So we’ve had the attacks on the unemployed, the sick and the disabled. Those who work in the public sector are about to have their pensions raided by the changes in how inflation is calculated. Workers have already been told that they will not only have to pay up front for an unfair dismissal claim, but they will have to have been employed for two years before they can do so. Now, if that wasn’t bad enough, a report commissioned by our dear PM, David Cameron, suggests further erosion of worker’s rights.
The draft Beecroft report, apparently leaked to the Telegraph, suggests certain changes to employment law that would allow businesses to improve efficiency and encourage growth. It talks about the “terrible impact” of the unfair dismissal process and how “lengthy and complex” it is. I would agree about the terrible impact of it; the impact on the employee who has to take their employer to a tribunal in the first place. Let’s face it, the employee has at this point already lost his or her job, so the employer already has the upper hand. There’s the impact on the self-esteem of the worker involved, and the possibility of a spell of unemployment and the pitfalls that entails.
It then goes on about those employees,
secure in the knowledge that their employer will be reluctant to dismiss them, work at a level well below their true capacity: they coast along.
Sure, we’ve all probably worked with someone who didn’t appear to pull their weight or work hard as everyone else, but in most places that I’ve worked there has been a standard disciplinary procedure. Having worked in a few call centres over the years, targets were very much the order of the day and those who fell below standard would soon be shown the door unless significant improvements were made. In one case a girl on my team was “at risk”, but a little bit of extra coaching helped her improve her confidence and completely turned the situation around. At the very least an effort should be made to find out why the employee falls short of the mark. Perhaps there are problems at home. Could it be that a colleague or line manager is bullying them? Maybe it’s because they are really good at their job, but that life’s little brown-nosers get the recognition before anyone else.
Beecroft goes on to say:
To resolve the problem of unfair dismissal process one could simply say that if discrimination was not involved an employer could dismiss an employee at any time without giving a reason and paying the employee only for his or her contracted notice period. Unfair dismissal is a UK concept and not an EU one, so there are no legal barriers to doing this.
No legal ones maybe, but what about moral barriers? He adds:
However, this would probably neither be fair to employees nor politically acceptable.
No, it probably wouldn’t be fair to employees, and I think the unions would definitely have something to say about it. So, probably not politically acceptable either. Nice try, though. He then goes on to suggest that instead of just sacking someone for no reason and with nothing but a week’s notice, the employee would be given as much notice and pay as if they were being made redundant. So someone who had been with their employer for quite a while would probably come out of it with a few grand, but it’s not much better. He calls this scheme Compensated No Fault Dismissal and says that it would
give certainty to the employer that an employee can be dismissed within a relatively short period at a known cost and with no fear of a referral to a tribunal provided no discrimination is involved.
No Fault? If there is no fault there is no need to dismiss anyone, is there?
Beecroft then goes on to talk about Capability Based Dismissal, which employers could follow instead, but this is an option they can already follow. To quote from the page that I’ve just linked to:
If an employee is not doing their job in the way the employer requires the employer should investigate whether that is due to any lack of application on the part of the employee (in which case disciplinary proceedings could be contemplated) or whether it is due to the employee’s lack of ability in one or more of the tasks required.
1. How their work does not measure up,
2. The standards expected of the employee
3. A timescale to improve at the end of which the employer will assess the employee
4. Any support, training or advice available to the employee
So they still have to provide a reason for sacking someone, they have to give an employee time to measure up, and they have to provide support or advice. In other words they have to show to a certain extent that they care. Of course, it’s bad enough that they have to pay this useless underperforming layabout without having to spend additional money.
The final paragraph in this (incomplete) document says:
The downside of this proposal is that some people would be dismissed simply because their employer did not like them. While this is sad I believe it is a price worth paying for all the benefits that would result from the change.
That says it all. I’ve been in charge of people whom I didn’t like. Not everyone will get on, but as long as someone gets on with the job and does it to the required standard, personal feelings shouldn’t ever come into it. You like your friends, you like your family (generally), and while it does help if you like your workmates, does it really matter as long as the work gets done?
The sad fact is that none of these changes really need to be implemented. If an employer wants to get rid of you, they will do so, and within the existing legislation. Particularly in the service industries, being rude to a customer is written into the contract as Gross Misconduct, and that means summary dismissal; it’s often your word against the customer, and we all know the customer is always right, don’t we? If your jobs is target-based and you fail to achieve those targets, disciplinary action can and will be taken and dismissal can result fairly swiftly. An employer simply has to make sure that his/her employees are in no doubt what the boundaries are. They can get you on the sick route; nitpicking at the little things, increasing your workload or reducing the available time to complete it (or both). Eventually the employee is signed off with stress and as the absence continues, the disciplinary wheels go into motion.
It is for these reasons that Unfair Dismissal legislation exists. Perhaps it might not prevent someone being dismissed in the first place, but it at least allows people to stand up to unscrupulous employers and send a message telling them that their behaviour is inexcusable.
If an employer treats their staff as human beings rather than human resources, they should have nothing to fear in the first place.