Responsible actions will keep staff happy

It is more important to ensure that responsible personnel practices are applied to all workers, regardless of their employment status, than to engage in elaborate schemes to designate workers as self-employed, or to break the continuity of workers changing from one type of contract to another (‘Clarify arrangements before you employ agency workers’, Personnel Today, 23 August).

The designation of a worker as self-employed may have certain advantages for an employer – most notably in avoiding liability for unfair dismissal or redundancy – but it will not prevent the application of other laws protecting ‘workers’. Nor will the break in continuity of a new employee’s service provide protection from claims for very long. Normal unfair dismissal claims only require one year’s continuous service, and automatic unfair dismissal claims do not even require that.

Such practices can also damage employer-employee relations, especially where it is seen as a means of entrenching fast and loose ‘hiring and firing’ practices. In my experience, the kinds of employers that are interested in designating their workers as agency workers rather than employees are the ones with the lowest levels of staff loyalty and goodwill. This can be far more damaging to a company’s productivity than the occasional tribunal claim.

In my view, the only effective long-term method of ensuring a happy and productive workforce and minimising the incidence of tribunal claims is for an employer to follow responsible personnel practices for all their workers.

Guy Calvert-Lee
Employment law representative
Free Representation Unit

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