The Law of unintended consequences

The government announced a wide ranging review of employment
law; increasing the qualifying period for unfair dismissal claims, involving
ACAS in all claims before they can be lodged at a tribunal and introducing
protected conversations to allow employers to have “open” discussions with
employees without fearing the legal consequences.

Whilst these may be good ideas (although waiting two years
to get rid of a poor employee seems to be counterproductive), I am concerned that
again the solution to genuine problems is to pass more laws rather than repeal
some of the legislation we already have in place. What also worries me is that
if we pass a law about having “open” conversations, all that will happen is the
courts will be bogged down with cases as everyone tries to sort out what the
legislation actually means, and it will be more difficult to have an “open”
conversation with the majority of staff than it is now because you will have to
comply with certain rules to be described as such.

As for pushing claims through ACAS and making claims harder
to submit, I have a sneaking suspicion that the net result that employees will
seek alternative methods of pursuing their gripes perhaps by joining
organisations set up with the express purpose of pursuing their collective
interests. Now what do they call those again? ………..Oh yes Trade Unions.

As for protected discussions, I foresee a whole new industry
for lawyers to pursue as they fight endless court cases to define what these
discussions actually are. (We are still sorting out the legislation on holidays
and that was introduced in 1998.) Indeed once you exclude potentially
discriminatory comments from these meetings, and the procedural maniacs sort
out a legal structure for conducting such meetings (a la Disputes resolution
Legislation that had to be repealed last year), it will actually be harder to
have an honest discussion with an employee than it is now.

No the last thing we need is more legislation. Let’s have a
radical idea and repeal unfair dismissal legislation in its entirety and leave
it to contract law with statutory safety nets in certain areas such as Equal
pay and discrimination. But then of course those pesky unions might reappear
again!

Leave a Comment