‘Workers may use Agency Workers Regulations to put employers in the dock’

Imposing a financial penalty on employers for breaching employment law would worsen the potentially damaging ‘blackmail effect’ of claims that have little merit, HR and recruitment directors warn.

Run by the Association of Recruitment Consultancies, a vote among 40 staffing captains found that they were unanimously against a large fine for non-compliance of employment law, as the government proposes.

Rather than ease the ‘blackmail effect’ of spiteful, weak and almost baseless employment claims, which employers often pay out of fear for their reputations and heftier tribunal costs, a penalty would actually compound it.

One of the recruiters who voted explained their verdict: “It is outrageous that the government is contemplating this. It could put smaller companies out of business, and I think we need a much fairer solution for all parties.”

That solution might include the introduction of an early vetting process to strike out weak and vexatious cases, or may see their claimants asked to pay a deposit to pursue the claim; each are positive approaches in the eyes of the directors.

Taking further aim at the existing regime, the ARC pointed out that, currently, it is difficult to get a claim struck out, and in 90 per cent of the claims settled through arbitration service ACAS, the employer had to pay out.

“Far too many employers are subject to the ‘blackmail effect’, and the balance is unfairly tipped against respondents – whether employers or agency suppliers,” said ARC chairman Adrian Marlowe.

“Our pressing concern is that, if the current employment tribunal process is not reformed, there could be a raft of unfounded and vexatious claims springing from the Agency Workers’ Regulations, which come into force on 1st October.”

Wednesday 20th April 2011