Tag Archives: employment law

Why Sacking The Slackers Is Not The Right Approach

The Telegraph (and various other news sources) today present the coalition’s plans for the “most pro-business, pro-growth, pro-jobs agenda ever unleashed by a government”.

As part if the consultation, the plans suggested are:

  • increasing the requirement for continuous length of service from one year to two
  • charging a fee to bring an employment tribunal claim
  • giving small business certain excemptions to comply with employment law

The Mail and The Telegraph herald this as giving back power to employers in these difficult times.

Once again, I’m no economy expert, but what I do know is for the UK to get out if the mess it’s in, people need jobs, so they have money, so that they can spend, so that more people have jobs, so that more people can spend… Etc etc.

The danger with the suggested plans are very clear. It won’t make employers think “finally, now I can actually employ people” it will do the exact opposite “great I can get rid of people, save some cash,make more profit for me, and not worry about the consequences”.

It is demonstrably incorrect that individual employment tribunal claims have risen in the last 10 years. They have pretty much stayed the same.

As I blogged previously, increasing the unfair dismissal requirement to 2 years service won’t reduce claims much at all, and in any case, us creative lawyers will just probably pin our legal hat onto another aspect, probably equality, victimisation, bullying etc.

Adding a fee is pointless additional administration on the already overwhelmed employment tribunals. Given the number of cases that settle, all this plan will do is increase the payouts businesses have to make.

Finally, and perhaps the biggest surprise, is the suggestion of exemptions to certain employment laws. More details are needed at this stage, but one bandied around is reducing the length if sick pay payable by small employers.

I sincerely hope that the government do not curtail employment laws any further. While businessmen like Duncan Banatyne and the like might see employment laws as a hindrance to profitable business, actually what they mean is that they can’t manage staff but they are a neccessary evil to running a business.

The big problem with giving certain businesses exemptions is that it creates a multi tier of employment rights. Neither employees or employers will know exactly what they can or cannot do, which guess what, will mean more cases going to the tribunal!

Instead of attacking employment laws, the government should instead look at increasing small businesses awareness and understanding of employment law through training. Give small business owners free training courses on HR and people management and claims will fall.

Allowing businesses to “sack the slackers”, actually means giving them rights to run their business poorly, mismanage staff, and takes us back 30 years.

BBC spends £600,000 on Employment Tribunal Claims

According to The Times today:

“The BBC paid out almost £600,000 dealing with employment tribunal claims last year.
A total of £379,125 went in payments to aggrieved staff to settle cases and a further £203,627 was spent in external lawyers’ fees in 2009-10, figures released by the BBC in response to a Freedom of Information request show.”

This was for 33 employees.

So on average £11,500 compensation and £6,100 for legal fees.

Helen Giles in the opinion section suggests that Employment Tribunals are nothing but legal extortion which effectively give employees an easy way to claim some cash. She bemoans certain unnamed firms which “saber rattle” with the knowledge that their client’s claims are spurious.

Firstly, if she knows of such firms they should be reported to the SRA.

In my experience, acting mostly for employers, I have to say that most claims are not spurious but come about through poor management or bad or no Legal advice before dismissal, redundancy etc.

More should be spent on training line managers and this will reduce fees to lawyers (which seem quite reasonable actually!).

Of course, there will be some claims which will be spurious, particularly I find the “bullying” type claims, but then these can be easily defended and if they are spurious then defended successfully with costs arguments at the end.

The BBC could, as could most companies, benefit hugely from compulsory employment mediation. Not just a call from acas, but immediately after the ET3 is filed, both parties should attend a Tribunal backed mediation scheme. This would also help root out spurious claims at the earliest stage.

I’m training to be an accredited mediator soon and I really think mediation is the way forward.

Please leave your comments below.


Unfair Dismissal

The Government’s new enterprise tsar has suggested that increasing the length of service requirement to 2 years continous service from the one currently needed to bring an unfair dismissal claim would increase employment and help businesses out.

It wouldn’t do either.

Sure, all business would prefer to be able to sack an employee “just because”, but the idea that this is a benefit is misguided.

In my opinion, the 1 years service test should be removed. I see absolutely no reason why employees should be able to be dismissed without a fair reason.

It’s unfair to employees when their company turns round and says, Lord Sugar style, You’re Fired, without it being fair.

To increase the service requirement to 2 years will mean that an employer could sack an employee without cause. This would be devastating for the economy and unemployment already on the brink of collapse.

It would also increase discrimination claims now under the Equality Act, and that just means more litigation, more cost and more problems.

First day in the job for Lord Young, let’s see how he does through his probation period.

Steven Mather

Footnote: this post is typed on my phone, so apologies for spelling mistakes. Steven Mather is a Disputes Solicitor currently available for work.