Last month on my blog, I suggested that it might be in the best interests of UK plc to scrap some employment protection rights. That hit a raw nerve with some readers, but many employers and HR managers applauded the suggestion.
Most people will agree that we need a set of basic laws/rights that guarantee, for example, minimum wage and a workplace that is free from discrimination. But do we really need to go any further than protecting those basic fundamental rights?
To cut to the chase, in the absence of a breach of such fundamental rights, why should an employee whom an employer deems to be wrong for the job have any right of redress if they are sacked? In other words, are the feelings and the personal hardship suffered by an individual employee more important than the success of the employer’s business and, arguably, the success of UK plc?
As employment law stands, with a healthy helping of good and pragmatic employment law advice (and by ticking the right procedural boxes), an employer can get rid of and get away with getting rid of those employees that it wants to sack. So why bother with the fluffy procedures at all if a well-advised employer can achieve its real objectives in any event?
For example, if employees are performing badly are ‘ill’ most Fridays and Mondays or are no longer needed because of a downturn in business, why should the employer have to jump through procedural hoops and tick the right boxes before it can do what it had wanted to do in the first instance?
So, should we abolish unfair dismissal law that makes a dismissal unfair if the ill-advised employer forgets to use a prescribed fair reason or fails to follow the right procedure before the employee is sacked?
Let’s abolish tiresome statutory disciplinary and dismissal procedures too. Most readers will know that a dismissal is automatically unfair if these statutory procedures are not followed.
Whatever the government’s good intention, in the real world, this law (just like many fluffy unfair dismissal procedures) has three main consequences:
Business owners and HR professionals have the headache of running through additional procedure before they can do what they need to do for the better good of the business
Lawyers make more money telling business owners and HR professionals how to carry out the process properly, and
Only those employers that do not take good advice fall foul of the new law, and so line the pockets of ‘no win, no fee’ advisers.
It is, I suggest, only in a small minority of cases that an employer keeps a good or average employee that it might otherwise have sacked if its hands had not been tied with the necessity to follow the right procedure.
In summary, provided that employees retain protection in respect of some fundamental rights, I suggest – on behalf of UK employers – that as a first step in the right direction, it is time to abolish some unfair dismissal law and statutory disciplinary and dismissal procedures for the good of UK plc, and all of the good people that work for it.
What should stay and what should go?
We need a set of basic laws/rights that guarantee, for example, minimum wage and that a workplace is free from discrimination. But do we really need to go any further?
Should the government abolish unfair dismissal law that makes a dismissal unfair if the ill-advised employer forgets to use a prescribed fair reason or fails to follow the right procedure before the employee is sacked?
Is it time to abolish tiresome statutory disciplinary and dismissal procedures?
In a recent poll on Personneltoday.com, we asked: Do you think the unfair dismissal law should be scrapped? Of the 450 respondents, 48% said yes, and 52% said no.
By Mark Ellis, solicitor and CEO, Ellis Whittam
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