stories...

    many years ago (I'm 43 now) I was drummed out of a job because my manager accused me of stealing M$ WWG licences; in fact he'd deliberately *lost* them because he'd ordered the wrong ones and couldn't send them back without paying a restocking fee and didn't want to risk another b*ll*cking because he was sh1t at his job. He also had had it in for me for a long time because he was inept and I was rather good, he was a racist and I wasn't, and he was a lazy sod who skived all the time and I got on with my work. Never even got to the cops or courts of course and I did get £10K+ as a settlement before the industrial tribunal was due to take place, but I later found out that despite an *agreed reference* clause, this c*ck was telling prospective employers that I'd been for interviews with, that I'd been sacked for stealing. It took a personal visit to his house with a large bar of iron to make him see the error of his ways, and taught him a valuable lesson about what telling lies about people can result in.

    More recently, a friend of my wife's was forced out of her job for *being a drug addict* - what actually happened was that her doctor had changed her prescription medicine for migraines and not made her aware of the side effects, she'd bumped into a police car whilst parking up doing her shopping, the coppers suspected that some sort of chemical effect was at work, took her down the nick, you know the score; eventually well before court the matter was dismissed by the CPS, but not before her so-called manager had embellished the tale to the point that she was supposed to be high on crack and smashed into a police car and resisted arrest. Of course, even after the case was dismissed, malicious people were still accusing her as often happens, so she quit (and she'd been there for 12 years) And when prospective employer's rang up her former manager for a reference, he'd tell them she was a drug addict - until Mrs Taw made a complaint to his superior about him and he got suspended, then died of a heart attack whilst on suspension. Crying shame that....

    I'm sure most Reg readers with substantial work experience can relate not dissimilar tales; the point is that this database will be nothing more than an unsubstantiated rumour resource that scapegoats employees whether they deserve to be or not, makes them guilty until proven innocent, and these days how many of us can go about our daily lives without inadvertently breaking one or more of the plethora of laws that have been heaped upon us by this Stalinist bunch of bunglers we voted into office in '97?

    CRB checks should be ALL that an employer should be able to ask for or even need. This proposal seems more open to internal and external abuse than even the horrendous DNA database! But sadly, since Maggie Thatch took office in '79, employees' rights have been going down the pan and employers get to oeprate almost without sanction, many thinking that they can treat employees with utter contempt and get away with tit, and they often do.

  51. Danny Silver badge
    IT Angle

    An extension not an innovation

    A guy at a naval college interviewed his best friend for a job as a gardener, and told him he had it. He was prevented from employing his friend, not to prevent nepotism but because his friend had signed a CND petition ten years before.

    With full security clearance I was earning more than a fair wage. A few days after 911 I dropped off a hitchhiker at Faslane. I fancied her so I made the mistake of going in for a cup of tea while the MoD took my registration. The next job interview I had was with British Energy, whose first question was 'We are a nuclear company - do you have a political problem with that ?' I haven't worked since.

  52. Dave
    Stop

    Bullies Charter

    Just great. This means that any pencil-dick manager who takes an unhealthy dislike for any poor bugger working there can get his own back if and when the employee takes him to tribunal and (occasionally) wins.

    Enough of this backstabbing crap goes on as it is, with decent employees being hounded out of the area. This dimwit idea takes it further.

    Great Britain Not so great any more. Leave before they shut the borders

  53. Billy Goat Gruff

    @Math Campbell

    It's right :) and here's why.

    You're saying that any boss can give you a bit of 'payback'. Well, surprise, he can now. Using the personnel database he can write these allegations of theft and they'd appear on the reference letter sent to any company that asked. Long after he's forgotten, the same letter would be sent out again and again.

    And the poor girl would never, ever see it.

    See, it's still a database (in personnel) but it's private and you have no right to see or challenge it.

    You think that's right?

    I say the comments made about her should be transparent, so she and future employers can discuss them without any notion of confidentiality, and the girl can go away and get the database changed (as you can now with credit records).

    As to leaving it to the police and judiciary, well that is the ideal. And every employer should have access to your criminal record, right? With that information the boss could spread some real gossipy rumours.

    That's your ideal, is it? No public database but uncontrolled access for any employer/one-man-band to criminal records? 'Nothing to hide, nothing to fear' you say? I'll give up on you if you think that's valid.

    Let's take an example of an oik who is caught stealing. You know he was the one with the key to the parts room, you know his story about not coming in over the w/e is bollocks because when you show him the mail logs he changes his story that he did come in for 5 minutes. That is enough to know he's a lying little toerag who should be sacked. Just for lying, really.

    You call the police - what they going to do? Fingerprint? Lie detector? Search his house? Well, maybe, if the parts are worth many 000s. But very unlikely. If they did do all this, then your fat sweaty boss could do the same with the sweet little girl - get her dragged down to the station and her house searched, and her computer taken away...

