Personal Grievances

Vernon Small writes in the Dom Post:

The Government is considering a revamp of personal grievance laws.

The moves include a crackdown on frivolous claims and new rules to control “no win, no fee” advocates who have been seen as ramping up claims against employers.

But unions are concerned that the Government is using the review to reduce employees’ rights when they are sacked, including claims based on unfair process.

Getting the process largely right is important, but it is very difficult for small businesses to get it perfect. They do not have inhouse lawyers. They do not have HR departments. And they are the ones who can least afford losing a claim.

Prime Minister John Key has said the Government “shares concern from many quarters about the fairness and consistency of personal grievance claims”.

Ms Wilkinson said she wanted to ensure the regime was fair to both sides. “You hear stories anecdotally from employers who say, `Oh well, it’s just too hard we will just pay some money to make it go away.’ And that’s not justice.”

She had also heard that some of the “no win, no fee” industrial law advocates “know their way around the procedures so well that, whatever the merits of the case, the employer might pay out”.

In the public sector, three months salary is quite normal to settle claims, regardless of their merits.

CTU president Helen Kelly said “no win, no fee” advocates tended to operate among non-unionised workers and moves to regulate them would not concern the CTU.

I love how the CTU doesn’t mind the Government clamping down on their competitors 🙂

But it had major concerns about other elements of the document. She said the Government saw procedural fairness and natural justice as an impediment when an employee was dismissed.

The remedies won through personal grievances were too low, she said. Surveys had found the average cost to employers was $5000, of which compensation paid to workers averaged $2800.

I wonder if that takes into account the cases settled out of court?

Thousands of employment relationships ended unfairly and employees did nothing about it, so a lot of employers got off lightly. The number of grievance cases was low, considering that about 600,000 people left their jobs each year.

Most people go from one job to another better job, so obviously no grievances tend to occur there. What I would like to know is how many employees get dismissed each year, and what proportion of those result in a settlement or a court case.

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