Friday, 25 May 2012

A Beecroft in his bonnet

The Beecroft report has come up a bit recently. Whilst I don't agree with his main point, that employees may be fired within two years without an explanation, there are some good bits. And a hell of a lot of spin. 
On the main point, what is proposed is a kind of mutual termination. Employment is ended and the employer must pay a redundancy to the the employed. This occurs in failing businesses or downsizing businesses all the time, so its not a bad idea. But the report does make clear that it is the employee that has the final decision. If I want you out, I just have to pay you off. 
the usual exceptions of religious, racial or sexual, and now age would still apply.
The reasons stated for the need for this doubling of the trial period are sound. Employees can lose motivation. They can be promoted, but be no good in their new role. They can suddenly have issues with a new boss or working practice. The workplace is always changing. As are the workforce themselves.It makes sense to not fix an employee in place early on.

However, I don't think its needed. Even though I have had plenty of cases of year 2 dismissals.
Then again, I've had year 10 dismissals. And a memorable year 20.
But there are far more in the first six months. 
I had a flatmate who was dismissed at 11 months, 2 weeks from his managers job with a very well known retailer. he wasn't alone. 40 of the 'trainee' managers were dismissed. The whole thing wa a scam. Trainee wages for management posts. The trainees only ever got a perm job IF the company had achieved its expansion plans. Its just unfair. And wrong.
Already many employers employ their staff on short contract, or zero hour contracts. If someone is crap..they get no more work. they aren't sacked. They are just in call until they get the message.

Where the report discusses tribunals it addresses some of the same issues, but better.
There is a real problem between small and large employers. A large firm will have a bucket full of Hr and training people. It will appreciate clearly defined rules and structures, so it can follow the letter of the law and never go wrong. It cares less how long the process takes. A small business has no Hr. No trainer. No one to attend counseling and training and court sessions.

Beecroft proposes making small businesses{undefined} exempt {possibly} from some of the employment rules and certainly from the disciplinary procedure.
I fully agree. 
I recall a relative telling me they had fired an employee after they found he had been buying equipment {without authority} and taking kickbacks and using his credit card for holidays and giving company car to his girlfriend and numerous other breaches. I'm staggered when a £60-£70k salary person does this, but its surprisingly common.
I was horrified when the relative told the tale as it sounded like an unfair dismissal.
Sure enough the ex employee sued for £50k. 1 years worth of legals and stress, and £35k in solicitors fees. 
The employer won, but still had to pay their own costs. This is where the system is a nightmare. The process is far more important the guilt or innocence. Not saying a few words at the right time invalidates the case. Saying 'get out' for instance, in the heat of the moment, to an employer caught with a hand in the till, makes them not guilty. Worse, it makes the employer guilty and liable to pay for unfair dismissal. Lawyers know this. That's why so many cases are settled out court with the employer paying £x thousands just to end a problem. That is just as unfair as a two year probation.

There are other issues in the report. Pensions and immigration laws {the current simple rules on employing someone from outside the UK run to 1300 pages. The 13 acts on immigration run to 10,000 pages. If an employer employs an illegal, the employer is liable. there is no excuse. Not even for Baroness Scotland, the attorney general..}
Fees to bring an unfair dismissal case {to reduce them}. Redundancy and equal pay audits.

But the most important, I would suggest, is the discrepancies in tribunals verdicts and the ridiculous processes that they require to get those verdicts.
That should be addressed as a priority. 
Let the politically sensitive two year employment go, Adrian.
Its really not that big a deal.


electro-kevin said...

Whilst full of admiration for job creators there are such things as bad employers as well as bad employees.

The point of this report is to try to get the country back in growth again - real growth.

Therefore employers simply have to come first. We cannot compete globally with a burgioning solicitor class such as we have now.

Anonymous said...

