Unfair dismissal to be scrapped? Probably not in my view but an unreleased report commissioned by David Cameron which suggests that it should be is being widely reported following the Daily Telegraph, who have apparently seen the report, reporting on it. See also the report on the BBC’s website - Unfair Dismissal Change Urged.
The report written by Adrian Beecroft, a venture capitalist, apparently suggests that unfair dismissal laws are abused, particularly by some in the public sector. The Daily Telegraph also suggests that current laws allow employees to coast along as employers are afraid to sack them and replace them with better employees. It also suggests that employers are put off employing new staff as they may have “unknown quantities” and are impossible to sack. The report also apparently suggests that it is too easy for employees to claim unfair dismissal and to gain significant compensation.
It seems very unlikely that the Government will seek to implement the changes. The report in the BBC website already includes quotes from unnamed Government sources indicating that the Government are unlikely to go any further on unfair dismissal. In this regard they are already intending to increase the qualifying period from 1 to 2 years as of April 2012 and introduce fees for raising Tribunal claims from December 2013. At the very least scrapping unfair dismissal laws is unlikely to be a vote winner for the Government.
Whilst this will, no doubt, spark an interesting debate it does seem that scrapping unfair dismissal laws would be something of an extreme measure. Although there are undoubtedly a significant proportion of claims that have no merit the law does provide a degree of protection and stability for employees which, in turn, is likely to be beneficial to the economy as a whole. In addition, the law already allows employers to dismiss employees for conduct and performance issues provided that a fair procedure is followed so it is not as if it is impossible at present to deal with problem employees. The key to driving down the number of claims is, in my view, held by the Employment Tribunals themselves. They already have powers to award costs against unsuccessful parties albeit these powers are used very sparingly. If the Tribunals become more ready to award costs against unsuccessful Claimants then this will act as a significant deterrent to someone considering raising an unjustified claim.