You're Fired!

After nearly five years of assaults on employment rights spearheaded by Coalition Business Secretary, here in its entirety is the complete series of blogs on how the Lib Dem politician, who now claims to be pro-worker, went about dismantling individual and collective employment rights and protections. Not satisfied, he then effectively removed any form of redress when the few rights that remain are broken by wayward employers. (If preferred, these articles can be accessed individually via the right hand panel - just refer down to the relevant month; or search "Sacking" to get a list.)
27th January 2011

Sacking with CONfidence

It was only a matter of time: having picked off the disabled, the elderly, the public sector and others, the Conservative Government is now turning its attention to slashing employment rights of British workers. The Business Secretary, the loose-talking Lib Dem stooge, Vince Cable, who used to work for such enlightened employers as BSkyB, has just announced a consultation process on changes to employment protection law. Among other measures designed to make it ever harder for workers to secure any protection against ill-treatment, the proposals will double the period of time employees need to work before gaining legal protection against unfair dismissal. If, as is almost certain, this neo-liberal "flexibility" measure goes through to the statute book, staff will have to work for two years rather than the current one year before they can seek any redress if their boss just looks at them one day and tells them to get out.

Government Gangmaster-in-chief Vince Cable
The Great Myth is that the current employment protection laws we have are dreadfully complicated, cost employers millions of pounds and make it virtually impossible to sack anyone, even if they are useless at their job/thieves/never at work, etc. The media regale us again and again with tales of people getting hundreds of thousands of pounds because their line manager looked at them the wrong way - political correctness gone mad!

Except none of it is true.

Employers can pretty much dismiss with impunity as long as they follow a set procedure and have reasonable grounds for their decision. Only if they dismiss someone (presently with more than 12 months service) without good reason or without following a process that complies with the ACAS Code of Conduct is there any chance that an Employment Tribunal will find against them - and in total just one in ten submitted unfair dismissal claims actually reach a full hearing and win.. Even if an employer loses a case and unfair dismissal is found to have occurred, the average award made to an unfairly dismissed employee is a paltry £9,120. The median award was just slightly over £4,000 in 2009-10.

The average award is therefore about five months' pay for the average earner, even although they have been found by law to have lost their livelihood.unfairly and will almost certainly struggle to find other work. And even worse, in 40% of cases where unfair dismissal is found to have happened, no award at all is made. So, in other words, less than 6% of submitted claims of unfair dismissal end up in a tribunal hearing where a financial award is made against the employer.

To claim this protection makes it difficult for employers to hire and fire staff, stifling entrepreneurship and preventing job opportunities for people who need work, is quite frankly a pernicious lie. Doubling the period without protection will help no one apart from unscrupulous slavers who want even longer to be able to "let people go" with absolutely no need to account for their actions, regardless of the impact on people and society.

There are, to be acknowledged, some "no-win-no-fee" legal firms that do sometimes lead to groundless claims being submitted in the hope of getting a compromise payment from a former employer, but tribunals already have the power to dismiss frivolous claims. Doubling the period of protection will by contrast simply leave innocent people vulnerable to the employers' they depend on for their livelihoods even longer - a shocking power imbalance. Ironically too, it may lead to some reluctance among staff to look for new jobs, reducing healthy turnover in many companies or organisations - if you are reasonably secure in your current job, why would you want to go and find another one if it meant that for 24 months you could be dismissed on a whim?

If society is about more than making money for owners, serious reform of our employment laws is needed. Capitalists argue that employers create employment for workers and so must be given the advantage in our economic arrangements. For this reason, British employment law is even now based on the traditional legal concept of the rules of "Master and Servant", whereby the master (the employer) has an absolute power over the servant (the employee) who in turn has an absolute obligation to obey. Thanks largely to the efforts of the trade unions, statute law has mitigated this appalling construct to some extent, but it remains core to the way the employment relationship functions. Yet where would employers be without their staff? As often touted in management manuals and corporate propaganda, businesses are their people - so the law should expect businesses to treat their people with some respect and dignity.

