miss_s_b: (Default)
[personal profile] miss_s_b
There is a lot of employment legislation in this country. Employees have a lot of rights, and employers a lot of responsibilities. But what happens if employers shirk those rights?

Well, if you're in a union, your union will help. And if your workforce is mostly unionised, as an employer you are much less likely to try to shaft your employees. But what if you are one of the 74% of UK employees who doesn't belong to a union? What options are open to you if you employer breaks the law with regard to your rights?

You can, of course, take matters into your own hands. No, not with a baseball bat, I mean you can instigate legal proceedings yourself. Unfortunately, this is rife with problems. Even if you have some legal training employment law is a complex area, fraught with strict and soft deadlines and rules of evidence and such which can cock up an entire case for the unwary. You could hire a solicitor, but that either takes money, or for your case to be big and important enough for them to take you on no-win-no-fee.

Then there's the CAB. Now, the CAB do some marvellous work (I used to do voluntary work for them in my pre-motherhood days), but they are massively overworked and underfunded, their opening hours are tiny, and they just don't have the capacity to deal with the extent of this, and even if they did, all they can do is help you to do stuff yourself, they can't do it for you.

So, for your average Jane/Joe in a non-unionised minimum wage job, whose employer is (for random example) not giving them proper breaks, or paid holiday, or the paperwork they are due, it's exceedingly difficult to actually do anything about it. And given the parlous state of the job market at the moment, any attempt to assert one's rights which results in the sack might well leave one unable to find a job for many months. Sure, you can bring an unfair dismissal suit, but that will take months and in the meantime you are left with no income.

And even if a person does manage to get enforcement of their rights, that doesn't stop the (almost certainly now ex) employer from exploiting other workers.

I think what we need here is an enforcement agency to make sure employers are sticking to their legal obligations - some sort of Quango. Employment Law Enforcement People Helping All Nice Tradespeople? OK, perhaps a different acronym is a good thing. But I think the idea is a good one. If someone is breaking noise regs, you call the noise abatement team. If someone is creating a hazard to health with their polluting ways you call the environmental health. But if you're being exploited at work, and you're not in a union...?

Any Lib Dems fancy helping me to put together a motion on this?

Date: Monday, May 9th, 2011 11:54 am (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
The EASI may be a good starting model, although a bit weak: http://www.bis.gov.uk/policies/employment-matters/eas

Date: Monday, May 9th, 2011 12:00 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] missdiane.livejournal.com
I don't know about there but in my experience here having been part of two unions, they're not much help either. If you are unfairly sacked, it still takes the union ages to get anything done and sometimes it still doesn't help - and you're paying a chunk of your salary to the union whether you like it or not.

Good luck getting something organized that actually helps the un or under-represented workers!

Date: Monday, May 9th, 2011 05:31 pm (UTC)
ginasketch: (Default)
From: [personal profile] ginasketch
Was just about to say something along these lines.

Date: Monday, May 9th, 2011 05:36 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] missdiane.livejournal.com
A few years ago when they unionized our admin positions, I was ticked since I'd been through the useless unioning before. Since I've never signed a union card, even though I could file a grievance if I ever needed to, the only thing that I can't do is vote on union things. This saves me one half of one percent of my salary not to officially join.

The next time the woman who's the pushy union rep in my office tries to browbeat me into signing a card, I'm going to let her know in no uncertain terms that I'm keeping my one half of one percent and I'm also reserving the right to be a big ol' scab if they ever vote to strike and I disagree with them. LOL

Date: Wednesday, May 11th, 2011 07:01 am (UTC)
diffrentcolours: (Default)
From: [personal profile] diffrentcolours
I'd have to second this; for all that there are high-profile union case where they get behind them and organise pickets etc., most of the ordinary union members I know have had bugger all help of any use.

As an example, somebody I know was sacked by a charity which helps people with CFS, for contracting CFS. She'd been a Unison member for 20 years, and they were worse than useless.

I have been thinking about some kind of politics-free (or at least party-free) union, perhaps as low-key as a simple employment insurance scheme that members can claim on for advice and support - I wonder if that might be a way to go.

Date: Monday, May 9th, 2011 12:01 pm (UTC)
pseudomonas: (Default)
From: [personal profile] pseudomonas
I wonder if there's value in having something like this combined with other issues (tenancy comes to mind)? I suppose that as you say, employment law is a well-delimited and specialist field. I think it's a very good idea, anyhow - though it'd be hard to get it past the Tories.

It doesn't necessarily need to be a quango - Trading Standards and Environmental Health are dealt with by councils, right?

Date: Monday, May 9th, 2011 12:05 pm (UTC)
pseudomonas: (eyebrow)
From: [personal profile] pseudomonas
(Though having said the Tories won't like it "implement the regulations we have properly rather than introducing new ones" shouldn't be beyond them, and they don't have an interest in giving the unions a monopoly in employees' rights)

Date: Monday, May 9th, 2011 01:08 pm (UTC)
matgb: Artwork of 19th century upper class anarchist, text: MatGB (Default)
From: [personal profile] matgb
One thing that could be used to sell it on them.

Combine making it a lot easier to enforce and claim your rights with a big simplification and clarification exercise, "cut red tape" would persuade them, and also make it easier for all as if the laws are simple and clear, then lawyers et al are less needed/necessary anyway.

There's always a way to sell something liberal to Tories, you just need to find the right hook.

Date: Monday, May 9th, 2011 12:08 pm (UTC)
pseudomonas: (Default)
From: [personal profile] pseudomonas
Expanding an existing organisation if possible would seem like less fuss. I don't know whether this would be an issue that would be best dealt with locally or nationally.