    So, what do you do? Ah, you change the judiciary system so that they investigate every crime thoroughly, and see it through to prosecution. Well, I'm right with you on that. A tad unrealistic in the short term though.

    Perhaps you should install CCTV all over the building, and put finger-print locks on every door and track the movements of everyone so that, should something go missing, you have uncontroversial proof? Yes, it might help prevent theft but IMO it treats us all as thieves and makes life poorer and more difficult.

    And you think that's right?

    I say - if you catch someone, sack them. If you're sacked unfairly, go to unfair dismissal and rake in the cash.

    either way - with this public system - you can see what the boss wrote about you and change it. Light years ahead of the current system.

  54. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    Right to Access and Correct entries

    So this will be like the Credit Tracking databases then.... ever tried to correct an entry on one of those?

    I once got a copy of my records and noticed an entry saying I had applied for a loan for over $700k (should have been $7k). To get it corrected, the Bank that made the entry must agree to the correction.

    i suspect that this Employee DB scheme would use the same process... so if the entry was malicious, how much chance do you think you will have of getting it corrected? Exactly none.

    On the legal side, things may be different in the UK from here in Australia, but here they have to ask your consent to access your credit file, or do a police check... so surely a prospective employer (or their head hunter) would need to request your consent to access your records on this DB, and since the records can't be the only deciding factor in whether to employ you, all you need to do is refuse consent. In fact if everyone refused consent for all prospective employers, the whole scheme would fail.

    I've never stolen from anyone (I'm the type of person who points out to the shop assistant that they gave me too much change), but the shear magnitude of scope for abuse scares the pants off me on this one. And the chances of getting malicous entries corrected are going to be pretty much Nil (especially if it involves a small business where its probably the owner who made the malicious entry).

    And for those that think there are no bad employers... my wifes employer has told her that she must work 7 days / 50+ hours a week for the next three months (yes thats right 3 months straight without a day off), is not allowed to take lunch breaks (or a dinner break on the lday of ate night trade) and the new (married) state manager who arrived 2 days ago has been badgering her to sleep with him, and despite her being the 3rd best salesperson in the state (after only 2 months of employment ), she has to start meeting triple the current sales target in the next 2 weeks, or she is out out of a job. And this is just a job selling rugs.

  55. Anonymous Coward
    Stop

    @Omer

    re: "As far as I am aware, it is illegal to give bad reference..."

    I don't know whence this canard has arisen, but it's codswollop. It *may* be actionable in a civil court to give an inaccurate reference, but it is certainly not illegal to give a bad one. That said, most reasonable companies will just say to their former employee at termination that they should not expect any reference aside from confirmation of their dates of employment, which is, as far as I'm aware, a legal requirement.

    As for causing a loss to the company being a reason to be submissible to this database, this causes me great concern (which is why I'm posting as AC). I'm reasonably senior in my company, with a hell of a lot of access to our customers' systems. While I'd never abuse that, if my knowledge of those systems, and of our customers' businesses, were suddenly no longer available, for example, if I left because I had grown exhausted of trying to stop my employer going down what I saw as the wrong path, that would cause a measurable loss for both my customers and employer.

    And I'd potentially (potentially, my left nostril, I know which director would make sure of it: again, hence AC) be on the database despite having acted in good faith all the way.

    Damn right I'd be asking El Reg for a lawyer's phone number.

  56. Richard Johnson
    Pirate

    Suspects Database Pah!

    I too thought that it was illegal to give a bad reference... should be fun, have been sacked a few times never really for dishonesty though so should be fine or should I...

    The idea of this database stinks as it will be abused sooner or later how can having that much knowledge of people not get abused with the way the world is.

    How safe would this data be from black hats also... as wouldn't it be "cool" if you could screw someones career for money hmm or status. Pondering this how would the data be entered, what checks would be made of the accuracy and integrity of said data?

    All in all i think this is a bad idea.

  57. This post has been deleted by its author

  58. Jeff Deacon
    Go

    Not a new idea

    If I remember correctly, schemes like this have been running for many a long year in the Offshore Oil and Construction sectors. Especially for labourers, the first question is to elicit their National Insurance number. Quick look on the database before *any* further enquiry. Many applications refused at that stage, without further explanation. When first set up it was for union activists in particular. Does anyone have feedback on how those schemes have succeeded/survived?

    As for this being OK because it is not a government scheme ... Well, neither is Phorm, but it has a strange amount of government acquiescence that makes me believe they want it, so that they can manipulate it in due course. I submit, your honour, that the same applies here. Plausible deniability is its name, and it doesn't only apply to cryptography!

    Let's Go, Go, Go! Look to the future, not to the past: modernise, modernise, modernise; and whatever other claptrap make you sleep soundly at night. It can only get worse.

  59. John D Salt

    This is what the heck the government have to do with this

    Do pay attention.

    The National Staff Dismissal Register (NSDR) is a project initiated by Action Against Business Crime (AABC). AABC is a partnership between the British Retail Consortium (BRC) and the Home Office.