This blog has argued for a fundamentally different, socialist society. In its absence, the only fair alternative would be employment laws which provide protection from day one of employment - this would still allow dismissal if for genuinely fair reasons and via a thorough and fair process; but where unfair dismissal is found, the damages incurred by the employer should be punitive rather than the piss-poor half-hearted compensatory ones that currently apply.

The media and the Government of course will rail that such an arrangement would damage business. Yet even many of the people who write such twaddle ignore the fact that they are employees themselves, along with over 85% of working people and as such potentially subject to the arbitrary action of their employers. Fortunately, not all employers behave in unfair or arbitrary ways, but many people have suffered greatly at the hands of those who do, and if Vince Cable and his gang-masters have their way, these hands will be even more maliciously powerful than they have been in nearly two decades.
3rd February 2011

Sacking with CONfidence (Part 2) - The Employers' Charter

Just an update following on from last week's post about the Government's plans to double the period of time people will have to work without employment protection from 1 to 2 years.

The Government apparently also feels employers should be reminded of just how far they can push their workers under existing legislation - no need to wait for legal changes. Cable has issued an Employer's Charter pinpointing all the stuff employers can already do with relative impunity - so why he also feels the need to reduce coverage of employment protection, God and David Cameron alone know. Presumably it is either a throwback to his days running corporations like Shell or simply an ideological move intended to maximise "employment flexibility" (this from a man whose careless gossip a few weeks ago would have put him out of a job had he committed his misconduct in any normal workplace).

So, just in case you are an employer who has forgotten what you can do, here is Vicious Vince's timely reminder:

"As an employer - as long as you act fairly and reasonably - you are entitled to:
- ask an employee to take their annual leave at a time that suits your business
- contact a woman on maternity leave and ask when she plans to return
- make an employee redundant if your business takes a downward turn
- ask an employee to take a pay cut
- withhold pay from an employee when they are on strike
- ask an employee whether they would be willing to opt-out from the 48 hour limit in the Working Time Regulations
- reject an employee's request to work flexibly if you have a legitimate business reason
- talk to your employees about their performance and about how they can improve
- dismiss an employee for poor performance
- stop providing work to an agency worker (as long as they are not employed by you)
- ask an employee about their future career plans, including retirement." 

Careless talk costs jobs - except in Cable's case
The inclusion of the opt-out from the 48 hour working time directive is notable in that Britain's exemption from European law on maximum working hours has long been a cri de coeur of the Lib Dems: their European MPs have repeatedly voted against any attempt to reform it to reduce Britain's long hours culture and bring us in to line with the rest of Europe. This emphasis is definitely not one they can blame on the Tories - Mr Cable is simply showing his party's true colours.

It is deeply questionable as to why anyone thinks this guidance is even remotely required. There is even a printer-friendly version, designed like a little poster - perhaps for laminating and then posting on noticeboards to remind staff of their position or scare them into compliance - a bit like these old Victorian factory notices setting out fines for talking or working too slowly.

The Good Old Days?
Issued at a time when more and more jobs are being lost and workers feel increasingly vulnerable, employers seem on the whole already more than fully aware of their powers.Yet pandering to right wing mythology, Cable's missive has been sent out along with a letter from David Cameron stressing how important it is to butter up big business by sacrificing employees' rights - notwithstanding the fact that Mr Cable's Charter somewhat undermines the Prime Ministerial picture of workplaces where employers' are tangled up in intractably thick forests of workers' rights.

"Speak to businesses and they’ll say something else: that the balance of rights is tilted far too much in favour of employees over employers. They say it’s become far too difficult to hire and fire workers, and far too easy for those workers to make unscrupulous claims against them. This not only costs our businesses a lot of money – on average around £4,000 for defending a tribunal case - but takes up a huge amount of time and effort too. Vitally, it makes businesses think twice before taking people on.
I’m determined we shift some of that balance back." - David Cameron

Good to see some 1980s "balance" in the workplace again. Isn't it? (Though, it has to be noted, all these powers were already in place under the Nu-Labour Government).
15th May 2011

Sacking with CONfidence (Part 3)

On the morning after the beginning of the latest series of The Apprentice, it was somehow ironically appropriate that Lib Dem Business Minister Ed Davey announced that the Government have now moved on from their plans to reduce individual employment protection (see Sacking with CONfidence Parts 1 & 2) to signal an assault on collective redundancy rights.

