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.