The 145th Annual Trades Union Congress is underway. Expect more polarising comments in the media about the evils of zero-hours contracts. Congress will call for them to be "outlawed". Well known companies will be attacked for using them. Wherever you stand on the argument at least the issue is about people in work.
Also on the agenda, although on past form likely to attract less media attention, are the recent major changes to employment law that make it easier to sack employees. Employees now have to work for the same employer for a minimum of two years before obtaining unfair dismissal rights. Even then dismissed employees will now face a new fees regime in the Employment Tribunal to enforce their rights and if successful compensation awards will no longer be awarded for more than 12 months' pay. Superficially these appear to be employer friendly changes as do shorter redundancy consultation periods and the new employee shareholder status. However, the risk of being called to account in a Tribunal has for decades underpinned a whole system of performance management, training, discipline at work and protection against arbitrary management decisions from which most of the workforce, from board room to shop floor, benefit. Are we now sleep walking towards a system of employment at will with all the financial insecurities that brings?
The TUC agenda seems a little puerile in places with its references to "Osborne" and the "Con-Dem" Government but at least the unions are highlighting these major changes to employment rights. None of these changes can be found in any political party manifesto - nobody voted for them. Hopefully the inevitable debate on zero-hours contracts does not obscure debate on the wisdom of the other many changes to employment rights.
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