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Media hype

In last month’s edition of Employment Matters, we discussed the announcement that from April 2012, an applicant must have at least 2 years continuous service before they are able to make a claim for unfair dismissal.

At the end of October, this story went one step further with the papers awash with the news of a leaked government report, written by Adrian Beecroft, a venture capitalist and Conservative Party donor which says unproductive workers should lose their right to claim unfair dismissal completely.

Such news prompted public uproar and debate, which got us thinking about how the media impacts our understanding of employment law developments.

The crux of Mr Beecroft’s report was that under current rules, workers were allowed to “coast along” with some proving impossible to sack. Whilst Downing Street commented that changes to unfair dismissal rules are “unlikely”, this news caused widespread debate. Many argued that such changes would develop job insecurity and encourage unscrupulous employers whilst others thought such a change would enable employers to get rid of lazy employees with greater ease and without any legal recourse.

But what much of the media failed to report on was that unfair dismissal claims are rarely simple and clear cut and in many cases, there’s often a link to discrimination – and any employee can make a claim against allegations of discrimination the minute they start with an employer (well, technically, the minute they apply for a job with a potential employer).

Similarly, little mention has been made to the fact that employers who implement transparent performance management schemes which set out clear, objective expectations and handle matters sensibly, can enable the dismissal of those who are underperforming or carrying out wrongdoing.

All of this has given us food for thought. When reading such media articles, it is clear that the whole story often isn’t reported, causing unfounded sensationalism and ambiguous future prospects. When reading such news, it is best to be mindful that the whole story often isn’t reported and if you are in doubt as to whether a recent employment law development will affect you, we advise that you speak to a member of our team in the first instance.