From the TUC

Conservatives combine regressive rhetoric with confusion

28 Nov 2008, by in Working Life

Tory proposals now appear to combine a regressive attitude to employment protection with a basic lack of understanding. Citizens Advice have highlighted a fascinating article in the Daily Telegraph, which cites CBI experts on the “the weight of new and vexatious claims” which the tribunal system is straining under. This is a subject near to Alan Duncan’s heart. Unfortunately, the figures don’t stack up and the analysis is flawed. I am also confused by Conservative attemps to support low-paid service sector staff by speaking out against a consultation to make tips fairer. Overall, there is increasing evidence of the incoherence of Tory employment rights policy, which appears to be based on rhetoric rather than any serious analysis.

The Telegraph analysis concludes that as the total amount paid out in tribunal awards has increased, there must have been a growth in malicious claims. But a closer look at the figures shows that overall only 12 per cent of employment tribunal cases actually conclude with an award being made in court, with most settled through conciliation or being withdrawn.  In  fact, in 06-07 21,816 claims were won in court, 4656 fewer court settlements than during the previous period. In addition, over the period that the Telegraph’s analysis considers the median level of awards has remained relatively constant – £3,464 in 2004/05 to £3,800 in 2006/07.

Further evidence against a surge of vexatious employees is available in Government research. While 55 per cent of employers report that their organisation has dealt with a tribunal application within the last two years, only seven per cent of applicants have previously made an application. This does not suggest an army of workers intent of continually ripping off their bosses with malicious claims – although it does raise questions about why some employers are having multiple claims taken against them.

On tips and the minimum wage Alan Duncan has attempted to align himself with working people – by criticising the Government on consulting prior to introdoucing new legislation. He thinks that it should just happen now. This is a strange position, which leaves him opposed to finding sensible solutions to challenges that need to be met to get this legislation right – not least ensuring that it can be operationalised fairly accross the multiple different systems that employers use for collecting tips, and that employers and the public know about what the law is.

To date I have therefore seen nothing to suggest that the Conservatives have any serious interest in developing policy to protect working people, but plenty to show that they enjoy spinning against them, or prioritising politics over the interests of low-paid staff.