Tuesday, 4 October 2011

unfair unfair dismissal laws

You're a dilligent worker, you like your job, but recently your manager has been forcing you to do things that are outside of your job description and threatening you with the sack if you don't comply. You've gone along with it for a while, perhaps it's an opportunity for progression. A few months later you feel you've proved something, you ask for a pay rise...instead you get sat down and told that you're being fired.

Under proposed changes by George Osbourne and Vince Cable, if you were previously a victim of this kind of abuse after your first year of emploment but before your second year at the business, you will now be unable to make any kind of claim against their former employer. They'll be unemployed, without a decent reference, in a worsening job market.

Apparently this is necessary to help our growth because businesses feel not being able to sack people without justification is stiffling their ability to employ. A cynic would suggest in the short term the Lib Dems and Tories feel that empoyment figures will look much better with a more revolving under-class of workers that are hired and fired at intervals that would usually be known for careers taking the next step up the ladder.

The trouble is...there's no benefit here to the state or society, aside from perhaps some statistical manipulation. The number of people it will affect currently is small, though this could worsen if the law is relaxed...and the cost it would save the government is so negligible at less than £6m per year, the state equivalent of change down the back of the sofa...certainly a small amount to pay for equality between employers and employees.

Don't get me wrong, employers need to be protected at the start of contracts, it's all to easy to lie on your CV and to be smooth in your interview, yet not be able to produce the goods in the actual job. There has to be an ability for adequate probation in roles where there isn't an extensive training/induction process to allow the employer to let someone go who simply wasn't what was expected. But this should be apparent in 3-6 months, not 2 years.

At 2 years without being able to claim unfair dismissal the prospects for employees are worsening conditions at work, lower job security (which results in lower morale), and the potential for the wage market to be stifled while business profits and productivity continue to rise.

Worse still is the idea of there being a charge to make a claim to be introduced. Not only will we make it so that young people have all of their power stripped from them for two years while they fear any non-submissive action might have them fired with no recompense, but if they manage to last longer than 2 years then they need to find at least £250 for the privilege of seeing justice done.

Would we be happy if the families of murder victims could only bring their cases to court if they paid a fee up front? The introduction here of fee's is a blatant attempt to limit access to justice in this country, along side the already dubious plans to remove legal aid for many.

These proposed changes aren't about rebalancing anything, the law as it stands is balanced. You can employ who you like within a fair selection process, and you can get rid of them if their job is no longer required as a role or the person is disruptive, incompetent or under-qualified. Equally the employee knows that once they have a job if they do the job, the business doesn't downsize, and they act appropriately, they can't be fired. Where exactly does this balance need to be redressed?

Look out for a consultation to come around in the next couple of months, and for calls to write to the Business Secretary to let him know how callous and unethical it is to draw power away from employees at a time when they need it the most. This government said it was going to be the champion for civil liberties. With these various changes on access to the justice system, and talking about the removal of the Human Rights Act at the Conservative Conference, they're sounding less and less like that government every announcement.