Some employers in sectors badly effected by the pandemic have resorted to aggressive tactics with the aim of cutting senior executives without proper compensation, according to a law firm specialising in private wealth.
The firm, Boodle Hatfield, told Personnel Today there has been a rise in cases where employers have alleged gross misconduct against senior executives so they do not have to pay a redundancy package, which enables them to make substantial savings.
Simon Gorham, employment partner, at the firm, said the issues caused by working from home were being used as grounds for dismissal in some cases.
For example, executives without usual office support who did not comply fully with standard compliance procedures because of pressing deadlines were open to accusations of misconduct.
Gorham said that some executives who had childcare obligations were being unfairly penalised because their work had been perceived as suffering as a result of these commitments.
Actions that in normal circumstances would be considered as minor infractions were in some cases being severely penalised.
Gorham said: “A small number of corporates are using mistakes made by executives who are working from home, without their usual support, as an excuse to force them out as a cost cutting measure.”
“Even if they do not ultimately dismiss the executive, employers can still use the alleged misconduct to negotiate down the executive’s exit package.”
“The switch to remote working has posed numerous issues. In some cases, through honest error or desire to avoid internal backlogs caused by people working from home senior employees who may have taken their eye off the ball are being punished too harshly.”
Boodle Hatfield said the growing backlog of employment tribunal cases was also encouraging employers to take aggressive action. At some tribunals there are delays of about a year before cases reach trial. The firm said that this allowed employers to bet that dismissed employees would most likely find new jobs before their hearings, which would reduce the value of their claims.
Gorham added: “The bottleneck in employment tribunal cases has served to some employers’ advantage. They can make cuts now knowing that they won’t have to deal with the fall out for some time.”