It seems that the Government is about to announce the final death of the ‘no-fault dismissal’ as it announces the results of its call for evidence on the issue.
This morning I was struck by two very different obituaries for the proposal. The Guardian carries the strapline: ’Adrian Beecroft’s ‘hire and fire’ law shelved after majority of small businesses fail to get behind it‘. The Telegraph, on the other hand, goes with ‘The Government has killed off proposals allowing firms to fire at will without fear of an employment tribunal despite new evidence showing more businesses are in favour of the move than those against it‘ (my emphasis)
Now I know that the Guardian and The Telegraph approach the world differently – but you might think that the evidence submitted to BIS would either show that there was business support for the proposal or that there wasn’t. Those two reports can’t both be right can they?
Searching for an objective view of what the evidence actually said I looked at the Mail Online (I know, the things I do in the cause of blogging). They link the story to the apparent reversal of plans for regional public sector pay and see the dropping of ‘David Cameron’s plans to give employers an automatic right to sack bad workers’ as yet another Coalition U-turn.
The truth, however, is that the Government never proposed introducing so-called ‘no fault dismissals’. The proposal came from venture capitalist and Tory donor Adrian Beecroft. It was picked up largely by the Daily Telegraph and some elements within the Conservative party, but it was never Government policy. It achieved the prominence that it did partly because its proposals were leaked to the press. This allowed the story to gain traction before the full report was actually published and everyone could see what a flimsy and poorly reasoned piece of work it was. The call for evidence, limiting the proposal to micro-businesses, always struck me as a holding tactic allowing the Government to sort out its response to a very effective media campaign which completely misrepresented the current state of the law.
We will see today, it seems, just what the evidence that BIS called for actually showed. However, the Telegraph is surely being the most disingenuous with its coverage. Look at this paragraph:
This is despite almost four in 10 businesses (38pc) responding to the Government’s call for evidence being in favour of no-fault dismissal, compared to 32pc against and 30pc undecided, an early analysis of 135 responses shows.
Now I’m not a statistician, but it seems from this report that of the 135 responses referred to by the Telegraph, just 51 (ish) employers were in favour of the proposal.. Clinging to the idea that more employers are in favour of the proposal than against it is pretty weak stuff – especially when we are dealing with such small numbers.
But to get further into the statistics is to play the Telegraph’s game. Who says that employment law should be written by the employers? At most they are just one half of the employment equation. Employment law is basically an exercise in limiting the power of employers to treat employees as they like. The law does this in order to protect employees who are otherwise vulnerable to unfair treatment - because in the relationship between employer and employee, the employee is in the weaker position. Employers do not have a veto over what employment law should be. That would defeat the point.
Nevertheless, most employers accept the basic framework of employment law – even if they don’t necessarily like it. The Telegraph points out that Alexander Ehmann, head of regulatory affairs at the Institute of Directors, is very disappointed that the proposal has not been taken up. Well I’m sure he is, but the fact that the ‘no-fault dismissal’ idea failed to attract majority support from the small number of actual employers who responded illustrates just what an extremist proposal it was. It seems that today it will finally die a death. Can we move on please?