Lawyer’s call to scrap unfair dismissal law: reader responses

Proper management of staff is only way for UK to succeed

Although I was shocked to read the recent opinions of Mark Ellis concerning the abolition of unfair dismissal legislation, this paled into insignificance compared to my horror at seeing so many of my colleagues in agreement.

The current legislation leaves more than enough scope to remove staff who have misbehaved or underperformed – it simply encourages us to follow a correct procedure in managing and dismissing staff to prevent ad hoc sackings on a whim.

If we manage our HR function correctly and ensure that we recruit, train and manage our staff effectively (all of which adds considerably more value to the business than this hire-and-fire mentality), there should never be a need to breach the legislation.

Contrary to Ellis’s assertions, the real crippling factor for UK business is managers and so-called professionals who cannot see that the proper management of staff is the only way for UK plc to succeed. Anyone who fails to provide staff with strong guidance on expected performance and a reasonable chance to succeed, or who wishes to dismiss staff without a proper investigation and opportunity to present their case (which is all that the legislation demands), should be barred from the profession and responsible for managing nothing more important than tying their own shoelaces.

If HR is supporting this kind of nonsense and considering only what reduces our own administrative workload rather than fighting for the proper management of staff to enhance performance and profitability it is no wonder we are not given recognition as a strategic function.

Carole Spencer
HR and development manager, Devon

Make the system better rather than scrap it

Mark Ellis argues that the interests of ‘UK plc’ would be best served by relieving employers of the requirement to observe any form of disciplinary or dismissal procedure.

I would argue strongly that having statutory procedures in place – however imperfect they might be – to govern an employer’s discretion to discipline or dismiss members of the workforce are a feature of an advanced democratic society. Moreover, most studies of workplace motivation indicate strongly that employers can expect high levels of commitment and alignment only in situations where a level of trust exists, and this is hardly likely to be encouraged in an environment in which employees are likely to be subjected to arbitrary action.

From an economic standpoint, having in place reasonable levels of employment protection also makes clear sense. Despite recent advances, the UK’s key European competitors, France and Germany, still outstrip our performance in terms of employee productivity per head by as much as 20-30%, and it is surely no coincidence that these countries continue to maintain very high levels of employment protection, so as to provide employers with an incentive to invest in their workforces.

The US, which adopts a considerably more lax attitude towards employment security, maintains its high levels of productivity only by requiring its workforce to put in considerably longer hours than is the case in Europe. The choice is clear.

In my view, the call to scrap the existing employment protection framework simply because it represents an inconvenience to employers should be resisted. The interests both of social justice and economic productivity are best served by having it in place. A more productive focus of debate for both the legal and the HR professions would surely be on establishing one that works better for society as a whole.

Martin Moore
Former head of HR, The British Museum

Living on another planet, or just a PR genius?

I totally disagree with Mark Ellis’s suggestions to abolish ‘unfair dismissal laws’, and quite frankly I believe he is either living on Mars, or wishes to market his business by causing some such controversy.

These laws are put in place to protect employees from being treated unfairly through ‘poor management’, and it is invariably that very same poor management who has employed the said under-performing/misbehaving individuals in the first place.

In criminal law, everyone is entitled to a fair hearing, and for the most, even where guilty, are given a second chance to put their mistakes right, so why would he advocate unfairness in employment law? Heaven forbid, we could return to such draconian practice.

Beverley Morris
HR/services manager, Microlise Limited

Removing procedures is the enemy of productivity

I wholeheartedly disagree with Mark Ellis’s position. Taking away even some of the statutory procedures would ensure that only those who lick the proverbial bottom stay in place, rather than those who contribute to productivity in an organisation.

Sondra Lieber
Formerly of High Wycombe, UK, now working in the US


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