Reduced claims for unfair dismissal
There's good news for employers this month as statistics just issued by the Engineering Employers' Federation show a sharp fall in tribunal cases and claims for unfair dismissal.
The number of cases handled by the organisation's member associations fell by 23 per cent last year to just over 1,700. Overall claims dropped 15 per cent to 3,000.
Whilst these figures are confined only to members of the Federation, albeit the largest manufacturing trade body in the UK, there is every possibility that this easing up of the 'compensation culture' will be reflected in official government figures later in the year.
One of the reasons behind the tide of workplace litigation starting to turn has to be the greater focus of business owners and the government on employment-based issues.
New legislation covering dispute resolution and tribunal procedures was introduced last year after much concern about rising case levels and the growing complexity of employment law. The rules have proved to be a reasonably strong guideline for both bosses and their workforce to follow and their formulation is gradually being justified.
Added to this, growing numbers of employers are now 'putting their house in order' and formalising their human resources function at a sophisticated level. The results are practical, relevant, watertight policies dealing with everything from harassment and discrimination to maternity and paternity leave, disability rights and sickness.
However, it isn't just employers who are reading up on the rules, taking sound professional advice and becoming increasingly aware of the law. New figures released by the Department of Trade and Industry show that employees are becoming much more knowledgeable about their workplace rights.
For example, almost 65 per cent of workers in the UK are aware of their entitlement to request flexible working patterns compared to just 41 per cent in 2003.
Furthermore, in the last two years, almost one in four of working parents with young children have asked if they can work flexibly. Employers agreed to some 81 per cent of these requests, which is a rise on previous years.
Interestingly, and excellent news for employees, the number of requests that were refused by employers, as is their right should the request conflict with the needs of the business as a whole, fell by half to around 11 per cent.
This education within the workplace and opening up of communication and understanding between employer and employee is most wholeheartedly welcomed. Although there is still some way to go - as evidenced by my own workload here at Irwin Mitchell - we should be seeing a distinct drop in tribunal claims in years to come. And, as both employer and employee would agree, that is certainly no bad thing.