The Herald reports:
Labour leader Andrew Little has indicated his party has changed its position and now backs controversial 90-day trial periods for new employees.
Great if true.
Speaking after a business breakfast this morning, Mr Little was asked about the 90-day trials, and he said Labour’s policy was to add a “fairness requirement”.
“The principle thing is, on the 90-day trial thing, every business owner I talk to about having to give feedback to someone under a trial, they all say, ‘Yeah, but I do that already’.
“So there won’t be any new onerous obligation in that regard. But it will make it fair and we want to write that into the law.”
Asked if his comments meant that the trial periods – previously opposed by Labour – would remain in a Government under his leadership, he said they would.
“We wouldn’t be talking about making the 90-day trial period fairer if we were going to get rid of it…the 90-day trail thing is there, we want to make it fair.”
Now what is crucial is what will be in this fairness requirement? If it is a requirement to follow the same process as for staff outside the 90 day period, then it is effectively abolishing the 90 day period.
If it is merely a requirement to give feedback to staff during the 90 day period, then that is a genuine change of policy – and one to be welcomed.
CTU president Helen Kelly called for clarification.
“Making it fairer gets rid of it, right? He needs to clarify that,” Kelly said.
“We would expect them to effectively get rid of them by making unfair dismissals unlawful.”
Kelly said the 90-day trial periods allowed workers to be dismissed for reasons which would otherwise not be fair, without giving the worker the option of taking a personal grievance claim.
If Labour introduced “just cause” provisions to the trials to allow personal grievances, the CTU could accept that, as this returned to the earlier rules in existing laws covering probationary periods.
Helen Kelly is saying that if you make them “fair” then you are effectively getting rid of them.
So until Labour actually comes up with a explicit policy, we simply don’t know. For now it might just be trying to say one thing to employers and another to unions, and hoping no one notices they are different.
But if it is a genuine change of policy, then it is a good sign for Labour. They’re running a two year consultation on the future of work, and beyond doubt the message they will be getting back is that work in 2015 is massively changed from the 1970s and work arrangements need to be more flexible to reflect that. If they spend two years onsulting and then come up with the exact same policy as in 2011 and 2014 – well it will look like a farce.