Currently, employers can make staff redundant as long as they put up a pretty simple business reason for doing so (which can be about as straightforward as just wanting to make some basic changes to the way they do things); where 20 or more people are affected by the same proposal, there are some timescales which are applied - if 20 people are affected, there must be at least 30 days consultation on a scale rising to 90 days consultation for more than 100 people. (Lower than 20, there must be "adequate" consultation, which ACAS have indicated should normally be around two weeks). The need to consult does not remove the employers' ability to proceed - it simply means that where a significant number of people may lose their livelihoods, there is an obligation to consult on alternatives to redundancy and on the process being undertaken (such as the criteria to be used for selecting precisely which staff will lose their jobs).

You're Fired! A bit more flexibility needed for Lord Sugah!
The Government today has decided that this is no good - in the free market profiteers lexicon that informs their thinking, consultation on people's livelihoods reduces industrial flexibility and so it is up for a full review, along with long established protection where jobs are transferred from one company to another (the TUPE - Transfer of Undertakings, Protection of Employment regulations). TUPE is intended to fit with the European-wide Acquired Rights Directive, which provides protection to employees throughout the European Union. Under this, if their employer's business is merged with another, their employment rights and terms and conditions must be at least as good as before. Britain may struggle to amend TUPE and still meet the legal requirements of the ARD, but it looks like our plucky ConDem masters are up for it.

How any of this will help the Government claimed objective of making it easier to employ staff, who knows? At present, you have to work two years to qualify for a maximum statutory redundancy payment of precisely £800 or 2 weeks pay, whichever is the lower - what a massive cost! The bankers must quake in fear when they think about having to shelve out so much to their cleaners. see what you'd get by clicking HERE, because who knows, one day it could be you.

It will be interesting to see how the new shout-out-loud Lib Dems face up to this: they have never been particularly sound on employees rights (really weird, given that by an overwhelming margin, most workers are employees) and they have been itching for decades to get rid of the Working Time Directive (in spite of being all in favour of it back in the early 1990s when they were so in favour of the Social Chapter of the Maastricht Treaty). And of course, faux rebel Vince Cable, Business Secretary, will be ultimately responsible for the review of the legislation. Now doesn't that just so fill you with confidence?

God bless Blighty, land of the low paid and the maximum profit shareholders...
26th October 2011

Sacking with CONfidence - Part 4

Continuing an occasional, but all too frequent, series on the Coalition's "reform" of employment law in Britain.

Capitalism to "Inspire" - you really couldn't make it up!
Yesterday we were treated to a chilling insight on how the Conservatives view British employees and their rights. A report on employment laws and their impact on the economy, commissioned by Chancellor George Osborne and supported by David Cameron, was leaked. Written by Tory supporting venture capitalist Adrian Beecroft, who has enriched himself to the tune of £85 millions in spite of the apparent encumbrance of UK employment law, it uses the most lurid and vituperative terms about British workers and the alleged need to bring us all the heel.

The report blames Britain's economic woes on the supposed inability of employers to fire people at will if they are underperforming. Beecroft wants a "compulsory no fault dismissal" system whereby employees can be fired without redress to an employment tribunal via a simple payment equivalent to the state redundancy payment (currently a maximum of £400 for each year of service). So, if after working for an employer for 10 years, your boss decided you were not performing well enough, Beecroft's view is that there should be no need to undergo any particular process of identifying and warning about the performance issues - if your company gives you £4,000, it is straightforward curtains to your career.

The report goes on further to make a list of complaints about employment protection given to the tens of millions of us who are employees (over 85% of the workforce!) which demonstrates lamentable prejudice, ignorance and pretty sloppy research (or lack of it) by Beecroft:

Beecroft donated £530k to the Tory Party: cheaper staff
could free up so much more!
- it demands  that employers should be able to have off-the-record discussions with employees with whom they are in dispute. They already can! Current employment law already allows without prejudice discussions in disputes which cannot be entered as evidence in tribunal proceedings.

