UK Employment Tribunals: Where Art Thou Difference?
Have the latest changes to employment tribunals made a difference?
The new changes to Employment Tribunals and the way in which we deal with issues in the workplace has been a major area of change in recent months for the UK.
But solicitors have warned that the tribunal numbers have barely changed, despite the Ministry of Justice stating that they have dropped by 15%.
What’s happening here?
Purpose of the Employment Tribunals
The UK Government has made it their remit to change the way in which the Employment Tribunals are run – the vast majority of employers, employees and solicitors will agree that they are longwinded, frustrating and at times extremely expensive and unfair.
The main area Vince Cable, the Business Secretary, wanted to improve on was the financial impact of the employment tribunals for small and micro businesses, where costs hit hard.
Larger companies are more likely to be able to cope with a trip to the employment tribunal, they may have in-house HR and legal departments and almost certainly a broader management team.
Where Are Thou Difference?
There were a number of changes implemented to attempt to cut down the number of claims going through tribunals.
From increasing the qualifying period for employees before they can make a claim from 1 to 2 years, and increasing the cost of making a claim – but have these changes made a difference?
Statistics Not Displaying the Real Picture?
A claims legal consultancy company, Bibby Consulting and Support has raised the question about whether some elements of the statistical reports were being overlooked.
While the Ministry of Justice is shouting about a 15% drop in claims, when you actually dig a little further into the stats they show that these small and micro businesses have seen a 2% decrease in claims but at the same time there were 6% fewer disposals – giving an overall net gain of 4%.
These are certainly not figures to shout about.
These numbers have led to a call for the breakdown of the statistics and trends surrounding these smaller businesses, where the impact of a claim would be felt strongly.
Encouragement for Employers Is Aimed at Younger Workers
According to the Prime Minister, small and micro businesses in this country are the life and blood of the economy, so more should be done to help these companies to stay afloat.
Among other things, the current government has blamed the lack of economic growth in the UK to be largely due to the complex employment legislation which discourages small businesses from recruiting, as they worry about what could potentially happen further down the line.
With unemployment, particularly high in youths (16-25 year olds) in areas such as Great Yarmouth, Wolverhampton, Hartlepool and Merthyr Tydfil, the government have decided to encourage employers to take on new staff members in the hope that this, in turn will help to dilute the unemployment issue in the UK.
Smaller Businesses Seeking to Employ-At-Will
With this in mind, the government is targeting these smaller businesses, and asked venture capitalist Adrian Beecroft to compile a report of recommendations.
One of the recommendations is to make it easier to dismiss employees – allowing employers to fire a worker even when there has been no misconduct.
This a thought that solicitors, who regularly defend employees with an unfair dismissal claim are finding a little baffling – especially considering the worry about unfair dismissal claims doesn’t even feature in the top 10 for companies thinking about recruiting.
Are Best Practices Being Shunned in Suggested Employment Changes?
Beecroft’s report has come up against a huge amount of criticism from the unions and HR professionals, the CIPD even went so far to suggest that the suggested proposals were ‘objectionable and unnecessary’.
Mike Emmott, an employee relations advisor at the CIPD said that if these changes came into practice, it would essentially give micro and small businesses a licence for bad practice which in turn, would destroy the reputation of this sector.
Many of those opposing the prospective changes would be more likely to give them the time of day if there was actual economic evidence that the goal of the government – increasing economic growth would be fulfilled if these changes were to come into place.
We’ll have to wait and see what changes to employment law the Government will eventually decide on, it is certainly not a subject which is going to simply disappear overnight.
Any changes need to be made from strong foundations to ensure that the issue is solved once and for all and not simply made more complex and bureaucratic.
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About Our Guest Blogger
image of Vince Cable courtesy of Guardian UK
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