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Claire Morley-Jones Headshot

Will Changes to Unfair Dismissal Legislation Create a 'Hire and Fire' Culture?

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Since 6 April 2012, employees can now only contest being struck off on the grounds of unfair dismissal after two years' continuous employment. It is part of a range of measures by the Government to help boost recruitment in tough times and get the jobs market moving.

Some are arguing that this will create a 'hire and fire' culture. As far as I am concerned, anything that makes it easier and less risky for employers (particularly SMEs) to take on new people can only be a good thing!

Getting recruitment right first time

However, the new legislation should not be an excuse for 'short cut' recruitment strategies. Many SMEs I work with have been burned in the past by taking on people on a 'wing and a prayer' without investing the time and resources in properly assessing them - both in terms of skills and 'fit' for the business. They often end up with difficult people who hold back growth but are too much of a headache to get rid of.

There is a danger that this new legislation could spell a step backwards in terms of complacency in recruitment but let's hope that SMEs can see the business case for getting it right first time.

Hiring and firing fairly and transparently

It doesn't matter whether someone can claim unfair dismissal or not, any staff review, restructure or redundancy strategy should have metrics built into it that ensure everyone's skills and roles are assessed fairly. If the right measures are in place and the criteria used to decide who should stay and who should go for the benefit of the business are properly communicated, then unfair dismissal doesn't have to be a headache for employers at all.

Call in the HR experts

However, most owners of SMEs didn't get into business so that they could spend their time going through lengthy recruitment processes and dealing with people management issues and problem staff. Just as staff who are distracted by their own issues can hold back growth, so can a senior management team which is bogged down in day to day HR.

Because HR legislation is constantly changing, it is a full time job keeping on top of it and ensuring that you are complying whilst doing what is right for you and your business. Outsourced HR teams aren't involved in the daily politics and can bring an objective view that is emotionally detached from the people in your business. They can advise on and put measures in place to ensure that all staff are treated fairly and help you sleep at night!

Reducing red tape for SMEs has got to be a priority for the government and this is a step in the right direction. But it must come with a warning - there is no short cut to hiring and firing people that won't come back to bite you in the bum! Do it right first time to save time, money and hassle.