    Saying that it is "not a government scheme" is, therefore, wildly inaccurate; it is that ever-popular form of fashionable nonsense, a public-private partnership.

    "Pre-empting" a business because it will be illegal is not a "slippery slope", it is part of every good citizen's duty to prevent the commission of crime (something one might assume the AABC were in favour of).

    If people were a bit more eager to "pre-empt" this kind of authoritarian nonsense, we might see rather less of it. Sadly the country now seems to be populated largely by spineless lickspittles who do not dare confront corporate thuggery. It seems that the principal safeguard of our ancient liberties is now the stumblebum incompetence of IT implementation in large projects.

    All the best,

    John.

  60. Anonymous Coward
    Flame

    @John D Salt

    Thanks for the contact details of the big cheeses behind this wheeze.

    Just to make things fair, has anyone got any dirt on them they'd like to post? You know, like what they got up to in previous employment, did they jump or were they pushed, etc? I'd sure they'd have no objections to everyone knowing as it could affect whether they're the sort of people you'd want to do business with. You'd only take this into account at the final stage, of course, so it's perfectly OK.

    No proof is needed, so rumours are absolutely fine. They can always contact El Reg and correct the details if you happen to have got any of them a tiny bit wrong.

  61. Ishkandar
    Pirate

    To make this absolutely fair...

    ...we should also have the equivalent in a database of bad employers that abuse (physically or employmentally) their employees and/or sack them without adequate reason !!

    This will solve two problems !! The affected employees will be pissed off enough not to vote NuLabour and the affected employers will be pissed off enough not to "donate" to the NuLabour election funds !!

    Come back, the Whigs !! You are (almost) forgiven !!

    @It's not a government scheme. - It *IS* a government scheme devised by NuLabour government ministerial hack in the dark days after the biggest electoral defeat in their history as a vote/attention getter and now strenuously denied by them !!

    Damn, but they are toxic !!

  62. Anonymous Coward
    Unhappy

    bad employers

    Lets start with EDS.

  63. Anonymous Coward
    Unhappy

    4 Fox Ache

    What is it about the word "NuLabour?" Apart from the fact that even the illiterate morons who write letters to "Metro" or email them to "ThisIsLondon.com" seem to be able to spell this neologism, do any of them have any idea of politics? I think the answer is probably: "no."

    I will not apportion blame here, but I don't think Blair or Brown would have condoned such a scheme as this. I even find it difficult to believe that Thatcher would have been happy about it.

    In one job I was sexually abused by my male boss (I'm male, BTW). On my leaving do he spiked my drinks. Do you think he would give me a fair reference on this site?

    I think the whole idea is unforgiveable and like the guy who replied to John.D.Salt I would happily find as much shit as I could dig about these two guys. Sadly, as they well know, all this publicity about their site will be to their benefit. I can only hope that their site gets an attack of some sort.

    Normally I would post with my name. Unfortunately I feel this is one of those times where one has to be an anonymous coward.

  64. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    These commenters have never been on the shop owner's side

    I say this as my wife has a few shops, and has seen many cases of employees who stole goods and/or money, but without proof "hard" enough to go to the police, have them arrested, charged and gone through a judicial process. And even then, there are many things an employee can counter-attack with, if he gets prosecuted. There are many criminal acts which are hard to prove - how many judges will allow privately-recorded CCTV footage as hard proof? And will the police not laugh if you ask them to bring the surveillance van to catch someone stealing a few pounds from the register?

    Not even going as far as criminal acts, there are many serial offenders on grounds like missing work hours, faking illness (you know, Fridays and Mondays are really excellent days for viruses and bacteria, maybe we should ban them from the work week!), damaging property, and spending all day chatting on IM and the like.

    IMHO such a registry, in order to prevent abuses from employers (which can of course also happen), would have to work thus:

    - Entries should not hold the actual employee data, such as names, but hashes of them. Thus, nobody could simply access the database and browse it - the name of the employee would have to be known.

    - A request for a particular name from a prospective employer would return a "green" or "red" flag, not particular incident details. These details would be available on request with the authorization of the employee, in order to clarify them.

    - A "red" flag would only be returned after two serious or three minor incidents are recorded. This would effectively eliminate the chance that a single employer with a grudge against an employee could destroy his chances of being hired. A weighed average of incidents versus number of jobs taken in the past would also help (i.e. someone who has worked in 30 places has a higher chance of an employee reporting an incident even if it was false).

    - Employees should be allowed access to the database, and means to contest its content, with reasonable proof. Thus, some form of arbitration committee should be formed (as an example, Rent-a-Coder has such arbitration when a developer and its employer do not agree on something).

