Knowledge of Employment Rights Is Essential In The Current Climate -- Fear Of Redundancy is Making People Work Longer And Harder.

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Employers are taking advantage of the economic climate to create fear in the work place. They’re using redundancy procedures to reduce numbers so that staff have to work harder and longer, according to employment advice specialists Compromise Agreements Limited, a view confirmed by several other expert commentators.

Compromise Agreements Limited, a company offering free and impartial employment advice, has noticed a big increase in the number of enquiries recently. They put this down to increased pressure at work because of the current economic downturn; a view confirmed by other commentators including the GMB Union, the British Academy and the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development.

Employment law solicitor Alex Monaco says, “A common problem is bullying by line managers. The culture of job instability is putting pressure on employees to work more for less, and we’re seeing a rise in the number of internal conflicts.” (1)

When the coalition government announced an expected loss of 490,000 public sector jobs by 2014-2015, many people in government offices across Britain had their worse fears confirmed: their redundancy was imminent. But according to the CIPD, last month's spending review will have far harsher consequences across the public and private sectors than the government estimates. They say that the full impact of the cuts will be total job losses of around 1.6 million by 2015-2016, which will hit the private sector harder. (2)

The threat of redundancy will have a massive impact on employees and stress in the workplace is predicted to increase. Paul Maloney, senior organiser at GMB Union says, “Employers are taking advantage of the economic climate to create fear in the work place. I’ve seen the fear factor after the 1975 election and into the 80s. They’re using redundancy procedures to force people to re-interview for their own jobs and reduce staff numbers so that they work harder and longer leading to stress and fatigue.”(3)

A recent report published by The British Academy on the 29th October concluded stress at work has soared in the recession as those who have managed to keep their jobs are suffering under the pressure of companies downsizing and restructuring. (4)

There are strict procedures employers have to take when declaring redundancies. These include giving written notice with notice pay for staff who have been with a company for less than two years, and a lump sum redundancy payment if they have been there for more. One process of settling a dispute is by signing a legal document called a Compromise Agreement whereby the employee agrees to leave quietly in return for other concessions. These commonly include a larger tax free lump sum payment, and may also specify a guarantee of good references and an undertaking to keep the circumstances confidential.

Alex Monaco advises “Many employers take the attitude: ‘I’m the employer and you’re the employee, I dictate the terms of the Compromise Agreement.’ But a real Compromise Agreement should be exactly that - it should represent a genuine compromise between the parties, so good representation from a union or an independent specialist is essential. Workers should put in a written grievance about any mistreatment and write a ‘without prejudice’ letter asking for whatever sum they feel is enough to get them through to finding another job. Thankfully there is a silver lining and we’re getting positive feedback from employees who have negotiated a tax free lump sum and parted company to pastures new”.

1) Alex Monaco is Senior Director for Compromise Agreements Limited, a company committed to giving free and impartial advice settling employment disputes. Contact on 0800 533 5134.
2) The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development’s estimates 0.9 million private sector and 0.7 million public sector jobs will be lost by 2015-2016.). (Figures taken from article in Personnel Today published on 2nd November)
3)Quote from Paul Maloney, a senior organiser at GMB with over 30 years experience. Contact on (paul(dot)maloney(at)gmb(dot)org(dot)uk)
4)Report titled ‘Stress at Work’ by Professor Tarani Chandola by British Academy concluded an increase of work stress by 4-6% from spring 2009 to spring 2010, which is felt particularly in the public sector. The report also found an increase of job insecurity, where almost a fifth of workers think it is ‘likely’ they will lose their jobs and a rise in interpersonal conflict in the work place.


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