- Beecroft complains that employers can't ask employees if they intend to retire and grumbles that this slows down recruitment and labour flexibility, apparently damaging the wealth of the nation. Again, employers can already do this! You can read the guidance from ACAS about how to do this in a fair and safe way HERE.

- Beecroft complains that the new rules protecting agency workers from summary dismissal and exploitative low pay arrangements will disadvantage Britain in the global economy. Yet he ignores the fact that the rules have come about as part of a European-wide directive and have to be the same in our nearest competitors.

All in all, it is a bigoted, ill-informed rant against the relatively low levels of protection enjoyed by British workers. And while some Lib Dems try to disassociate themselves from it, Nick Clegg made strikingly similarly ill-informed comments about performance and retirement only the day before - who knows what he's been reading lately?

It is easier, cheaper and faster for employers to fire British workers than in most western economies and it is disingenuous for employers and top managers to lay the blame for our woes at the feet of ordinary workers. While most employees have seen their pay static and reducing in real and even absolute terms over the last two or three years, Boardroom pay and bonuses have continued to climb relentlessly.

The Business Secretary, Lib Dem Vince Cable, has rejected the report today, insisting workers need protection otherwise their job insecurity will affect their spending and damage the wider economy. This sounds good until you reflect that Vince and his Lib Dem Minister, Ed Davey, are at the same time busy removing employment protection from millions of workers who will now have to work for two years rather than one before they will be protected from unfair dismissal. This is being done using very similar arguments as Beecroft does about labour flexibility. It was also Cable's department that rushed out a so-called Employer's Charter, quickly re-christened as a "sacker's checklist" last year to remind employers just how easily they can already dismiss staff. It makes the bad part of you wonder if the leak of the extreme Beecroft worldview was deliberately done to make Cable's current plans appear a little milder by comparison - but surely they wouldn't do that, would they?

The absence of trade unions from most of the British workplace has never been more in evidence. Employees face a difficult time ahead as first their employment and, coming up next, sickness protection are whittled away by people who in many cases have never really held down a normal type of job.  Capitalism, yet again, is busy blaming and punishing others for its own failings - biting back, like the cornered rat that it truly is.
10 May 2012

Sacking with CONfidence (Part 5)

Yet another update on the right-wing populist and often ignorantly uninformed slaughter of employment law and protection of employees in Britain.

So yesterday we were treated to the spectacle of Mrs Windsor, who has never attended a job interview in her life but who has a pretty mean track record when it comes to maltreatment of her staff in the low wage Royal Household, informing us how her Government intends to create more flexibility for employers. This will give them even more opportunities to rip off customers and staff alike by making it even easier for people to be dismissed without any chance of recompense. Lizzie's family has already got form in trying to break employment tribunal rules and withhold legal evidence, so it seems she is happy for her Ministers to make life a bit easier for the likes of her son in future employment disputes.

Get to work and be grateful, peasants!
Not content with doubling from one to two years the period of time employees new to a company can be dismissed for absolutely no reason at all, the Con Dem Government has brought forward  a series of measures to make it much harder for people who have been dismissed to raise any complaint at an Employment Tribunal. the quality of the legislation mooted in the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill betrays the fact that the legislation is pretty much about Tory prejudice against all employment rights rather than a serious attempt to reform the law.

For example, in the name of reducing the number of tribunals, people pursuing a complaint will have to first lodge their complaint with ACAS in an attempt to reach a conciliated settlement. This appears to be in total ignorance of the fact that this already happens - all tribunal claims are automatically lodged with ACAS and a conciliation officer is appointed to try to broker a solution. If what is perhaps implied here is that there is a new stage of conciliation via ACAS before you can even lodge a claim to a tribunal, this suggests a number of inbuilt flaws, which probably combine hostility towards employees with a lack of understanding of how the current system works.

1. If the conciliation stage is a separate phase to the tribunal complaint, this seems to be adding to red tape rather than reducing it.

2. Tribunal awards usually pay compensation for loss of earnings to successful complainants for the period of time from the end of employment to the conclusion of the tribunal process. An additional phase of conciliation will extend this period of time, which means either employers face higher costs at the end if an employee is successful OR the Government is going to reduce the amount of compensation available even when a claim of unfair dismissal is successful - any ideas which option this Government might take?