    With enough safeguards, this could really work. Anyone opposing it is IMHO very likely not a defender of human or labor rights, but a defender of lazy and bad workers. And if the only argument against it is possible abuse, re-read what I propose above and tell me if it still wouldn't work, followed by your own additional safeguards. The reason such a registry is being setup is because the justice system has failed miserably at keeping these kind of people at bay, and business owners are growing tired of systematic abuse.

  65. Bill Cumming
    IT Angle

    Don't they all ready have something like this running....

    Don't they all ready have something like this running....

    Think it's called the CRBC (Criminal Record Bureau Check).

    Why have another database to be used 'n' abused....

  66. Moss Icely Spaceport
    Alert

    Mr Thin edge, meet, Mr Wedge

    WARNING: Slippery slope ahead, slow.

  67. Andy Worth

    Re:We don't supply references

    "As far as I am aware, it is illegal to give bad references"

    This is actually a common misconception. It is not illegal to give a bad reference if the content of that reference is 100% accurate, however you would have to have well documented proof of everything you say. If you (as an employer) make a false accusation of someone in a reference and they dispute it, you leave yourself open to legal action.

    The difficulties in proving things usually leads companies to simply refuse to give a reference instead, as if you refuse to say anything then people take it to mean the same as a bad reference.

  68. Damian Gabriel Moran
    Coat

    maybe 2000AD had it right

    when Judge Death reasoned "All crime is committed by the living, therefore life must be a crime"

    Get ready for Labour to deem you guilty!

  69. steogede
    Gates Horns

    @Lydon Hills

    >> There is already something similar to this, but in terms of Trade Union Activists. I

    >> don't remember all the details, but I think they keep all the records on papaer as it

    >> avoids having to deal with the DPA. Presumably this comes under that legislation,

    >> so one has the right to request access to ones records, and have corrections

    >> applied?

    Firstly, DPA has for a long time applied both Paper and Electronic records - so long as the paper records are ordered around people (i.e. so you can find a persons record easily).

    Secondly, do you seriously think they have a webserver with built in OCR, so that people enter a query on the website an the webserver read through it all.

    Thirdly, I fail to see what protection DPA could provide. The DPA only gives a right to have accurate, correct data recorded, it doesn't give any rights for deletion. The database only records accusations, so long as someone has made the accusation the data is factually correct - even if the accusation is malicious.

    @AC 23:11 Sunday

    >> The reason such a registry is being setup is because the justice system has

    >> failed miserably at keeping these kind of people at bay, and business owners

    >> are growing tired of systematic abuse.

    This system will last about as long as it takes for a manager to abuse it and an ex-employee to sue the company (NB not the manager). All this is doing is creating another system to be abused. Having said that, any wrong done-by employee will only be able to sue for damages relative to their pay scale so any payout will likely be quite trivial - it would be such a trivial news item, that it wouldn't even make it to the pages of El Reg.

    BTW, I wonder if it is any coincidence that this system shares it's name with another NSDR - the Australian 'National Stock Dog Registry'?

    RE: What the heck do the gov have to do with this?

    Read the article, it was commissioned by a Home Office/British Retail Consortium partnership. We could ask Jacquie Smith's advisers were thinking when they told her this was a good idea, but I think we all know that they probably told her the opposite so she ignored them.

    -- Evil Bill, cause Hicom are an MS Certified Partner

  70. Anonymous Coward
    Pirate

    it will always be wrong

    The purpose does NOT justify the means. Stupid current practice does not justify stupid future practices - it only explains them.

    So references are dealt with in secret in the UK! Well they are not in all european countries. In many countries references are obliged to be transparent. So it may be the case that some personell departments in the UK have inappropriate data on staff - in many countries corporate databases held on staff and custormers are not 'free for all' (when it comes to content) as only formally regulated types of information is legally allowed.

    Maybe instead of stupid ideas such as the proposed database our government should learn from abroad and deal with some of the underlying issues instead. Nah - requires thinking, understanding and real effort so that would obviously be much too hard, its so much easier to go with the 'superior' suggestions proposed by an 'insightful and fair' lobby group...

  71. Ross Ryles

    @Andy Worth

    "if you refuse to say anything then people take it to mean the same as a bad reference."

    Not in my experience.

    Many large UK companies now have a policy of not providing more than a minimal reference for all employees. So a lack of a reference doesn't mean the same as a bad reference. It just means that they don't give references.

  72. r

    Why limit it to Retail companies?

    If looks like being a success then *all* companies should be allowed to access this database. Surely staff sometimes move from the Retail world into other fields. It's only fair that all industries can be protected from employing dodgy (allegedly) staff.

    It's only by the adoption of sensible schemes like this and a national ID card that major companies will be protected from losing such huge sums of money. Why should their shareholders be penalised because of the actions of a few (million) feckless employees???

    I blame lethal Skunk.

  73. Danger Mouse
    Linux

    Hicom Business Solution & SSL

    The outsourcer Hicom doesn't seem to have SSL on their user support login page ( http://support.hicomtechnology.co.uk/Logon.aspx ) . Seeing as they're also in the health care solutions business I would suggest they take some of their own medicine and beef up their own security before offering secure services to others.