Basically this is a nonsense. You can fire anybody whenever you like and you only have to pay statutory redundancy. That's why so many people claim racial or sexual discrmination because then they can take it to a court, rather than an industrial tribunal where they will be told "you got compensation, what's your problem?". For people on more than £15K per year the statutory redundancy pay is derisory. The only thing the employee can really do is go to a tribunal, say they were unfairly dismissed and then get their job back - at which point the employer will just find another excuse to get rid of them. Basically if you're told to go you might as well go.

On the courts thing our system is now totally ludicrous. The prosecution should get one day to present its case, the defence two days, the jury one day to deliberate and the judge one day to wrap everything up. If the prosecution takes more than one day to present its case then frankly it hasn't got a case.

Budgie said...

Duplicated from the previous post:
BQ said: "What is needed is the ability to dump poor performers."

Actually my observation is that "poor performers", not all but most, are simply in the wrong job. In other words a more fluid hire and fire set up is needed so people move around until they end up in the "right" job.

Also it seems from information I have that it is government workers who are impossible to fire. Perhaps the government should put its own house in order first?

Budgie said...

I tend to be with E-K on this.

You can usually tell who the bad employers are because you find yourself as the third or fourth employee in as many months. Or you find that the tag of "bad employee" circulates around the bunch of people working for the employer in a fairly repetitive way.

Bill Quango MP said...

There are lousy employers. But if i say I have personally had to fire maybe 100-150 people.

That is an awful lot. But that's 150+ out of 1,000 employed. With the usual retail high turnover. And that's over 15 years = 10 a year or 1 a month.
Sounds about right.

Some were thieves. Some criminals. A fair number idiots and a small 5 of the unlucky. those did something that they might have escaped with elsewhere.

The main lesson I learned was if someone has let you down, or deceived, no matter how trivial, they have to go.

One director once let off a manager, who they had a soft spot for for reasons unknown. She had stolen about £1,000. _discovered on random audit.

She gave a sob story about boyfriend lost his job and so on..and was given, against mine and the general manager's wishes, a final written warning.

So general manager sent audit team+security posse in after three weeks. - £8k missing, + a credit card cloning and money laundering operation going on.

She had got involved with a regular 'Gangsta' type, not that uncommon in Wembley.

Never give the benefit of the doubt.
never give a second chance, even if you could.
No one will thank you for it. And if that 'carry on nicking' scenario happens, you look a total fool.

New employees at one company I worked at were always surprised at the lengths the firm would go to to expose deceit.
If an employee said they were at a funeral, they better make sure they were.

A colleague once called from an unknown mobile a 'funeral' employee.

"hello mate, Its Argos..we've got your 50" telly but there's no answer at your door."

What telly?..etc..etc.."Well mate, we're you want it or not?Its all paid for.."

'I am outside..where are you?'

Pause ..followed by 'I'm at your workplace. You need to come and see me. immediately."

James Higham said...

Saying 'get out' for instance, in the heat of the moment, to an employer caught with a hand in the till, makes them not guilty.


Bill Quango MP said...

Thanks JH.
makes more sense that way.

Anonymous said...

In my experience, ex-sqauddies are the worst for swinging the lead and putting on the appearance of working. TBH, any CVs from them go straight in the bin now.

Budgie said...

BQ, we must live in parallel universes.

In all the sackings I have observed the employee has been no more to blame than the boss or employer, and usually far less. The most common reason is for the sacked employee to have fallen foul of company politics. The next is bullying either by a boss or a colleague. I know of no instance of sacking for dishonesty and only one instance of physical threat.

Example: an MD of a provincial branch was told to sack his right hand man. There was no justification so MD refused. MD went to London; gave presentation; was sacked himself. Two innocent employees sacked because of BoD politics.

Employee carries out project to immediate boss's requirements. But director does not like it, so sacks employee. Boss fails to support employee (presumably to protect his own job). Project completed exactly to the work of the employee (ie his work was good).

I have seen many more incompetent and/or dishonest bosses/directors than employees.

Sebastian Weetabix said...