3. Nearly two-thirds of employment tribunal complaints are already conciliated - half by ACAS and the rest privately. Few people enjoy taking their employer to a tribunal - I know, having been involved on both sides often enough - so the conciliation process is already pretty effective. Dragging things out when conciliation is not possible will simply make the process much harder on many levels for both sides - but perhaps the Government calculation is that this will deter people from asserting their rights even when they have been bullied or harassed out of their livelihoods - so much for justice.

4. The tribunal system is in much need of reform: it works essentially for two groups alone - lawyers and people with tenuous claims. People who have genuinely lost their jobs unfairly get piss poor awards averaging less than £9,000 - the fantastic six figure sums touted with some furious fanfare in the likes of the Daily Mail are news precisely because they are few and far between. However, the current round of so-called reform will do little to change this. Instead, it will simply deter yet further people in vulnerable situations from asserting what tiny amount of power they have in the employment relationship, which remains even now governed at its core by the ancient laws of Master and Servant.

In the despair of the Lib Dem wing of the Coalition, a few of their number have suggested that they might not be so enthusiastic about these new proposals, but let it not be forgotten that the most pernicious changes to employment rights so far have been driven forward by Lib Dem Ministers in the name of cutting red tape, and even their adjustments to existing laws on family leave (actually a confirmation of plans put in place by the Labour Government pre-2010) include a reduction in maternity leave rights for expectant mothers.

But then, the Lib Dems have been weak on employment rights for people for a long time now, ignoring the fact that over 85% of the workforce are employees and so the protections afforded against arbitrary dismissal are important to a large number of us ordinary mortals. In 2005, Clegg's predecessor, the supposedly social democratic Charles Kennedy fought the General Election on a platform of seeking "a bonfire of the red tape" that allegedly stifles employment in the UK.

Seven years ago, in my final days of Lib Dem membership, I was irate about reading that their MEPs were supporting the continuation of the British opt-out of the European Working Time Directive, which has prevented workers from having to work excessive hours across the Continent - apart from in Britain thanks to the opt-out negotiated by the Tories in 1992. I wrote to the then leader of the Lib Dem MEPs, Chris Davies. His reply could easily have come from any Tory backbencher, so packed it was with prejudice against workers - and it was the final thing, of many, which tipped me into leaving and joining the Greens.

The text is below: so, don't let anyone fool you - the legislative drive to weaken our employment security in the middle of a recession is very much the offspring of both parts of this most poisonous regime, which seems to view its own citizens as its enemy.

(bold italics are my emphases)

