Ah, once again, not what you’re thinking.
I’m talking about the great pendulum in the sky that is Employment Law.
You see, over the past decade or so it’s worked like this: the pendulum started off very much on the employer’s side. It was difficult for an employee to bring a tribunal and individuals were, sometimes, very badly treated without recourse to the law.
Then the pendulum started to swing in the other direction, mostly with the introduction of the Employment Act but also with a range of legislation designed to even up the stakes in employment law.
But, as so often happens, the old idiom came true: a camel is a horse designed by a committee! The legislation was too heavy handed, driven by Europe and Big Brother that we came to know as the Labour Government. The law was too much (especially when you added in Health and Safety Legislation to the mix) and the pendulum swung too far.
(Let’s face it, there were industrial tribunals brought for bullying when a business owner looked at their staff in the wrong way.)
But now, it would seem there is going to be a re-addressing of the balance again.
This is a good thing, but only if it is completed in the right way. On the face of it, government is getting off to a good start, with most employers saying that reform of the tribunal system is a good thing.
After all, in the year to March 2010 there were 236,100 claims, which was up 50% on the previous year. It’s just so expensive for everyone concerned.
The problem is that the government is already getting off track and lawyers are beginning to grumble that the planned reforms just won’t deliver against their stated aim; which was to increase confidence hiring staff and reduce the number of claims reaching tribunal.
Instead of really reforming the law, the government is trying to tinker with the system. For example, by increasing the qualifying period for unfair dismissal from one year to two. The idea being that there’ll be a reduction in cases because fewer employees will fall in the ‘eligible’ bracket.
But it won’t work.
In the USA where few states have unfair dismissal laws, employees just bring cases for discrimination instead. There will be no change in the number of cases, but there will be a shift to more complicated ones.
Personally, I think the government needs to have a look at each and every employment law and ask whether it is still valid. If it is, because employees need protection, it stays. If it isn’t because it’s unfair to employers, then it goes.
The net result being an employment law system that is actually balanced and not biased to one group or the other.
The problem is, of course, that there’s just so much of the damn stuff. Employment Law, that is… it’s going to take us a long time to get through it. And, let’s face it, no government in the world that I know of, gets things done in a hurry!