Monday, 21 September 2009

Employment law

LAG published the eighth edition of Employment law: an adviser's handbook by Tamara Lewis last week. The book is a comprehensive guide to employment law and it deals with recent changes in the law such as the definition of an employee, developing case-law on equal pay and the repeal of the short-lived statutory dispute resolution procedures introduced by the current government.

Over the years, organisations from both sides of industry have usually reacted to legislative changes in employment law introduced by governments with either condemnation or praise depending on how they perceive the changes will impact on their interests. Especially in the early days of the current government, Tony Blair’s 'third way' philosophy purported to break away from the old certainties of the class-based politics which employment law reflected.

The Employment Act 2002 was the vehicle supposed to bring about a New Labour nirvana in the world of employment relations, free from class and other vested interests. The Act tried to appease the interests of employers continually peeved at the ever-spiralling number of Employment Tribunal (ET) claims by introducing statutory minimum disputes and disciplinary procedures that had to be followed in the workplace. The aim of the procedures was to reduce ET claims and, most importantly, keep employees in work by resolving disputes while they were still in employment. The procedures became mired in legal controversy though as employers focused on getting the procedure right rather than on their original aim of resolving disputes.

ET numbers are again rising due to the impact of the recession. The most disturbing statistic for ET claims has remained constant over the years, less than one in 20 applicants who are dismissed return to their job. The repealed procedures were flawed, but early advice and representation for employees remains the most effective way of avoiding injustice and keeping people in employment. Tamara Lewis’s book will continue to play an important part in equipping advisers to do this.

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