The Business Secretary Vince Cable has never been one for keeping his thoughts to himself and a day or two ago he came out with criticism against the proposals to allow employers to dismiss workers on a ‘no fault’ basis. Essentially, workers could be dismissed at the will of their bosses without necessarily having done anything wrong.
Despite being in charge of the consultation which was to consider the proposal, Cable has dismissed the plans as ‘nonsense’, but is he right and what would the legalisation of a ‘no fault’ dismissal mean for the legal profession, for workers and for business across the country?
The first thing to say is that employment law tribunals can be complex and intricate but there are always definite breaches of particular workers rights. Plenty of employment law solicitors spend time assessing whether or not a dismissal is unfair or fair, but under a ‘no fault’ regime, there wouldn’t be any concept of fair – just of what’s efficient and what is well argued.
This might give employment law specialists an incentive to put together strong convincing cases and could make difficult and lengthy tribunals for poor performance a good deal easier. But the fact remains that workers would have the right to argue their case and with the right support may well win. The prevalence of no win no fee solicitors specialising in employment law means that employees aren’t on their own when it comes to disputes. Better communication and better use of employment law specialists might mean that, actually, the best compromises are sought out.
Probably the biggest risk though is not when dismissals happen, but the threat of dismissal. Employees might be put off making risky decisions or even taking a job in the first place if they risk being easily sacked and it would be pretty tough to agree to much without first seeking employment law advice. A no fault dismissal system may make it easier for firms to hire and fire workers, but it will probably mean workers are reluctant to be quite as useful – we all know that risks sometimes mean big rewards.
Though the legal profession might do quite well from a weakening of job security for workers, both businesses and workers will almost certainly suffer. Job security is a proven motivator and suddenly pulling it from under employees feet would cause serious morale problems. Of course, in this age of austerity and entrepreneurial spirit, businesses can’t function on bad terms with their staff and uncomfortable and fragile relations are undoubtedly bad news for everyone.
Are the plans nonsense? Well, it’s true that some rebalancing might be necessary and the process of dismissing poor performing workers might be easier, but really there is no sense in making a move that will damage productivity, because anything which does will inevitably damage business too.
Clough & Willis solicitors have specialist employment law solicitors delivering practical advice on employment law, redundancy law, unfair and constructive dismissal, compromise agreements, employment law tribunals, discrimination in the workplace and many other aspects of UK employment law legislation. Based in Manchester, Radcliffe and Bury, Clough & Willis solicitors attract clients from across the North West of the UK.