  74. Ross Ryles

    Re: Don't they all ready have something like this running....

    Yes they do. However, as the name suggests, that is a check for *Criminal Records*. This is a check for anything bad anyone ever said about you. Criminal records are based on evidence that has been considered and deemed to prove an offense beyond all reasonable doubt. This is based on an individuals word and in most cases not enough evidence for even a civil case.

  75. Justin Silver badge
    Thumb Down

    proof required to remove bad data?

    "- Employees should be allowed access to the database, and means to contest its content, with reasonable proof. " written By Anonymous Coward,Posted Sunday 11th May 2008 23:11 GMT .

    Hmm, so it is ok to require "reasonable proof" to remove data from the database, a database which has no proof requirements at all in which to enter said data?

  76. Guy Herbert

    @ Glyn Roberts

    "With a police background check any returned results would surely be confirmation of guilt of a crime, or at the least issues that have been reported to the 'proper' authorities and therefore much more reliable."

    Er, nope. The whole point of the poisonous enhanced-disclosure CRB check is to turn up police records short of conviction (that is, unsubstantiated allegations which might easily be mistaken or malicious), or offences that would previously have been regarded as spent, and hold them against individuals.

    Just because the information has been given to the Witchfinder General in his august and expert authority does not make it any more reliable than if you heard it from Mrs Miggins - he probably did too.

  77. Ross Ryles

    Re: These commenters have never been on the shop owner's side

    "Employees should be allowed access to the database, and means to contest its content, with reasonable proof."

    But no proof required to put them on the database in the first place?

    Can you prove you didn't browse questionable content on company computers at your last job?

    The first you are likely to know of a false entry on the database will be when you are rejected for a job you would otherwise have secured. By the time you've proven your innocence the job has already gone to someone else.

    I've read your suggestions and it still wouldn't work.

  78. Mark

    A nation of untrustworthy criminals

    .. seems to be how we're all seen these days. This scheme fits right into the Labour philosophy of 'guilty unless you're rich'. What next? Privatised and competing and unregulated criminal justice systems judged on their guilty to innocent ratios?

    I'm confident this lot will be viewed by future political historians as the worst government in British history. Wankers.

  79. Anonymous Coward
    Black Helicopters

    Once upon a time we had investigative journalism in this country

    <There is already something similar to this, but in terms of Trade Union Activists. I don't remember all the details, but I think they keep all the records on papaer as it avoids having to deal with the DPA.>

    Have a look under "Anti-communist organizations" on wikipedia, starting with the letter E.

  80. Anonymous Coward
    Flame

    remember the 'gun-man'

    "Just because the information has been given to the Witchfinder General in his august and expert authority does not make it any more reliable than if you heard it from Mrs Miggins - he probably did too."

    yes I agree fully with this proposition. Just remember the guy who was arrested on suspicion of guncrime - apparantly he had a portable music player and some one had 'mistakenly' thought it being a gun he was pointing. The police subsequently arrested him and investigated the issue - not finding any gun ofcourse - but he is now on record as arrested for a suspected gun crime. No visas to the USA then...

  81. b
    Stop

    Is this right?

    "You're saying that any boss can give you a bit of 'payback'. Well, surprise, he can now. Using the personnel database he can write these allegations of theft and they'd appear on the reference letter sent to any company that asked. Long after he's forgotten, the same letter would be sent out again and again.

    And the poor girl would never, ever see it.

    See, it's still a database (in personnel) but it's private and you have no right to see or challenge it.

    You think that's right?"

    No. It's not right, It's wildly untrue in fact. You have every right to see your references.

  82. Henry Cobb
    Flame

    The database MUST be used on all applicants.

    "the database would not be used on all applicants"

    Just wait until the first case comes out like

    "My daughter would still be alive today if only that store had used the database they helped set up."

    It'll be grand. (Many, many grands.)

  83. Anonymous Coward
    Coat

    @Hmm

    Actually, I would expect the vast majority of employees could be got on falsification of documents.

    Just how many people do you know who accurately fill in their time sheets and expenses.

    But there are other issues, the CRB expires convictions for some checks, so they don't appear, being considered no longer relevant, can you imagine any private company doing this.

    Allegations are just that, if they haven't been proved in court then they are defamatory, and can you imagine anybody letting an allegation be left on a system like this, after all as an allegation it's not true until proved, and you have a right to have it removed, because if you say it is true, then you are admitting it.

  84. Mark
    Boffin

    Good info here..

    One would assume the legal situation regarding data on this system would be the same as that regarding references in general:-

    http://www.cipd.co.uk/subjects/recruitmen/selectn/references.htm

  85. Billy Goat Gruff

    @b

    "No. It's not right, It's wildly untrue in fact. You have every right to see your references."

