Vince Cable Leads the Coalition Governments Attack on Employee Rights
Vince Cable the Business Secretary today announced that the Coalition were undertaking a review of UK employment laws which could result in a significant erosion of employees’ legal rights.
One to Two Years
The Government are considering increasing the qualifying period to bring an unfair dismissal claim from 1 to 2 years, meaning that an employee will have to work for an employer for two years before gaining the right to bring an unfair dismissal claim.
Speaking on the BBC, the Business Secretary justified the proposed change in the law by asserting that employers are declining to recruit new staff for fear of being taken to employment tribunals.
South-West based employment solicitor, Tom Street of Tom Street & Co believes that it is difficult to see how this argument can hold water.
Under current legislation, employers have a year to assess whether an employee is suitable. This means that, for 12 months, an employer can dismiss an employee for practically any reason without any fear that they will be taken to tribunal. Why adding another year would significantly increase the employer’s willingness to recruit is unclear.
Furthermore, employment laws are not difficult to comply with. As long as the employer treats the employee with a sense of fairness, and follows simple and fair procedures, they are unlikely to expose themselves to tribunal claims. As Brendan Barber, the TUC General Secretary put it “[Employers] have lost sight of the fact that if firms treated their staff fairly, few would ever find themselves taken to court.”
Employment solicitors are frequently approached by employees who have less than 12 months service, who have been summarily dismissed for no apparent reason and without any due process. Such treatment has a significant financial impact on the employee as well as an emotional one.
By increasing the qualifying period to two years (as it last was back in 1999) the government is giving the green light to ruthless employers to fire at will for up to two years.
The coalition also intends to make changes to the tribunal system, whereby the employee has to pay a £500 deposit in order to pursue a claim in the tribunal which is only refunded if the employee is successful.
It is hoped that that this upfront deposit will deter many employees from instigating vexatious proceedings, thus saving employers money in having to defend claims.
Some employment solicitors (www.tomstreet.co.uk) offer employers advice and representation at employment tribunals on a no-win-no-fee basis, and as such, it is not the case that it is more expensive for employers to defend such claims than to settle them.
Nonetheless, the compulsory deposit will inevitably put off many employees from bringing proceedings as most employees who have recently been dismissed are not in a financial position to pay a £500 deposit.
If implemented, against fierce opposition from Unions, these changes will represent a boon to employers, but leave the working man and woman much more vulnerable to unfair treatment in the workplace.
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