In his article in the Daily Telegraph today, Boris writes on an interesting subject – the industrial tribunal system. From my own experience, sometimes instead of the case he describes, you are forced into taking a large company to a tribunal, even though that is the last thing you want to do, but you simply have no alternative. When the company is blatantly breaking employment law, for example, they might refuse to allow you to apply for a senior post, even though you are doing the job efficiently already, in fact you are doing the job of four people, allowing them to save a hefty wage bill. They then might plan to put a manager over you, while you labour away, in effect doing his and the job of three other people, while he relaxes.
It is the right of every employee to apply for a job if they have already been doing that job without the title and pay increase for over a year. You cannot insist you are given the job, but you have the right to apply. The company cannot deny your right to make an application.
Even if you follow the company grievance procedure for over a year, being forced to recount the same weary facts over and over again, they can still refuse to face the obvious, hoping that you will get fedup and surrender to the inevitable. When you refuse to do that, and with every ounce of courtesy at your disposal continue to insist the law has been broken, they then pressure a few of your colleagues to testify that you are “difficult”, have a drink problem when you don’t even go to the pub, and when, after huge stress, you finally win the case, slag you off in vicious terms to future employers for ever afterwards, making it very hard for you to get another job.
We do therefore need the employment tribunal system. On the other hand, the example above was an extreme case. Boris is totally right that many cute employees have cottoned on to the fact it is a way of making a fast buck, in fact a whole culture has sprung up to exploit the tribunal system. For some people, a pat on the behind can be blown up into a traumatic sexual assault. The lady was supposed to have patted the injured employee three times. Did he use his common sense the first time, and say to her “I’d rather you didn’t do that?” The general public has cottoned on to the fact that industrial tribunals are a good way of getting a lump sum and it is your word against theirs. Play it cute and you can get your mates to blow up the details of any incident you fancy.
As Boris says: “Where, you might ask, is the equality in a system that adds so much to the cost base of business that they can’t afford – or don’t dare – to take on more staff in a recession? For centuries people have fought to protect workers from discrimination and unfair dismissal, and it is of course vital that we should have these safeguards.
The trouble is that it is now becoming standard practice to follow any dismissal or redundancy with a discrimination claim, in the knowledge that the employer – often an emanation of the state – will find it easier and cheaper to cough up rather than argue. The result is that many genuine grievances and genuine cases of discrimination risk being lumped in with a load of codswallop, and the system is in danger, frankly, of being brought into disrepute.”
If you absolutely have to go to an industrial tribunal, you learn a lot and the ordeal is not without its funny side. I was told by an ingenuous senior manager “We’ve treated lots of people in the same way as you. Nobody ever complained before!” I do agree with Boris though. Industrial tribunals should only be used when employment law has been blatantly broken, and even then, only after you have followed the company complaints procedure to the letter and tried your utmost to meet the company half way.
Read the rest of Boris’s fascinating and amusing article here.