Alan Duncan sets out his case for undermining employment rights
Alan Duncan MP, Shadow Secretary of State for business, has described the EU Directive on the Equal Treatment of Agency Workers as “a pretty grotty little deal…It’s a totally unnecessary and unwelcome piece of legislation which I just think politicians should be ashamed of.” And it’s not only paying everyone the same rate for the job that is wrong. He also thinks that Employment Tribunals (ETs) comprise “a pretty grotty system that needs a real shake-up.”
These comments come at the same time as David Cameron tells us that unemployment is a tragedy. It is unclear to me how a party can be against both unemployment and employment protection that improves job security – but maybe this sums up the ideological inconsistency of the modern Conservatives.
On ETs, Alan Duncan proposes, as I have previously reported, that under a Conservative Government employees losing employment tribunal claims would be forced to pay employers’ costs. This is because:
They [ETs] don’t even apply the existing rules, so we’re getting lots of frivolous, malicious complaints where you then get three inspectors and 40-page judgments for a pay-out of £5,000, none of which is justified in any respect whatsoever
No mention here that the national Survey of Employment Tribunal Applications finds that most employees already incur significant financial costs as a result of taking a tribunal claim, and that less than 10 per cent of applications end with a successful claim (with 60 per cent of cases being settled before they come to court). In addition, in 21 per cent of the cases that were withdrawn prior to tribunal, applicants said they did not have the necessary finance to continue. I therefore await Alan Duncan’s quantitative analysis of how many malicious workers – with the time and money to pursue their employers through the courts for no good reason – there really are.
The figures show that the real problem is that not enough applicants can access workplace justice in the first place – for example this recent Government survey of workers who experienced problems at work found that only 24 per cent of those who took some form of action felt that they had resolved their employment problem successfully. And their problems were real. The examples below demonstrate just some of the daily issues the research found that workers have to contend with:
- A 59-year old woman had resigned from her full-time, permanent job as a school cleaner with a contract cleaning company after repeated failure to pay her wages and Statutory Sick Pay, and repeated denial of paid holiday.
- A 41-year old Slovakian man working as a chef in a restaurant had been dismissed by text message and had not received pay in lieu of notice, his last two weeks’ wages or all his holiday pay entitlement.
- A 43-year old disabled woman working as a section supervisor in a major high street retail store had been dismissed whilst off sick due to her disability. The client’s employer had not followed the statutory disciplinary and dismissal procedures.
- A 25-year old gay man training as a hairdresser had resigned from his job of eleven months due to perceived bullying and discrimination on account of his sexual orientation.
- A man who had settled his Employment Tribunal claim for unfair dismissal from his job as a roofer but had not received the awarded monies from his employer, despite having initiated enforcement action in the County Court.