I should be grateful to the venture capitalist Adrian Beecroft. Being a partner in a young business taking on its first employees I lie awake at night wondering what to do when faced with a militant slacker who will undermine our endeavours at every turn.
He has reported to the government on how to "lift the burden of red tape from small to medium-sized businesses, which lack the human resources departments and expertise to deal with complex tribunal" since in his analysis a proportion of employees "coast along... secure in the knowledge that their employees will be reluctant to dismiss them."
Well actually I'm not. And to be honest the oversimplification in what has been reported in his analysis (and echoed in pieces by Luke Johnson in the FT) is infuriating to anyone with insight into systems for managing and motivating human capital. Throwing some red meat to the slackers/benefit cheats/immigrants brigade isn't going to get to the heart of this particular problem.
But let's first be honest about a few things - of course there are ridiculous examples of compensation being paid to individuals who feel harshly treated as applicants and employees, and we should also take into consideration large sums paid out in compromise deals because it will probably be cheaper than contesting a claim of unfair dismissal. (Interestingly though, the example quoted by Luke Johnson - £4000 compensation for a 10 minute interview that injured the applicants feelings which I agree with him was ludicrous - was four years ago).
We should break this down sensibly.
The CIPD has correctly pointed out that performance management systems, properly followed afford a perfectly efficient method of exiting an under-performer from an organisation. Unfortunately for many small businesses the type of performance management systems they refer to rely on an HR capability they do not have, or consultancy they cannot afford.
Even when systems are in place however the problem still exists. I have been called on several times in my career to assist in the exiting of an "under-performer." When I ask the manager for the record of performance management I have been horrified to find a record of perfectly acceptable ratings, often stretching back years. In companies of scale, where there are systems in place - the problem of underperformance can be as much if not more an issue of management capability.
The employment entry point is also critical. Over the past year a number of my clients have raised concerns that their capability in the area of assessing and selecting the skills and talents they require has been neglected. Productivity research indicates that someone who is the right fit for the job, over someone who is simply adequate will have an output at least 30% higher. The more complicated and senior the role the higher this figure becomes.
So - this is a red herring to the Daily Mail brigade. An evidence-based approach would suggest two things. For larger employees make use of the systems you have - and if it still isn't working, chances are it is your managers that are to blame. For small employers, the Government should look to helping them make the best selection and management decisions around their human capital - though economic development agencies for example.
There are simple low-cost methods that would have helped the employer quoted by Luke Johnson not only avoid the legal issues - but identify the best fit person for the job.
Many of these issues can be resolved before they come anywhere near a court, and a reactionary headline. There would probably be less votes in that though, oh well...