Date: Monday, May 9th, 2011 12:16 pm (UTC)
pseudomonas: (Default)
From: [personal profile] pseudomonas
Thinking about it, this sounds a bit ACASy.

Date: Monday, May 9th, 2011 12:17 pm (UTC)
ext_390810: (Default)
From: [identity profile] http://www.nickbarlow.com/blog/
Sounds like a good idea to me, and as my cabinet role on the council here includes jobs and employment, I'll help out if I can.

One thought that does occur to me is that now David Allen Green's joined us, he might be able to give some legal advice - though there are probably other employment lawyers in the party too!

Date: Monday, May 9th, 2011 12:39 pm (UTC)
ext_51145: (Default)
From: [identity profile] andrewhickey.info
Suspect I can't do anything of any help (not even a voting member, sadly) but anything I *can* do I *will* do.

how about a cheaper alternative to union membership?

Date: Monday, May 9th, 2011 01:22 pm (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
I think encouragement should be given to the legal services industry to offer low cost employment insurance at a similar (or lower cost) to union subs. This would allow access to qualified legal services when the need required.


Re: how about a cheaper alternative to union membership?

Date: Monday, May 9th, 2011 02:49 pm (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
Businesses like to ignore (local)government agencies. Unless a business has multiple complaints against then they will be ignored. Only by offering more avenues to the employee to take an employer to tribunal will create longterm changes in business practice.

Re: how about a cheaper alternative to union membership?

Date: Monday, May 9th, 2011 02:52 pm (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
@John (mainly)

Quite a lot of people probably do have cover for bringing claims for unfair dismissal. If I had legal cover in my house insurance policy (I don't as any minor I could handle myself) it would cover me for that.

I think it is something like £50-70 for adding that as an optional extra so that doesn't suggest that the costs are massive (though this may be because few people realise they have it and use it!)

There are a couple of problems with unfair dismisal cases:
1) IIRC your ability to recover costs is limited and quite difficult - partly because ETs were set up to provide a low cost, quick way of resolving employment disputes (lets leave discussing whether that has worked to another time!)

2) Remedies are quite limited. Its often the case with redundancies for example that an ET will find that the employer could have reasonably made person X redundant but the procedure wasn't followed correctly. So you go back, do it again and make them redundant but doing it properly! Your remedies would therefore be the lost wages for the time you were out of work. As you are under a duty to mitigate your losses people really have to look for work in the meantime and in a fair proportion of cases find another job before or shortly after your actual loss can be quite small (especially if its a job with no accrued benefits, pension etc).

3) Jenni - I helped a friend a couple of years back with an internal redundancy appeal so I know a reasonable bit about this area of law. If you want some pro-bono, unqualified advice and assistance with putting together a case drop me a line. Though for reasons (2) above I can see why you might not want to bother!

Re: how about a cheaper alternative to union membership?

Date: Monday, May 9th, 2011 02:54 pm (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
(4) that was Hywel who really should get himself arsed to register an OpenId but it seems OTT just for Jennis blog!

(5) Yes it is a good idea to have some "regulator" type body - though not sure how the details would work out in practice

Date: Monday, May 9th, 2011 02:46 pm (UTC)
tajasel: Katie, with a purple wig on. (Default)
From: [personal profile] tajasel
As someone in a minimum wage job who gets taken advantage of in ridiculous ways on a daily basis, oh hell yes.

Date: Monday, May 9th, 2011 06:41 pm (UTC)
daweaver:   (saveworld)
From: [personal profile] daweaver
Random thoughts.

1) Sell it to the Tories as a Big Society problem: it keeps people in employment, it helps businesses run better, it can reduce red tape, it makes the world a better place. And it demonstrates that Big Society isn't just the Women's Institute with added jam.

2) This is a classical Liberal problem: there's tension between the individual's free action and regulation to improve the quality of society for everyone, and some lubrication eases friction for all.

3) And, in the argot of the present Lib Dems, it's a Fairness problem: it's not fair that some people can get unions to take on their cases, while others can't. Good quality employment advice should be available to all. It's fair that the law as it stands is enforced equally.

Ever the optimist, my expectation is that most employers want to do the right thing, but sometimes don't quite know the minutiae of the law, and make errors. At present, the system is adversarial, setting worker against boss; even if the employee wins, they too often find themselves unable to continue in the same job.

Some form of early and relatively informal intervention could nip many problems in the bud, saving everyone a lot of stress, angst, and money. I'm thinking of something about as informal as the small claims court, and as binding as the small claims court: no appeal from either side except on a point of law.

Enhancing the EAS may be a possibility, I don't know if that would be easier than setting up a new body and folding the EAS into it. Funding: some money should be released from the existing specialist employment courts, who (hopefully!) will have a lower workload.

In short: yes.

Date: Tuesday, May 10th, 2011 06:53 am (UTC)
rmc28: Rachel smiling against background of trees, with newly-cut short hair (Default)
From: [personal profile] rmc28
Fairness & business-friendly approach:

If a business is being undercut by competitors taking shortcuts on pollution, they can call Environmental Health. If they are being undercut by competitors breaking employment law, they have no recourse.

The market only works if people are made to stick to the rules. It helps if the rules aren't massively complex such that expensive lawyers are required to ensure you don't break them, or to spot other people breaking them.

Date: Monday, May 9th, 2011 11:08 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] scarier.wordpress.com
Not much employment law wisdom to impart, but this all sounds eminently sensible to me. Happy to put my name to anything you'd like to put to conference - am a rep.
(deleted comment)

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Date: Tuesday, May 10th, 2011 03:49 pm (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
New legislation is a lot better than the older stuff! (usually - Criminal Justice Act 2003 is particularly bad!)

But you can't have it both ways. Legal jargon (which is at least understood by the profession and has clear and well defined meanings) then you will need long winded explanations


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