    I never said you don't have the right to see your references, just that the perfume seller won't see them. Just as most of us have never seen our own ones. Just as future employers don't show you a copy after they've seen them.

    There are of course situations where you have no right to see the contents of a one-off letter between your ex-boss and your future employer. If he were to hand-write and post a reference, what right do you have to see it? If he sent you a different reference, how would you know?

    So, wildy untrue? Not really...

    I maintain that a database that she can see - and thus correct, append and threaten - is good. The exact same statements in the database could be said today without her knowledge and without any legal right to see.

    And a database that fills in the missing gaps when a thief doesn't mention he was sacked from company X is good. Get the thieves out of the system so the rest of us aren't governed further by theft-prevention systems.

    And giving every shop owner the ability to see your criminal records is bad - if it's a work-related problem then it should be available to an employer, if it's unrelated to work then they have no right to know.

  86. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re:@b By BGG

    "I maintain that a database that she can see - and thus correct, append and threaten - is good."

    Ah, I see where you're going, WIKIREF. Maybe anologies can be made with the quality and accuracy of that other wikithingy.

  87. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    BGG

    "I maintain that a database that she can see - and thus correct, append and threaten - is good."

    So how widely knowledgeable would you have to be to keep on top of this? How much work will there be in correcting it? What penalties will there be for those who make malicous entries and who will enforce them? Where does the burden of proof lie? At the moment, the putative shopgirl in question wouldn't offer her sweaty-breathed, octupus of a t'eevin' former manager as her reference, so he wouldn't get the chance to write a *bad* reference.

    How worthwhile would such a poisoned database be anyway?

  88. Billy Goat Gruff

    @Anonymous Coward

    "So how widely knowledgeable would you have to be to keep on top of this?.."

    All good questions, for which I don't have the answers. I imagine libel laws would encourage the keeper of the data to minimise their risk. It won't be any more poisoned than any other reference - just that she gets to see it. That knowledge alone will help discourage many fat sweaty bosses from writing stuff that may be thrown back at them.

    The girl would have a gap in her CV. She could lie and say she travelled the world, but why should she have to throw away all that experience which would be valuable in a job interview?

    I understand knee-jerk reactions to the database - panacea to every known ill - but take 'database' out of this and realise that what it really is that every time someone writes a reference about you, you will now have the opportunity to see it.

    It may not be nice, it may not be accurate but it is no worse than what is already being written about you. If your bad reference is costing you jobs you have a hell of a lot better opportunity to correct it with a system like this. No matter what legal rights you have with your ex-boss, you have no right to stop him hand-writing his opinion of you without you ever knowing.

    Most objections are objections to references in general. This system just makes the perfume girl more likely to see the lies which have been written about her.

  89. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Police State

    This database is so wrong. Ah so the victims will be able to correct inaccurate information? In theory..yes, but I bet when it comes to it, an individual attempts to get the information changed will fail, for a multitude of reasons - ( we lost the paperwork you sent us, we're so overloaded with requests it will be 6 months before we can get around to investigating your issue)

    This whole concept goes against justice in the UK, with this database you're guilty based on some employer's say so and you have no right to defend yourself. Better hope, you don't get on the wrong side of your boss.

    Of course the Home Office despite being a partner of an organisation involved, claims "nothing to do with us", imagine the outcry if they were formally involved? Distance themselves, but behind the scenes pull the strings or sit back passively and do nothing to stop it.

    We're marching slowly but inexorably to a Police State under this NuLabour government.

  90. b

    References

    "every time someone writes a reference about you, you will now have the opportunity to see it."

    As I pointed out earlier you already have the right to see any references about yourself.

    As you then went to some length to deny you ever insinuated otherwise I'm not sure what exactly your point is.

  91. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Missing the point, Ser Goat

    "It won't be any more poisoned than any other reference..."

    The database as a whole will contain at least some lies. How reliable do you think it will really be? If it's not reliable, it's poisoned. I'm not talking about the individual reference letter, because the potential employee won't choose to nominate an employer from whom their parting was less than cordial as their referee.

    "...just that she gets to see it. That knowledge alone will help discourage many fat sweaty bosses from writing stuff that may be thrown back at them..."

    Only if there's any realistic chance that any such stuff *will* be thrown back at them. This scheme doesn't convince me.

    "The girl would have a gap in her CV. She could lie and say she travelled the world, but why should she have to throw away all that experience which would be valuable in a job interview?"

    No she wouldn't. She'd justt not be selecting that particular employer as her referee. Employers understand that candidates for jobs have their reasons for choosing the employers with whom they got on best for their referees.

  92. Anonymous Coward
    Coat

    and way more to the thieves at the top

    "dishonest staff cost shops an average of £497m annually"

  93. Steen
    Alert

    @job for life

    1. Get on this database (without actually committing a crime.)

    2. Leave job.

    3. Apply for job elsewhere (Where they will use this database.)

    4. Be rejected for job.

    5. Wonder why?

    6. Repeat 3 to 5 until sufficiently depressed....

    There something smells of Kafka here

  94. Steven Raith
    Coat

    @Steen

    In large swathes of the City/Finance world, that's called 'not being from the right background'.