Speaking as someone who employs people, I'd always thought if you're fair and play by the rules there's not a problem. I thought those whining were probably bad managers. Until I sacked someone for repeated breaches of safety rules (in a plant handling dangerous chemicals, this fool could have caused an explosion). The subsequent tribunal antics and the malicious untrue accusations thereat left me somewhat jaundiced, as well as £25k out of pocket. And we "won" the tribunal!

Bill Quango MP said...

Budgie. - Strange experiences should be so different. But a friend in medical profession has had his bonus withdrawn, fur spurious reasons. His expenses refused because they are on the wrong form,{will be paid next month,..he hopes.} Has had recent poor assessment review, despite several of the key indicators not being under his control.

He thinks it looks like they want him out.
I think it looks like a company on the skids. He really should leave. Those sort of signs have 'NO CASHFLOW' written all over them.

SW: EXACTLY! That's my point with this report. It cannot be right that an employee brings a case, on a no-win-no-fee, without fear of any costs, even if they lose.
An employer has to defend, often at great, sometimes bankrupting expense.

Electro-Kevin said...

Anon @ 9.16

Surprisingly, an awful lot of ex services are whingers and lead swingers. Not all, mind you - but a surprising amount of them. Most have pensions and a lot of them tell the supervisor where to get off when they feel like it.

One lumbered me with his night duty shed turn because it was snowing and he hadn't brought his 'cold weather gear' with him (boo hoo !) Nor had I - we don't get issued any.

I've written blog posts in support of our lads in Afghanistan many times but one has learned not to expect too much when hearing that an ex squadie is joining the crew.

Bill Quango MP said...

EK- as a young personnel rep I found it almost impossible to sell Army drivers.

The city link manager over in Kings Cross {that massive depot by the station, I'm sure you know it} Used to go off on a major one if he discovered an Army man

In his thick Scots accent he'd go - "Ah'em nay havin' yon convoy plodders in ma'h trucks. All the sense of a wrench and twice as dense.
N'ae like us, eh?"

Quite why he accepted me, with my plummy surrey accent to be a former long haul , oil stained trucker, I have no idea, but he did.

It must have been luck. The first time I went to that depot they were all gathered round a TVR with electric problems. I managed to fix it with a paperclip.
And i was then 'IN' and always invited to share from the tea urn.

But it was luck. it was the only thing I knew how to do on a TVR. I had had had one with a similar problem and a friend's dad had shown me how to bypass the electro thermostat with a safetypin.

Anonymous said...

I read a summary of one Beecroft point as "Employer no longer to be responsible for checking immigration status" - and assumed it was an "open the doors" signal, given the BA/Home Office incompetence - but it's actually better and more sensible than that headline.

The bit I hated was on TUPE.

Apparently many TUPE deals are outsourcing "where it is believed that the external org can provide the service more cheaply ..." - no poo, Sherlock !

But ..." the regulations make it harder to reduce costs by reducing the level of pay of the transferred workers ... they therefore serve to reduce the likelihood of a transfer that results in greater efficiency"

"Greater efficiency" = "reduced wages".

**** that for a game of soldiers - and **** that for a brand of conservatism.

Aren't wages already being reduced enough by inflation?


Bill Quango MP said...

TUPE is a block to efficiencies. But it's not a big block.
Statutory redundancy is paltry.
I agree with you. It acts as a block to just shedding workers and rehiring cheaper.

If you look at the other Beecroft measures about saving small companies red tape, they don't amount to much either.

Raising the Vat threshold would be a big boost. the threshold is £77,000. A turnover of that size is paying two people about £25k.
Hardly big business .

Sebastian Weetabix said...

I confess that we hired an ex-squaddie from a well known bunch of maroon beret wearers. He turned out to be the most expert skiver I ever came across. But we also hired an ex-Royal Signals guy for plant maintenance. Best technician I ever saw and worked like a slave. No regrets there.

Anonymous said...

The government would do better to force property companies to auction the lease of empty buildings. Right now the property companies are setting high rents and leaving the property empty because they can create false value on their books making them look healthier. Result is 30% empty commercial property. Forfce them to rent it out and prices would fall making running your own business a cheaper affair.