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Monday, 21 May 2012

Abolishing Unfair Dismissal - worse than bonkers

This is supposed to be a blog about legal matters but it is becoming increasingly political. I suppose that is unavoidable. Politicians make laws. Sometimes they make bad laws and when they do they should be scrutinised and criticised. 

Over recent months we have seen the decimation of legal aid and relentless attacks on victims of accidents or medical negligence.

But all of this could be overshadowed by plans to ‘reform’ employment law, or rather abolish employment protection all together. Now, historically Conservative governments have always restricted employment rights. But none have come close to some of the stuff being proposed by the coalition.

Adrian Beecroft is a known supporter of the Conservative Party and a significant contributor to its funds. He has prepared a report with a number of recommendations including a chilling proposal for no fault dismissal. That means exactly what it says – that employers will have the right to sack workers for no reason and with no sanction. They will just have to decide that the person is under-performing.

Now to be fair the business secretary Vince Cable has called the proposals bonkers and it was being reported earlier today that the plans might be quietly shelved –

He was expected to answer questions in Parliament on the report today but was replaced by junior minister Mark Prisk, a Conservative MP.  Mr Prisk said that most of the plans were in place and the rest were the subject of consultation until June. Is it just me or does that sound a bit scary  –

Recent experience has shown that once this government gets an idea into its head, it carries on regardless of criticism. This is worse than bonkers. This proposal will take us back to the days when wealthy bosses sacked their workers on a whim regardless of merit or hardship.

The reason given is that it will encourage businesses to employ more staff if they can sack them at will. But what about the problem of motivating a workforce who know that they can be  chopped whenever and for whatever reason.

If these plans ever see the light of day there will be a deluge of litigation. If the politicians successfully block any right of unfair dismissal they will not be able to ban discrimination cases. In fact this will be the route most will have to take. If someone is simply sacked, there is going to some arguable discrimination in there! The awards of damages in discrimination cases far outweigh those for dismissal.

Let’s hope that, for once, the government does simply get away with railroading this into law.

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