In a move that has been described by business leaders as “a savage blow” for employers, the government has today announced that the scope for fairly dismissing employees has been dramatically reduced.
Employers should note that from today, employees will be able to bring unfair dismissal claims, irrespective of how short a time they have worked for their employer. Further, most of the fair reasons for dismissal provided for in employment legislation are being repealed. From today, it will no longer be possible to fairly dismiss an employee for misconduct, poor performance, capability or redundancy. The result is that dismissals will only be fair if an employer can show “some other substantial reason justifying the dismissal of the employee”. One senior government official was heard to mutter “good luck with finding one” on his way into work today.
In addition, even if a “substantial reason for dismissal” can be established, the dismissal will be automatically unfair in law if the employer does not follow a new 17 step procedure that replaces the previously straightforward 3 step procedure that has been in force since 2004. The new process, which will apply to all dismissals from today, will involve an employer, as a minimum, having to carry out 3 investigations, 4 disciplinary hearings and 6 appeal hearings. Employees will have the right to be accompanied at all meetings throughout this process by a work colleague, trade union representative, lawyer, political representative, family member, friend or a reality TV star of their choice. It is estimated that the average cost to an employer of having an employment lawyer draft a legally compliant procedure for the employer to follow will be in the region of £3,000.
Other new employment law rights being given to workers today include:-
- An increase in annual leave entitlement – from 5.6 weeks to 5.6 months
- Full pay during sickness absence for up to 6 months
- The right not to be discriminated against on the basis of hair colour
Commenting on the reforms, the Chair of the UK Business Owners’ Association (UKBOA), Mrs M Ployer said “coming hot on the heels of the increase in the National Minimum Wage, the changes to employment law announced today are a savage blow to employers across the country”.
However, an alternative view was expressed by the Secretary of the Workers Union, Mr Noah Rites, who said that the reforms were “long overdue”. Commenting further, he said “for too long employers have been able to dismiss employees for trivial reasons such as theft or a complete inability to do the job. The reforms announced today will come as a relief to millions of hard-working families all across the country.”
With questions already being asked over the legality of the reforms in light of the UK’s membership of the European Union and a possible challenge by the UKBOA being brought to the European Court, no doubt the issue of the employment law shake-up will be a hot topic in debates leading up to the “Brexit” referendum on 23^rd June.
Disclaimer! This article may not be entirely accurate – although readers should note that the National Minimum Wage really has increased from today to £7.20 per hour for employees aged 25 and over