Fair play and our world of crazy laws

It is my observation that many of our frustrations at work emanate from situations where we feel wronged, unjustly treated or unduly penalised. And I think I speak for both employers and employees here.

There are plenty of people who speak up for the employees, so I shall not focus on them here.

But in terms of employers, I believe that over the years there have been a number of decisions that have caused employers to feel that their rights have been seriously eroded or ignored. And by saying ‘rights’ what I refer to is the right to manage your staff fairly and appropriately. To such an extent in recent years that I have met a fair few who have got so fed up with staffing headaches that they have scaled their businesses back in order to employ either no staff or just very few staff.

The problem is that all too often laws come in that prevent employers from being able to manage their businesses in the way they deem appropriate. The laws designed to protect employees from rogue or bad employers, inevitably impact on good employers too (often while bad employers ignore them and carry on behaving just as they always did).

Having watched the unfolding of employment law in the UK over the past 20 years, these are just a few of the laws that employers seem to feel most erode their ability to manage, or their sense of fair play.

Data protection

An employee is working on your time and your equipment to either set up their new business, to watch porn, to book their holidays, fiddle their time sheets or to write their novel, but data protection laws don’t allow you to access your own computers to check that people are behaving. Employee rights to privacy should not outweigh sensible employers rights to manage. And to manage appropriately and fairly you need information (as opposed to gut feelings) which effectively data protection laws often bar you from getting.

Holidays during maternity leave

Another cause of outrage was the decision to require employers to provide a full year’s holiday entitlement to women who had just taken a year’s maternity leave. We all get that people hard at work benefit from and need holidays and that should be paid, but please can anyone tell me why women who have been off work for a year then need five weeks paid holiday? After struggling to cover someone’s job for twelve months surely any extra paid holiday available should go to those poor beleaguered souls who have had to cover the role or work harder or longer to keep things running? And covering for twelve long months is no picnic; just sheer hard work.

No instant dismissal

Over the years I have written many articles and blogs about the fact that instant dismissal is not like instant noodles or instant gravy in that it usually takes weeks rather than minutes to achieve, read one of those blogs here. I get that sometimes it takes time to find out what has really happened, but sometimes it really doesn’t. And when it doesn’t you really should be allowed to instantly dismiss. Take the employee found on the flat roof rolling a joint who said ‘fair cop gov, ‘spose I’m sacked? I’ll go clear my locker ‘ To which his manager replied ‘yes’, but who then later found himself in the dock accused of unfair dismissal. The law can be a real ass sometimes. Paid suspension and a two week or two month protracted investigation often achieves very little other than frustration and conflict. When your drunk employee rolls out of his company car in full view of all the staff arriving at work clutching an empty vodka bottle it’s not rocket science to know that his employment is fast approaching end point.

Sales commission holiday pay

And then just last week we learnt that holiday pay should include monies equivalent to what sales commission might have been earned had the employee been at work. What utter nonsense. There has been so much yelling and shouting in recent years about nonsense pay and bonuses to people who don’t deserve it that organisations are now urged to make pay and bonuses reflect actual effort and achievements. But now we’re told that we have to pretend sales have been made during holidays just in case the reduced pay level (as a result of there being no commission payments) during a week of holiday might put some off taking their holiday. And it’s even more farcical because the reality is that with most commission being paid in arrears, it’s not the holiday week that would see the pay packet reduced, but probably a month or so later. Are we really dumbing it down so much that we’re saying most sales people don’t have the financial wherewithal to manage their money over a 6 or 12 month period rather than just month by month? Crazy.

Any crazy or frustrating laws you would like to add in? I’d love to hear your ideas, leave them in the comment box below.

Interested in any down to earth, plain speaking, no nonsense employment law training for your line managers so they know when the alarm bells should be ringing and have some understanding of how to avoid the pot holes? I’d be delighted to give you a quote.

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