    That is, top flight university of course.

    Mine is the one with the School Of Hard Knocks tie in the pocket.

    Steven "Wrong side of the tracks" Raith :-)

  95. Taskis
    Thumb Down

    Bad, bad, bad idea

    Commenters arguing that this database would be fine as long as the subject has the right to challenge allegations made about them have missed one crucial point: *this is the UK*.

    This is a country where calm, rational consideration isn't viewed as a virtue any more. We're a proudly knee-jerk society now: the findings of courts and legal bodies are irrelevant in the public mind. Nobody *cares* whether or not anything can be proved. The allegation itself is sufficient - and once it's made, even if it's subsequently deleted and apologised for, it sticks. After all, "there's no smoke without fire" - right? How many people hear about someone accused of paedophilia and *wait to hear the facts* before lighting the torches and sharpening the pitchforks? The accusation is enough! Suspicion is enough! The mere fact that a person is mentioned on this database - no matter for what, how accurately or how briefly - will be enough to destroy their careers. "Guilty until proven innocent" is now a fundamental principle in this country, and we, the public, have made it so.

    How many applicants are there for any given job advert? Why should a prospective employer even consider employing someone when there're zillions more who haven't appeared on the database?

    Someone earlier on said "make it fair". But the only way to do that would be to put *everyone* on it, so that at least companies have to *read* everyone's entry in some detail before they decide who they think is the lowest risk. Do we really want to go down that route?

    The power of companies is increasing; the power of the individual is diminishing - and we seem inexplicably content to let that happen.

  96. John D Salt

    @Phil

    "Our defamation/libel laws are very litigant friendly in the UK; the burden of proof lies with the defendant in a trial, which is why every tom dick and harry sues for libel in the UK as opposed to anywhere else."

    No, this is quite wrong. The burden of proof is the same in defamation as it is for almost anything else, with the plaintiff (or whatever they're called now). The only thing that need not be proven is whether an accusation that could unjustly damage your reputation in the eyes of a reasonable person did, in fact, cause damage. You still need to prove that the words were uttered by the accused, communicated to a third party, would harm your reputation, are untrue, and are not protected by privilege.

    Nor is it true that every Tom, Dick or Harry sues for libel; it may need substantial funds to consider doing so, and no legal aid is available. So I can't see many destitute out-of-work shopgirls trying it, unless they can find a "no win, no fee" deal. It is the "no win, no fee" arrangements that cause excessive litigation, not the state of the law, which IMHO is on the whole pretty sound (although there's a strange paradox about vicarious liability that I think needs sorting out).

    I amn't a lawyer, but I have had reason to take legal advice on defamation a couple of times, once when I called a bunch of dodgy insurance sales people "sharks", and once when my line manager told lies about me in my annual appraisal.

    All the best,

    John.

  97. Billy Goat Gruff

    @Missing the point, Ser Goat

    I think you maybe right - I have missed what everyone else is saying.

    I haven't put character references in a CV since I left school. Well I haven't written a CV for 20 odd years... but when I did my job-hopping I never put 'referees' in, which kind of implies none of my previous employers were ever contacted. Clearly I should have put much more impressive job titles at completely different companies. Oh well, you live and learn.

    My impression of a reference, for permanent employment, is when they contact your previous employers for confirmation and just to check they haven't got anything bad to say about you. The only companies that do this checking, btw, are the ones I learned to avoid because they take bureaucracy far too seriously for me...

    If references are just selected referees, like a builder or a nanny uses, then my point is bollocks. If references include any and all previous employers then my point stands.

  98. Anonymous Coward
    Flame

    @These commenters have never been on the shop owner's side

    Some of my friends are small business owners, and I completely understand and sympathise with their frustration at lazy, dishonest, theiving employees. It often would cost more money to pursue legal action than they save by being rid of them.

    However I tend to believe that trying to exclude anyone from earning a living is immoral (with the exception of those convicted of a crime by a court of law and then only while they are incarcerated) .

    On the technical front your suggestions do not solve the problems of abuse and furthermore they are completely unworkable

    For a start, your suggestion of using a hash for the personal information - With hashes the search terms must match the full and exact text of the original key as entered by the previous employer- any typo and the search will fail (remember pattern matching / regular expressions won't work for hashes).

    Of course none of this matters, because my (and I think others) major concern is not how easily the records can be browsed , but that any unfounded malicious rumour can be used to unfairly destroy someones career (yes career - do you really think a ssytem like this would stay only for retailers if it is allowed to go ahead?).

    As for your suggestion:

    "Employees should be allowed access to the database, and means to contest its content, with reasonable proof."

