VSJ – Feb 2007

Notice Board

Advance notice: IAP Spring meeting, Friday 20th April – put this date in your diary.

In a radical departure from tradition we shall be holding our 2007 Spring Meeting on the famous WW2 cruiser HMS Belfast. Members with nervous stomachs need have no fear, though; nowadays the Belfast (pictured) is a floating exhibition, safely moored in the River Thames just by Tower Bridge. We are planning an extended lunchtime meeting, with the emphasis on hospitality and networking. But there will also be some technical input and, of course, the opportunity to roam freely around the nine decks and exhibition areas of this fascinating vessel. The event will fit easily into a single working day, or, being on a Friday, it also offers members and their partners the opportunity to stop over in London till Saturday for some shopping. We can advise on nearby hotels. Full details are available on the IAP Web site. This event could well be oversubscribed so it’s not too early to get your name down. Email admin@iap.org.uk or call 0208 567 2118. The cost to members will be £40.00 including VAT. The cost to guests and other non-members is £70.00 including VAT. An excellent three-course lunch and drinks are included in the price.

[Got an activity or event coming up? Email eo@iap.org.uk with the details.]


Sounding Board

As a rule, we treat IAP News as a vehicle for members and partners. Now and then, though, something comes our way that we feel deserves an audience just because it’s likely to be helpful to a significant proportion of the membership. And anyway, rules were made to be broken. So here’s Patricia Passarelli, Editor and Evangeliser at JavaBlackBelt, talking about, well, JavaBlackBelt.

Even after a becoming a Sun Certified Java Programmer, it’s tricky for programmers to market their skills. Plus, they need a self-paced way to keep up with the changing needs in technology. JavaBlackBelt provides a meaningful alternative to Sun and other industry-led certifications. It’s a community based, mass-authoring approach for creating certification and study/learn exams on a variety of Java and related technologies. Most certifications can be passed after a course on syntax and gotchas. And they don’t necessarily prove the potential and aptitude of a developer. The self-study/learn exams on JavaBlackBelt are a true self-diagnostic for developers. With them, developers can prove they really know Java, understand the topics and sub-topics and identify knowledge gaps. JavaBlackBelt isn’t geared toward passing particular certification exams. It promotes valuable learning for skills building – skills that can be put into practice immediately.

This is how it works: users sign up – for FREE – and take exams, from basic J2SE to exams on frameworks like Spring and tools like ANT. They can also progress up the belt track – a skill-level recognition system borrowed from the martial arts. The colour of the belts earned endorses users’ technical knowledge. Every time users “level-up” their belts it’s posted on the home page with their photos and links to their profiles. After taking an exam, users can review the answers to the questions they got right – and those they got wrong. Instantly they can identify knowledge “weak spots.” During an exam, they can vote on question quality and appropriate targeting to the exam objectives. Users can also give feedback to improve or correct question content and syntax. These unique, mass-authoring features, as part of the exam process, are how JavaBlackBelt.com exams continually evolve to ensure that they remain useful to developers – as they evolve. JavaBlackBelt exams have real-world value making them a meaningful metric for learning and skills building.

JavaBlackBelt is not a “fast food” approach. Rather it emphasises an ongoing commitment to learning that continues long after a developer gets a certification. It’s a meaningful alternative because it’s a community-managed track for many certifications. And it’s a place for developers to get their skills recognised – which motivates learning. This encourages a longer view toward self-improvement.

See www.javablackbelt.com for more details.

[Something you’d like to get off your chest? Email me (Robin Jones) at eo@iap.org.uk.]


Members’ News:

Nominations for the Council of the IAP

The Institution is a democratic body governed by a Council elected by and from its members. Five members of the 15-strong Council retire in rotation each year. Nominations for the 2007 election, accompanied by the nominee’s manifesto (in electronic form and not exceeding 150 words, please) must be received at the Institution Office by 19 February. Contact the Office (020 8 5672118 or admin@iap.org.uk) for further details or an informal discussion if you are interested in playing your part in the governance of the Institution.

New Fellow

We welcome Simon C. Stobart, BA (Hons) PhD who has been elected a Fellow of the Institution. Dr. Stobart began working as a programmer with Commercial Union while studying part time for his first degree. This was followed by a brief period as a part time lecturer in computing at New College, Durham. The remainder of his distinguished academic career to date has been spent on the staff of the University of Sunderland (an IAP Education Partner). Working initially part time as Research Assistant and Lecturer while studying for his PhD, Dr. Stobart has taken on increasing departmental responsibilities – he is currently Principal Lecturer in Computing with co-ordinating responsibility for the postgraduate programmes. He is widely published and engages in a considerable amount of consultancy work, both with local businesses and internationally.

