Official figures in 2013 recorded 190,000 new employment tribunal claims, but the actual number of claimants was approximately 110,000, according to a study by a Cardiff University academic, Johnathan Mace. Some claims were renewed every three months, resulting in the same person’s claim being counted four times in a year, Mace told the British Sociological Association conference.
When an employee submitted a claim against their employer for failure to comply with the Working Time Directive, such as incorrectly calculating holiday pay, the system required them to resubmit their claim every three months. If the claim took a year to be heard at a tribunal, it was recorded four times as a claim, rather than only once.
In 2013, Matt Hancock, the then Skills and Enterprise Minister relied on the inflated figures and introduced tribunal fees of up to £1,200 to reduce the number of tribunal claims.
Hancock said: “Unscrupulous workers caused havoc by inundating companies with unfounded claims of mistreatment, discrimination or worse. Like Japanese knotweeds, the soaring number of tribunal cases dragged more and more companies into its grip, squeezing the life and energy from Britain’s wealth creators.”
The policy ultimately led to a sharp reduction of tribunal claims. Nigel Mackay, a partner in employment law at Leigh Day said the drops in claims particularly affected people with “low value but entirely merited claims who were deterred by the fees”.
“They were the sort of people that would be deterred from making claims about not being paid the minimum wage, while from the employer side they were happy with people being deterred”, he said.
Mace believes that “The rise in employment tribunal claims 2002/03 to 2012/13 was driven at least in part by ‘ghost claims’ and not ‘Japanese knotweeds’ or vexatious claims.
“The statistics therefore do not validate some of the policy and political interpretations that have been based on them.
“The fall in employment tribunal claims following the introduction of employment tribunal fees may have been partially coincidental as a result of ‘ghost claim’ issue unwinding itself”, he said.
In 2017, the Supreme Court unanimously ruled that the government’s introduction of tribunal fees were unlawful and unconstitutional. People who previously paid fees were entitled to a refund. However, it was announced last year that the government was exploring ways to reintroduce tribunal fees.
A spokesperson for the Ministry of Justice said that no decision has been made to introduce new fees and dismissed Mace’s “ghost” claims. The spokesperson said its figures made it clear that resubmitted cases were included, but it was difficult to estimate how many new claims were resubmitted claims.
Hundreds of British Gas engineers will lose their jobs by midday on Wednesday after a long-running dispute called a “fire and rehire scheme” by the GMB Union, in which engineers are asked to agree to new terms or face dismissal.
The workers were expected to agree on the changes by 1 April, but the deadline was postponed by two weeks to give those who hadn’t signed the contract time to reconsider.
Under the new contract, full-time engineers would be required to extend their working week from 37 to 40 hours per week, start the working day in the customer’s home rather than their own home, and would not be paid a higher rate to work on weekends and bank holidays.
Most trade unions and employees accepted the terms, it is understood that 500 have refused to sign by the end of Tuesday. British Gas anticipates a final round of eleventh-hour contract signing, leaving between 300 and 400 engineers jobless.
The GMB has gone on strike for more than 40 days in recent months in protest against the new terms. The protest has resulted in a backlog of millions of customers waiting for service visits and hundreds of thousands waiting for emergency repairs.
GMB regional secretary Justin Bowden said, “The British Gas leadership disaster reaches its low point on April 14th with mass sackings of British Gas Engineers, in the only consistently profitable part of the company, by a management team too stupid to see the true value of uniquely skilled and loyal workforce”.
“With hundreds of thousands waiting in the backlog for service, customers have been treated as collateral and so it seems too will staff, as MR O’Shea prepares to go down in history as the first major FT listed CEO to carry out mass sackings of his highly skilled and qualified engineers whilst his customers are waiting for visits.”
A spokesperson for British Gas said it was changing its business model and believe the changes are reasonable.
“There is a job for everyone at the end of the process. We are changing the way we work to give our customers the service they want and protect the future of our company and 20,000 UK jobs,” the spokesperson said.
Centrica, the owners of British Gas has lost more than three-quarters of its market value in the past five years, and the suppliers recently reported the lowest earnings on record.
Watford Employment Tribunal announced that the dismissal of Mr Rawal was unfair. The court explained that “the predominating reasons behind the claimant’s dismissal were his union activities” and a “poor relationship” with his line manager Simon Madday.
However, the tribunal rejected Rawal’s claims of race discrimination under the Equality Act of 2010.
Royal Mail Dismissed Rawal on a Complaint:
Mr Rawal, a postal worker who was employed by Royal Mail as a delivery and collection driver since 2000 had a clean disciplinary record.
The tribunal also heard that Rawal had multiple positions during his employment at Royal Mail such as a health and safety officer, branch editor of the Communication Workers Union (CWU), and deputy safety area representative for the North Home Countries of the CWU branch.
Mr Rawal was filmed urinating by a member of the public and was later dismissed by Royal Mail for gross misconduct in November 2017.
Royal Mail received a customer complaint in September 2017 which including dashcam footage of Rawal allegedly relieving himself. “It was disturbing to see a person doing such act on the street, particularly someone belonging to a large, popular, and official company like Royal Mail,” the complaint issued in a statement.
Rawal claimed his union activities “brought him into conflict with his direct line manager, Maddy who did not like him questioning Royal Mail practices.”
Maddy told the tribunal that he referred Rawal’s case to another line manager, Vicky Dunkley.
