At the same time as it published its proposals to reform the tribunal system, the government launched what it called an Employer’s Charter.
There is nothing new in the charter as it simply restates what employers are already permitted to do. But it needs to be treated with considerable caution, however, because when dismissing an employee or introducing a pay-cut, for example, employers have to tread very carefully.
The Charter reads as follows:
- As an employer – as long as you act fairly and reasonably – you are entitled to…
- ask an employee to take their annual leave at a time that suits your business
- contact a woman on maternity leave and ask when she plans to return
- make an employee redundant if your business takes a downward turn
- ask an employee to take a pay cut
- withhold pay from an employee when they are on strike
- ask an employee whether they would be willing to opt-out from the 48 hour limit in the Working Time Regulations
- reject an employee’s request to work flexibly if you have a legitimate business reason
- talk to your employees about their performance and how they can improve
- dismiss an employee for poor performance
- stop providing work to an agency worker (as long as they are not employed by you)
- ask an employee about their future career plans, including retirement.
The danger of this list is it combines some straightforward employers’ rights alongside more complex ones, without explaining where the dangers lurk. At risk of editorialising, there can be no objection to an employer’s charter, and the better informed employers are of their rights and duties, the more effective their organisation is likely to be. But for this charter to be truly effective it will need to be supported by easily available, easy to understand detailed materials.
We would strongly advise LAWmail readers to talk to us before implementing any of the contentious steps outlined above.