Tory MP Alan Duncan has told Personnel Today that a Conservative government would reform and simplify British employment law. One proposal is to award costs against employees who lose tribunal claims, to discourage vexatious claims.
Many HR Directors welcomed this suggestion. Helen Giles of the charity Broadway said:
The courts have cases with little merit but public policy [means] that they don’t ever throw out a discrimination claim, however spurious it is.
To start making people have to pay would be a huge deterrent. We would see the ludicrous amounts of public funds wasted on five to 10-day hearings come down and employers could carry on business more efficiently and effectively.
In cases of unfair dismissal, tribunals will reject spurious claims but where there is an allegation of illegal discrimination, as usual, different rules apply. Claims of sexual, racial or religious discrimination nearly always come to court.
The best way of avoiding these expensive hearings would be for the tribunals to take a much harder view and throw them out before they get to the formal stage. But as they seem unwilling or unable to do that, some sort of financial penalty for malicious and unfounded claims would be a useful deterrent.
Any attempt to simplify the UK’s increasingly byzantine employment law must also be welcome. The combined effect of legislation over the past ten years has been to create a piss-takers’ charter. I know of some organisations, especially in the public sector, where serial grievance raisers are now commonplace. The worst case I heard about was of an employee who had raised 87 grievances. Attempts to manage performance more effectively are often met with a rash of grievances which employers are now obliged to hear formally.
I will reserve judgement until I see more detailed plans from Alan Duncan but what he has said so far looks promising. At the very least, it’s a step in the right direction.