Sent: 13 May 2005 14:54
Subject: Working time regulations
Dear Chris Davies,
I have been a member of the Liberal Democrats and our predecessor parties for 27 years and am writing to you after reading about our MEP's vote against the proposed changes to the EU working time regulations this week, including your own criticisms on your website about the vote to end the 48 hours maximum average working week opt-out.
I am surprised and disappointed by the Lib Dem MEPs approach to the proposed changes. I am also quite baffled by your comments that most people work a 37 hour week in the UK, but as a point of principle, people should be able to choose to work longer.
The fact is that most recent surveys indicate the averge working week in Britain is actually around 42 hours and, as I am sure you must be aware of, a "long hours culture" exists in many industries, especially among lower paid workers. While, since slavery is illegal, as a legal technicality they may "choose" to work longer than their contracted hours, the fact is that very often they have no realistic choice if they wish to avoid punitive action against them by their employer. A recent TUC survey found that less than 1-in-3 people who regularly work more than 48 hours per week have ever been asked to sign the legally required opt-out and there have been instances of people being told they had to sign the opt-out a a condition of their employment. To suggest therefore that "choice" enters into the equation for the vast majority of people who are expected to work long hours is quite frankly misguided.
The regulations as proposed would average the working week over an entire year - it is not as if people could never work more than 48 hours in any one week, or even for quite prolonged periods. It simply requires that over a full year, people do not work more than this on average. I don't know about you, but if I had a relative requiring care, or was myself being driven on a bus or train, I would feel very concerned if the person administering drugs or driving the bus/train had really been working more than 48 hours that week and had been doing so routinely. In addition, regular long hours of work make the worker more prone to both short-term illnesses such as flu or colds from a reduced immune system and longer terms diseases such as diabetes and heart condtions, which can be of little good to the worker, or, for that matter, their employer in the long run.
I am quite astonished that Lib Dems are taking such a stance - where is the care about people that we have campaigned on for years (remember "People First"?)? Liberals were among the first, decades ago, to introduce health and safety requirements to the workplace, tackling both moral and productivity issues at the same time. I regret deeply that this no longer seems to be the case - as additionally evidenced last autumn when the federal conference voted against holding mulitinationals to ILO standards in the employment of some of the most vulnerable people on this planet.
You may argue that you agree with all that I have said, but that the core of your argument is about subsidiarity. However, given that Britain is widely seen as a low wage, low regulated economy, is it little surprise that other EU states might want our opt-out to be ended given the unfair competitive advantage this gives to our corporate shareholders over those in other countries in what is meant to be a single market? What happened to our long trumpeted call on the Major Government to sign up to the Social Chapter with all the labour protection that envisaged? Was it our policy to sign up as long as we could opt out? I don't remember it being so and I fail to see what has changed.
I implore you and the other MEPs to revise your view on this and similar employment protection measures. Seeking to protect our people from the demands of employers who in most cases have as their sole objective profit maximisation is well within the long traditions of both liberalism and social democracy. It is also one, given that most people are employees, which would not be electorally damaging as long as you do not portray this as something which limits people's ability to act for themselves, which in all truth it is not.
I must stress I write as  a Personnel & Training Manager who has worked in the residential care industry for 15 years now. I do not find complying with these regulations, including the end of the opt-out, as a difficulty and any company that did struggle with them would quite frankly be one which was not functioning effectively at all.
I hope to hear from you.

Friday, 20 May 2005, 10:53
Chris Davies MEP  wrote:
As am MP in 1996 I introduced a Bill in to the House of Commons calling for greater employee protection within the UK.
My reason for supporting the British opt-out of the EU Working Time Directive is entirely on subsidiarity grounds.
If people want strict controls over working hours at the risk of loss of competivity then they should vote for Government to introduce it. I do not believe that measures of this kind should be set as EU standard.
It would be hard to find a more pro-European politician than myself, but if Liberal Democrats do not respect our own belief that decisions should always be taken at the lowest practicable level then we will have no hope in convincing others of the merits of the European case.
The Working Time Directive was introduced using the Health and Safety legal basis. We have supported its application where this is relevant (lorry drivers, doctors etc) but it's application in other instances is I believe illegitimate.
Yours Sincerely
Chris Davies MEP.
18 March 2014

Sacking With CONfidence: The Epilogue - "You're Fired!"

This is the last in an occasional series of blogs on the Coalition Government's assault on employment rights - the rights that give all of us just a tiny bit more security against pernicious treatment and even summary dismissal from our livelihoods.

It is the last because the assault is over and, I am sorry to say, the Lib Dem/Conservative regime has had its way. All of us who are employees - which is about 85% of the working population - are substantially less well protected than before 2010.

Since then, with the piss-taking pseudo-leftwing Lib Dem Vince Cable at the helm of employment "reforms", the Government first off extended from one to two years the length of time someone has to work for an employer before they are protected against unfair dismissal. Let's get that in perspective: at any time in the first 24 months of working for an employer, you can be dismissed for absolutely no reason at all. Your manager doesn't like you? You're fired! You come in late because the bus was cancelled? You're fired! Your boss doesn't like the colour of your jacket? You're fired!

And you've absolutely no comeback. Nada! Zilch! Forget the Daily Mail stories about pots of gold in compensation - you're out and you're not coming back; you've not got a penny and who will ever employ you again, a sacked worker?

