In recent weeks regulation and the amount of it has been a hot topic for debate. Now, a leaked government report appears to be analysing the affect of removing unfair dismissal in the hope that it will increase competitiveness and encourage economic growth.
A few weeks ago, the Prime Minister was involved in interactive discussions concerning what, if any, legislation could be abolished. It is hoped that reducing “red tape” will free up time for small and medium sized business who can often become overly burdened by their legislative duties. That free time could then be used to achieve growth and an overall improvement in Britain's economy. Whilst such suggestions seem fair enough on the face of it, what would a removal of unfair dismissal do to the employment sphere?
The report says that employers should be given the right to dismiss under-performing employees without explanation. Indeed, it can often be a time consuming process to ensure that all the proper procedures are followed when choosing to dismiss an employee in the hope of avoiding any claims for unfair dismissal. So it is clear that removing the need to give a reason for dismissal would save employers, especially those without the facilities of a dedicated team, the time and expense of having to do so.
Surprisingly, the UK actually has some of the least onerous employment laws. Yet other countries are still managing to achieve more favourably growth than us so is this really going to help? The proposal suggests that it is difficult under current laws and regulations to dismiss a 'lazy' employee. However, it is not the policies which are inhibiting an employer from dismissing such employees. Rather it is a cultural problem, whereby employers seem to be avoiding direct conflict and not actually demanding more from their staff. As it stands, the law in the UK simply means that if you do choose to dismiss you must explain why and give that employee a chance to put across their side. In doing this the dismissal is unlikely to be deemed unfair and therefore not subject to litigation.
If the report is suggesting that abolition of the legislation would lead to employers getting away with not having to explain their reasons then perhaps it is arguable that time and expense could be saved. It is unlikely that such could ever happen, however as there would almost certainly be the need for some sort of consultive process. Furthermore, the employee loses protection and bad employers get away with their ill practices. One of the points to our employment legislation as it stands is to protect the employee by ensuring the employer follows the correct procedures. Those who do not follow are often found out and so in its mechanisms, the current law actually filters out the worst employers.
Finally, the removal of unfair dismissal is likely to cause a rise in any other avenue for recourse, namely claims for discrimination. If a reason to cut out unfair dismissal is to reduce the amount of claims going through the courts, then this likely side affect alone, is enough to say no to it. If someone is putting forward a claim for unfair dismissal, they often, if they can also lodge a claim for discrimination. The removal of the unfair dismissal claim will likely cause an increase in discrimination claims. If this is the case, the very thing that the removal of legislation was supposed to improve and assist will have instead been massively hindered. And HR practitioners and employers alike are aware of the complexity of discrimination claims.
At present the country is in a tumultuous position where it seems a lot of ways out of one thing or the other are being considered, what comes to pass only time will tell, but it seems unlikely that we will be saying good bye to unfair dismissal any time soon.