[Don’t forget to email eo@iap.org.uk with items of news about you or your company.]

Work in Progress

Here, Sarah Bird, of Browne Jacobson, discusses the implications of the new legislation from an employer’s perspective. If you’re an employee, though, the information is equally useful. You just view it differently.

The Employment Equality (Age) Regulations 2006 came into force on 1 October 2006. The Regulations protect workers of all ages from age discrimination and impact on almost every aspect of the employment relationship – from recruitment and promotion to dismissal. They will potentially affect many commonly established practices, from the wording of job advertisements to the sending of office birthday cards. Increasing awareness of age diversity throughout your business is crucial. The message is clear focus on skill and ability and not age.

The Regulations

In summary the Regulations:

  • prohibit unjustified age discrimination in employment;
  • require employers who set their retirement age below the default age of 65 to justify or change it;
  • introduce a new duty on employers to consider an employee’s request to continue working beyond retirement;
  • require employers to inform employees in writing, at least 6 months but not more than 12 months in advance, of their intended retirement date and their right to request continued working;
  • remove the upper limit for unfair dismissal and redundancy rights;
  • permit service-related benefits up to five years’ service;
  • leave occupational pensions largely unchanged – most age-related rules found in occupational pension schemes are effectively exempted; and
  • remove the age limits for Statutory Sick Pay, Statutory Maternity Pay, Statutory Adoption Pay and Statutory Paternity Pay.

Retirement Notification

Businesses should be preparing for the new rules on retirement. Identify retirements that are coming up in the next 12 months or so and prepare standard letters to be sent to employees notifying them of their retirement date and of their right to request to continue working.

The important things to remember are:

  • That notification of retirement must be sent out within the time limits laid down;
  • employees must be notified of their right to request continued employment beyond retirement; and
  • businesses must consider requests for continued working beyond retirement in the way laid down in the Regulations.

When you have to send the notification of retirement depends on whether the retirement is before or after 1 April 2007. In almost all cases where the proposed retirement date is before 1 April 2007, it is best to send out the notification of retirement as soon as possible. For retirements on or after 1 April 2007, the notification of retirement should be sent between 6 and 12 months before the retirement date.


If you receive a request from an employee to continue working beyond retirement you should follow the steps set out in the table below:


Procedure for dealing with requests for continued employment beyond retirement






Employer’s action

Step 1 Employee submits request to continue employment Either agree to request or arrange a meeting “within a reasonable time” – sending the employee a letter inviting them to a meeting. If it is not reasonably practicable to hold the meeting within a reasonable time, you can decide without holding a meeting whether or not to grant the request, so long as you have considered any points the employee wants to make.

Step 2 Meeting date Listen to what employee has to say and decide whether to comply with request.

Step 3

Within a reasonable time Send the employee notifying them of the decision as soon as reasonably practicable.

Step 4

Employee appeals Arrange and conduct appeal hearing.

As a business you should consider the factors you plan to consider when dealing with requests to continue working. It is a good idea to prepare a list of criteria to decide whether to agree to requests to continue working beyond retirement. For example the approach could be:

  1. To never grant such request unless there is a staff shortage, difficulties in recruitment or succession or a short term project that needs completing.
  2. To always grant the first request for one year but not subsequent ones unless the factors in (a) apply.
  3. To grant all requests up to a maximum age but not thereafter.
  4. It could be dangerous to grant or refuse requests on the basis of performance. If for any reason the retirement defence to an unfair dismissal claim, the reason for dismissal will probably be capability. The dismissal will then be unfair unless a proper capability procedure is in place.
  5. Requests could be subject to an occupational health check so long as that can be justified – which it probably would be if there is any physical element to the job.

So long as the new rules on retirement are complied with, there should be no risk of unfair dismissal claims arising from compulsory retirements of employees over the normal retirement age or (if there is no normal retirement age for that employment) over the age of 65. A normal retirement age below age 65 is only permissible if it can be justified as a “proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim”.

Browne Jacobson LLP provides legal services to the IAP and its members. Members are entitled to a free 30-minute telephone consultation with them on any topic related to their professional activities. See www.brownejacobson.co.uk for more details.


Further information on age discrimination can be found at www.agepositive.gov.uk.

[Interesting project or development? Let us know at eo@iap.org.uk!]

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