Coffin Mew’s Employment News Issue 65
“Ageing appears to be the only available way to live a long time.”
“To become 100 years old, you have to start young.”
Right, let’s get the shameful plug out of the way first. The Employment Team’s Breakfast Briefing is taking place at the Ageas Bowl Cricket Ground on 23rd October. As I mentioned last week, it will start at around 8am and we’ll be finished by 9.30am. The Briefing will look at the things that all employers and businesses should know about TUPE as well as our regular update on some interesting cases and the recent changes in employment law – some of which I will deal with in the Legal Bit below.
I will be on holiday for the next couple of weeks with the current Mrs Tibble on our annual climbing holiday in the Lake District. Last night, as I was packing all of our climbing gear, I was slightly concerned to note that She Who Must Be Obeyed was putting a copy of Joe Simpson’s book Touching the Void into her suitcase, along with a penknife……. If you don’t understand my reference – read the book!!
In light of the above, this might be my last Legal Bit, so enjoy. And if you don’t hear from me again, please forward this ebrief to the police.
The Legal Bit
This week Business Secretary Vince Cable announced proposals to further reform of the law on unfair dismissal. The proposals come just months after it was decided that workers now have to have two years’ service to bring an unfair dismissal claim, instead of one as before. Vince Cable is considering the imposition of a cap on the amount of compensation that can be awarded in unfair dismissal claims at 12 months’ salary. Currently the maximum that can be awarded in a tribunal claim for unfair dismissal is £72,300; although this maximum amount is awarded in less than 2% of cases a year. The current average compensation award is around £9,000 and only in around 6% of cases is an award made of over £30,000.
The Government is of the opinion that the current system in relation to unfair dismissal claims is unfairly balanced in favour of the employee. It is concerned that the prosperity of some smaller companies is often hampered by the burden of employment tribunals. It hopes that by capping unfair dismissal compensation the balance will be restored. The government also believes that this proposal will encourage employers to hire new staff – presumably because they can dismiss their unwanted employees without fear that they will be forced to pay “unfair” amounts of compensation.
However, Vince Cable has been keen to stress that the cap will not apply to claims brought against employers in discrimination cases, where the award in compensation remains unlimited.
In the original Beecroft report commissioned by the Prime Minister, it was suggested that “no fault” dismissals be introduced which would allow poorly performing workers to be dismissed with little comeback. However, Vince Cable has rejected this controversial proposal, sharing the opinion of many that it would be a step too far and could compromise workers’ rights.
Instead Vince Cable will back a voluntary scheme whereby employers and workers can sign settlement agreements which will allow employees to leave their employment with a good reference providing that they agree to waive their right to pursue an unfair dismissal claim.
It is hoped that the use of settlement agreements will reduce the number of workplace disputes by encouraging employers and employees to discuss and resolve performance-related issues at an earlier stage.
However, it has been stressed that employers should not be turning to such agreements too readily to avoid creating the wrong impression that the employer can manage all employee exits through the means of the chequebook. Time will tell…..
When interviewed Vince Cable said, "We are trying to have it both ways because we do want the best of both worlds, we want to have confidence in business that they can hire people, but we want people to go to work knowing that at the end of the day, if they have a very bad relationship, they do have some basic labour rights and protection." The comfort for employees comes from the fact that if they have a very bad relationship they do have some basic rights and protections. Unsurprisingly, not everyone would agree that Cable has restored a state of equilibrium in the world of employment.
This week also saw the publication of the Employment Tribunal’s Statistics covering 1st April 2011 to 31st March 2012. Key findings show that there has been a decrease in claims received by employment tribunals from 218,000 (2009/10) to 186,300 (2011/12). This represents a 15% fall on the number received in the previous year and a 21% fall compared to the year before that. Although this appears to be a significant drop, this is mostly accounted for by a 19% decrease in multiple claims being brought.
Of these 186,300 claims, 46,300 were unfair dismissal claims, which is also a drop from the 47,900 unfair dismissal claims that were brought the previous year. Interestingly, the statistics show that the median amount of compensation paid out in unfair dismissal claims over this period was just £4,560 and only 2% of unfair dismissal awards exceeded £50,000. This somewhat undermines Vince Cable’s justifications for capping the payouts in unfair dismissal claims and shows that in reality very few awards come anywhere near the current limit of £72,300.
As an aside.....
This week, I’m feeling all warm and fluffy due to my impending holiday. So, instead of my usual sarcastic and cynical view of the world of employment, I have decided to tell you a heart warming story about a lady called Joyce Pugh that I read in The Mirror this week.
Joyce has just been bestowed the honour of being entered into the Guinness Book of Records as the oldest newspaper ‘girl’. Joyce is 81 years old and started her newspaper deliveries in 1971. It has been estimated that Joyce has delivered nearly 300,000 newspapers and cycled (yes, she’s still doing the rounds on her bike) more than 10,000 miles. On the flip side, the pay isn’t great, as Joyce earns the princely sum of 60 pence a day! That said (and on the assumption that Mrs (Joe Simpson) Tibble doesn’t cut the rope next week), I’d be happy to be fit enough to deliver the papers when I’m 81.
See, I said that it would be warm and fluffy. One, two, three – aaaah.
Until next time.