Dunkley dismissal Rawal without notice and cited that the reason for dismissal was the urination in a public place. Rawal appealed against the decision but this was upheld.
Evidence Against Royal Mail In Tribunal Hearing:
The tribunal heard a recording of a discussion between Dunkley and Marshall who was a note taker in Rawal’s disciplinary hearing in which it said ““Just sack him. I can’t be bothered with it. It’s boring, all this stuff. Just tell him, look, he done it. We know he done it. Just sack him.”
Rawal also named at least 12 colleagues who had been caught urinating in public and in some cases in customer’s gardens had not been dismissed.
One postal worker admitted to the tribunal that “postmen urinate in public all the time”, while another employee said “there was not a single individual who had never caught short of the facilities and urinated in a public place while doing his job for a long time.”
Tribunal’s Decision & Reward:
Judge Skehan concluded that Rawal was unfairly dismissed and added “public urination is not an unusual matter that the [Royal Mail] must deal with”.
Rawal was awarded £37,720.98 was made up of a basic award of £8,068.50 for unfair dismissal and a compensatory award of £29,652.48.
The tribunal dismissed a separate claim for racial discrimination made by Rawal.
The measures under consultation include relaxation of the Working Time Directive (WTD), which sets down the 48-hour working week, overtime pay and rest breaks.
Shadow business secretary, Ed Miliband, accused the government of trying to take a “wrecking ball” to hard-won workers’ rights. Kawrteng denied Miliband’s remarks, instead stated that he wanted to “protect and improve” labour law.
The minister stated to business leaders that in the aftermath of the Brexit deal, the UK now has the option of improving upon legislation originating from EU law. Difficulties encountered during time within the EU could now be rectified. “The idea that we are trying to whittle down standards, that’s not at all plausible or true”, he affirmed, addressing concerns from MPs.
Kwarteng tweeted on 14 January 2021, “We are not going to lower the standards of workers’ rights. The UK has one of the best workers’ rights records in the world – going further than the EU in many areas. We want to protect and enhance workers’ rights going forward, not row back on them.”
Kwarteng explained to MPs how several EU countries had also opted out of the WTD, and even following that the UK is “above the average European standard and I think we can be a high-level, high-employment economy, a very successful economy, and that is what we should aim for.”
Miliband questioned the government’s priorities and warned that relaxing the 48-hour working week would harm workers in key sectors, including those working for the NHS, transport and airlines from working excessive hours.
James Reed, president and chairman of the UK’s largest recruitment firm ‘Reed’ urged the government to turn its attention to unemployment and improving conditions for lower-paid workers. He told the BBC Today that as unemployment continues to rise the government should prioritise reforming ‘the apprenticeship levy, which is clearly failing…and also National Insurance on jobs. It’s a tax on jobs – how can that be improved? Especially to help the low-paid back into work.”
Under the post-Brexit deal with the EU, the UK agreed to conditions that maintain fair competition, or a level playing field, between two sides. Relaxing the WTD runs the risks relations with the EU.
Joao Vale de Almeida, the EU’s ambassador to the UK warned on that if the government went too far with deregulation then Brussels could retaliate.
“It will be for us to judge the extent to which it violates this principle of ‘level playing field’ and if that is the case there are mechanisms in the treaty, in the agreement, that allows us to discuss and eventually to come to an understanding – if no understanding there are retaliation measures that can be applied on both sides,” said Vale de Almeida.
In a survey of 1,172 workers published by the Royal Society of Arts (RSA), 6 per cent of British workers went to work with Covid-19 symptoms. What was even more alarming is that 1 in 25 workers had attended work within 10 days of receiving a positive Covid-19 test.
Research also found that 12 per cent of respondents felt pressure from their employer to return to work when they could work safely from home. Government guidance states anyone testing positive with COVID-19 should quarantine in self-isolation for at least 10 days, or if asymptomatic, 10 days from receiving positive test results.
Alan Lockey, head of the RSA’s future work programme, warns “our polling shows that millions feel forced to put themselves and others at risk of the virus because of insecure work, pressure from bosses and the failings of our deeply inadequate welfare state.”
Just 16 per cent of workers felt that statutory sick pay is sufficient to meet their families. Sick pay should cover at least 80% of workers’ wages, says RSA. Lockey said, “Rishi Sunak must close this economic security trap – the terrible trade-off many workers face between their health and putting food on the table – by allowing self-isolating workers to access the furlough scheme, and retaining the £20 per week uplift in universal credit.”
According to the CIPD, only 30 per cent of the promised £500 government financial support claims have been paid out to workers who have been told to isolate by the NHS Test and Trace service. Low-paid workers are faced with a ‘post-code lottery’ when it comes to whether or not their financial support claims will be approved, with some local authorities paying £500 of Test and Trace support payments more frequently than other areas of the UK.
Self-isolation is widely described as the most effective method for stopping the spread of the virus, according to the Resolution Foundation, but when families are forced to make a significant financial sacrifice, it becomes almost impossible. The charity has urged the government to extend its furlough scheme to include self-isolation payments and to include self-employed workers in grants of up to £830. Maja Gustafsson, a charity researcher, explained that it would take months for the vaccination program to become widely effective, and many more workers will need to stay home from work this year.
“Given the failure of the current sick pay regime, the government must turn now to the far more successful job support schemes to provide workers and firms with the financial support they need to do the right thing,” said Gustafsson.