    I found this to be extremely offensive... why should the burden of proof be on the employee... surely as it is the employer making the accusation, the burden of proof must lay with them. In addition, saying that employees should be allowed access to their information (required by law if I'm not mistaken) is not the same as saying they should be able to access it easily. I can access my credit file too, but it's not what I would call easy (certainly not as easy as it is for the bank or the phone company and I don't even get to see all of the information they get to see). Unless employees can access their information as easily as the employers, the system is unfair.

    Likewise, you are suggesting a system of arbitration for disputing unproven allegations... how are you going to arbitrate something that is basically going to be the employers word against the employees (lets face it, how much evidence or proof is the employer or employee going to be able to provide given that the broad scope allows accusations to be pretty vague).

    Your suggestion for contesting the content of the database is horribly in favour of employers with no burden of proof or weight of evidence required on their part.. accusations are treated as proven until disproved and employees are treated as guilty until proven innocent. Whats worse these accusations (or a derivation thereof - per your flag suggestion) are provided as concrete and proven to prospective employers based on the fact that they have not been disputed (lack of a dispute does not mean the accusation was not false and malicious - there are some who may believe they have been "stitched up" so well that there is little point in disputing the accusation).

    Lastly, your flag idea... I'm sorry, but while it appears to be a good solution on the surface, it is not a panacea... many of the employees this system is targeted at will have poor educations (why else did they apply for a job that says no experience necessary)... so they are easier to take advantage of and more likely to be targets of unscroupulous employers / managers (we've all met some of these). Having 2 or 3 accusations against them is not a garantee that any of the accusations are true at all (granted the probabilites are slightly higher, but do you really want to risk telling a completely honest person that you don't care if they stole or not, the fact that someone says they did is enough for you to believe they don't deserve to earn money to feed themselves and possibly their family?)

    This proposed system has the scope to completely ruin the lives of those who can least afford it

    I know small business owners often have trouble with lazy, dishonest and theiving staff (I've heard pleny of horror stories from my friends), but supporting a system that would allow unscroupulous employers to maliciously exclude anyone from the workforce is immoral.

  99. Anonymous Coward
    Black Helicopters

    Errr...

    ....given that a significant and rising proportion of low paid (incl shop) workers come from outside the UK, how exactly do they expect to keep this anywhere near accurate? Or is the point purely to f*ck over the locals (again)?

    Natalya Comanstealyastuff, aged 18, gets fired for “suspected theft”. Natalya pops off home to her EU member state for 3 months. Natalya comes back to a different address, and receives a new NI number (if she had one at all). Rinse, repeat.

  100. scott
    Stop

    Good for the serf, good for the pigopolists

    Good for the serf, good for the pigopolists – that’s what I say. As I’ve said about similar things (like local f*cktard council workers having the ability to spy on us), it’s the asymmetry that’s the problem.

    Other’s have mentioned it already – but a national DB with all companies and associated managers who’ve ever been accused of doing something dodgy should be set up.

    My personal bugbears are:

    Theft of employees time. Unpaid overtime nets UK companies *billions* per year. It’s theft, even if the employee signed his rights away.

    Breach of contract. Dropping heavy hints or actually promising things that don’t materialise due to “new management” or “changes in the market” or whatever.

    Underpaying. Getting employees at a lower pay rate to take on responsibilities of a higher scale in non-emergency situations. Classics being taking on management tasks whilst the boss is on hols (and getting a vague “this is good for your visibility” reward instead of 2 weeks of a pay rise to management levels).

    Non-disclosure. Knowing in advance that there is a high percentage chance your job will be outsourced/rationalised, and not notifying you that it’s in the pipeline – hence stealing your opportunity of arranging your life accordingly (e.g maybe not buying that car as in 6 months time you’ll be on the dole for example.Yes, happened to me).

  101. Dave

    @BGG

    Having recently been in the job market after redundancy none of the positions I applied for required I provide references at application or 1st/2nd interview stage. The company I was succesful with asked me to supply them after I had been offered and accepted the position.

    At this time if my previous employer had supplied a bad reference and the offer was withdrawn I would have had an idea that the reference may have been why. And I could have argued the contents of it. (Ignoring the legallity of withdrawing the offer for the sake of argument)

    I think the general consensus of the comments made are that employers will abuse the system way before this stage. For example, manager has 50 cv's on his desk, does he

    a, Sort through them firstly by qualifications, experience and ability?

    b, Use this database to possibly get rid of a chunk in order to make his life easier?

    I have clashed with many of my managers over my working career. Luckily most have been good people and never taken it personally. Then there were the complete dicks, these are the ones I know would abuse a system like this in using it to vet applicants and to make life hell for one of their employees.

    This means that applicants would never know why they didnt even get a rejection letter, never mind an interview. This story wont make popular headline news so the majority of people affected by this wont know about the scheme. Its mainly retailers, and of the ones mentioned I know from personal experience one of them is full of the most egocentric wankers in the country. They can and they will poison the system.

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