Claims for Unfair Dismissal – extending the qualifying period

The Conservative Party Conference is offering plenty of stimulation for bloggers and other writers with an interest in equality. This morning I read that George Osborne is proposing a change to employment law in respect of the amount of time someone must be employed before they can make a claim for unfair dismissal.

It is a perennial debate; where should the balance be drawn between the needs of employers and rights of individual employees. It is certainly a challenge to try to appease both sides in this debate. However, the law makers know that changing definitions will always be seen as a favour to one side or the other. In this case, by doubling the qualifying time before a claim can be made, the government is weighing heavily in favour of the employer.

What would this change mean – in 2010 there were 236,000 claims by workers for unfair dismissal, which cost employers an average of £9,000 per successful claim. Not a figure the UK employers should be proud of. It is expected that by changing the qualifying period, the number of claims will be reduced, thus saving business considerable sums.

It is widely acknowledged that whist people are in the early stages of an employment they are most vulnerable to being treated poorly by abrasive managers and business owners, bullied and harassed. So perhaps the change proposed by the Chancellor will become, as the Trades Union Congress predict, a “charter for bad bosses”. Surely something we neither want nor need.

Should employers be concerned about claims for unfair dismissal? Yes , perhaps they should – but what they should really turn their attention to is why such claims are being made. A company with an exemplary employment track record is likely to have positive staff morale, good relationships between managers and their teams, be productive and hopefully profitable. Certainly, their legal fees will be low; they will not have Employment Tribunal compensation payments to make or Compromise Agreements to draw up and fund.

On the other hand, an employer with a less positive record; with grievances against managers, claims for unfair dismissal or discrimination will not have these positive attributes. Which would be your employer of choice?

So perhaps Mr Osborne should be looking, not to extend the qualifying period, but removing it all together. What have employers got to fear? Why should we let bad managers get away with poor practice for two years, instead of one. Surely we would want their practice to cease. Removing the qualifying would mean bad managers would need to review what they do and how they do it. Company owners and directors should take a long look at the managers they employ and determine which ones represent the company ethos well – does the business have a bullying culture and if it does, is that what is wanted? I think not!

So instead of seeing this issue as another “us and them” situation, why don’t both sides look at it from the perspective of an affirmation of positive employment practice? Opportunities for this kind of review don’t come around too often, so let’s seize it whilst we have the chance – we can create a win/win scenario for employer and employee alike.


Article about George Osborne’s proposal.

About equalityedge

I run Equality Edge and its unique and creative "Working with Difference" project. It supports employers and managers in gaining a competitive and cost saving advantage from meeting equality and diversity best practice obligations. Coaching and workshops are used to deliver organisational, team and leadership development, assisting in improving communication and the understanding of the impact difference has on workplace behaviour.
This entry was posted in beyond diversity, discrimination, Equality & Diversity, Equality Act, inequality, management, poverty, workplace bullying. Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Claims for Unfair Dismissal – extending the qualifying period

  1. Alan Og says:

    I think the debate as laid out here is a little one sided, to provide some balance, I think we should consider :-

    1. We live in a dishonest world fuelled by greed. There are an increasing number of individuals who “play the system” and take advantage of employers who “have their hands tied behind their backs”. Whilst bullying and harrassment are totally inappropriate in a civilised world, then so are the practices of an increasing number of individuals who take advantage of employment laws in place to effectively to earn money under false pretences (the parasites as I refer to them).

    2. With the economy the way it is, employers are reluctant enough to hire permanent staff. Whether soundly based or not, the government has a committment to try and get people into permanent work, and this is one of their measures aimed at stimulate full time employment. So if you believe the government (risky passtime indeed !), and their approach proves successful, then one could argue that some people will beneifit as a result of the proposal. Will it make a quantifiable difference, personally I don’t think so

    3. I don’t know what the official numbers are for proven cases of B&H and it is clear that these represent a fraction of the scale of the real problem, that is obvious. There is a danger however that we overlook the good and responsible leaders out there in industry of which there are many. A dilemma exists therefore. On one side, employment law needs to sufficiently protect people from poor and inappropriate management practice as referred to in this blog, whilst on the other it needs to be sufficiently empowering to allow good solid leaders to do the right and responsible thing which may not always be in the interest of the employee.

    4. It is common knowledge that ETs tend to favour the employee which is a plausible explanation for why the numbers as stated may be considerd to be high. I have heard of (not been involved in I might add !) many cases when it is quite obvious that the individual has been “swinging the lead” or worse, and have won on a technicality at the ET. Often the employer has lost because of a failure of due process, or in fact, the parasite has won, not due to the strength of his/her case but because the employer has failed somewhere to follow due process. It just doesn’t feel right !

    Do I agree with the government on this one, on balance I actually think I do agree with the principle, but I am tottering just over the fence. Do I think it will make a material difference, in the short term with the economy the way it is, I don’t think it will be noticed, so no I don’t

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