As long as you survive two years in a job, you do finally acquire the right to not be unfairly dismissed. Note - unfairly. Because always, under all employment protection laws, employers have always had a right to fairly dismiss you. So, if you are persistently late, and you are warned not to be, you could be fired fairly. If you steal or assault a colleague, you could be fired fairly - as long as you were given the right to respond to any accusations against you and the employer's decision to dismiss was based on a reasonable assessment of the balance of probabilities: proof beyond reasonable doubt was never required, just a fair investigation and a meeting to hear the employee's side.

How would something as plainly reasonable as this constitute the shocking red tape strangling our apparently cowed entrepreneurs that Cable and co made out it was? Yet almost from Day One, with his Employers' Charter, he was busy reminding employers of how easy it was to get rid of people - and promising to make it even easier. He restored the qualifying period to the level Margaret Thatcher set it at. And more, much more than that.

In the past, if you were dismissed, you could seek redress for being unfairly dismissed if you had twelve months' service (back in the 1970s, it was six months). You could go to an Employment Tribunal, which would hear your case and your employers, and if it found in your favour, it could award recompense. Contrary to the handful of unusual settlements for large sums of money, most awards were low: on average, rarely more than £9,500 with the median award around £4,500 even although you had been found to have unfairly lost your employment.

But this was still too much for Cable. So he brought in a new barrier to workplace justice: at the same time as he viciously restricted the already small amount of legal aid available for employment cases, he introduced charges to lodge a case. If someone wants to pursue an unfair dismissal claim now, they need to pay a minimum fee of £400 - even although logic dictates that in many cases, dismissed and out of work, the complainant will not have this money, or at least not be able to afford it. And, even worse, if their complaint is about discrimination on grounds of sex, race, disability, religion or sexual orientation, then although you can bring a case even before two years' service, you have to pay a fee up to 300% higher than the unfair dismissal fee: over £1,200.

Some remissions of charges are permitted for the very poorest, but if your household has more than just £3,000 in savings, you have to pay in full  - and evidence shows that this very disproportionately affects women. This is borne out further by the fact that of all categories of cases, the fall in sex discrimination claims is the highest. Similarly, there has been a 68% fall in claims for non-payment of wages; when workers have to pay £390 to pursue such a claim, can you imagine why the numbers have fallen?

Percentage fall in tribunal claims by type of claim
Type of claim Fall in claims
Sex discrimination 77%
Disability 58%
Race 57%
Sexual orientation 75%
Age 63%
Religion and belief 60%
Pregnancy related dismissal 59%
Equal treatment rights for part-time workers 79%

So, let's recap: if you are dismissed because the boss didn't share your sense of humour or you got him the wrong sandwich at lunchtime, you pay £390 to take a case forward. That's bad enough. But if you were sacked because you refused to sleep with the boss, you have to find £1,200. But of course, Cable hails from the institutionally sexist and bullying-riddled Lib Dems, so its easy to see where the mindset originates for this sort of "justice". He also knows quite a bit about charges and fines although in his case he has us to bail him out.

And the outcome of the new tribunal charges?

Well, after just 12 months in operation, the new rules have delivered what Cable and the Conservatives wanted. The employers' organisation the CBI has welcomed the Government's "unclogging" of tribunals and now The laughingly titled Ministry of Justice has reported that there has been a 79% decline in the number of employment tribunal cases. Four out of five claims have been stopped in their tracks.
Little wonder. And shame on Clegg, Cameron and co for claiming to support "hard-working parents" and "alarm clock Britain." Now earning 10% less now than pre-recession, never in forty years have these hard-working people been more vulnerable and less protected against the whims of their profit-seeking employers.

And no one gains, no one but the already cash-soaked corporations that dole out billions in bonuses and dividends off the backs of increasingly marginalised workers and exploited consumers. The majority - the vast majority - of us see our rights diminished, our security reduced and our livelihoods ever more dependent on the random goodwill of employers rather than the basic reassurance of a modicum of employee rights. It is hardly a recipe for a happy, productive workplace or a successful country.

Vince - hasn't always paid his own charges promptly.
But the alarm clock will soon be ringing for the Cabinet of Millionaires: in just over one year, it will be time for the 85% of us who are employees to sling these duplicitous charlatans out without notice and tell the Con Dems, "You're fired!"

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