Shapps: Conservative Party would make it easier to sack staff

01 August 2013 Grant Shapps has stated a Conservative government would make it easier to sack workers, saying the party has been unable to go as far as it would like in employment reform while in the Coalition.

16 Aug 2013| News

01 August 2013

Grant Shapps has stated a Conservative government would make it easier to sack workers, saying the party has been unable to go as far as it would like in employment reform while in the Coalition.

The Tory Party Co-Chairman said yesterday (31 July 2013) that employers currently find “disingenuous” reasons to dismiss staff, and his words seemed to imply that he had done so himself at his printing firm. But his solution was not to ensure the law is enforced and that employers face real punishment for unfair dismissal, but rather that the law should be changed to suit the behaviour of these unethical companies.

“We should as a country say there is a way of saying to people: ‘Thank you very much, it has not worked out. Here is a good decent package to move on from this role’…Those are the sort of changes the Conservative would like to see, but haven’t been able to introduce in this parliament due to the Coalition,” he said.

Following employment law reform by the Coalition, which has leant legislation further in favour of employers, workers can now be dismissed for any reason during the first two years of their employment, as such employees are no longer eligible to bring unfair dismissal cases. Even if a worker who Shapps or any other employer decided ‘wasn’t working out’ had been in their role for over two years, claiming for unfair dismissal will now cost them up to £1,200 and they would only be eligible for compensation worth 12 months’ pay.

Regardless of the laws the Coalition has already brought in to make it more difficult for workers to access justice, however, there is a strong question mark hanging over Shapps’ words – what exactly did he mean by ‘not working out’?

He said: “I started a printing company 23 years ago, and it still runs to this day, and we have always sat there and wondered how it is that when you know somebody is not working out right for that company – they are just not fitting into that role – you have to effectively end up coming up with some disingenuous reasons why you need to change that role?

“Either you have to say that role itself is now redundant and re-engineer the way that department operates, or you have to say that person was so bad at their job that you must fire them. It’s disciplinary and will go on their record, and will carry on when they try to get a job somewhere else.

“That is the only two ways of wanting to bring a contract to an end: you either have to pretend the role has gone, or you have to fire the person. That is crazy. In the real world the two of you were not quite a fit and it just did not work out.”

Bearing in mind that if a person is not right for the role they have been given, it is perfectly legal to dismiss them in the first two years of employment, how long exactly does Shapps take to decide that his workers aren’t the right fit? And what exactly constitutes not being right for the role? The Minister implies that saying the worker was very bad at their job would be “disingenuous”, so it’s not that the employee is incompetent (a legal reason for dismissal anyway). So why is it that he wants to sack these workers?

Labour attacked Shapps, noting that the Minister essentially confessed to breaking employment law, but the Conservative Party argued he was not telling an anecdote, but rather illustrating a problem.

Whether this is true or not, it does not make Shapps’ words any more clear. It seems to us that the Conservative mission is to simply make it possible to sack workers because you do not get on with them on a personal level, or perhaps because they become ill, pregnant, or simply older.

Frances O’Grady, General Secretary of the TUC, warned, “People at work should be very afraid. Rather than bearing down on workplace abuses like the misuse of zero-hours contracts, Mr Shapps reveals that the priority for a Conservative government would be to make it even easier to sack employees.

“Already people have to wait two years – a one year increase – to get protection against unfair dismissal. This adds up to scrapping all protection.”