2012: This is to be a year replete with discussion over what it means to be British. As the reigning monarch celebrates her 60th year on the throne, and London prepares to host the world’s most prestigious sporting event, another British hallmark is to be enshrined: the sense of fair play.
The final months of 2011 saw the passing of the Agency Worker Regulations (AWR), which ensured equal rights for all workers, including those employed on a temporary basis. The passing of the AWR mandates that, after a period of 12 weeks, temp workers are entitled to the same rights and protections as permanent staff.
Now that casual work is not so casual anymore employers will be obliged to provide annual leave, sick pay, rest breaks and, most importantly, justification of dismissal. Rather than simply letting staff go, employers in 2012 must follow a dismissal procedure and evidence an employee’s clear inability to satisfy the requirements of their role before terminating employment.
This is great news for that traditional British value: fair play. No longer can the unscrupulous profit from the exploitation of the nation’s unemployed. However, the new legislation outlined by the AWR does leave all employers more vulnerable to charges of unfair dismissal. This means that it’s now more important than ever for organisations to utilise clear and objective measures of staff performance in order to corroborate claims of poor practice and justify dismissal where necessary.
Research by Silent Edge into the effectiveness of competency frameworks has found that objective measures are instrumental to ensuring accurate information about individual capability. A competency framework is a methodology that measures staff’s ability to fulfil particular requirements of their role. However, such assessments are open to manipulation. Subjective opinion can yield misleading results, and staff might be unfairly penalised (or rewarded) because of naiveté or favouritism.
In fact, misrepresentation of employee ability is rife. The competency framework study – published in April 2012 – found that only 8% of HR Directors are currently in a position to identify what good behaviour looks like. Furthermore, just 33% of participants felt that their organisation objectively measures staff competency. Without the ability to accurately gauge staff performance, employers will struggle to demonstrate objective justification in cases of unfair dismissal.
Picture this: an employer, Alison, has always had a particular aversion to her Sales Manager, Joe. She dislikes his attitude, politics, even his hairstyle. Of course this is not, in itself, grounds for dismissal. However, Joe has begun underperforming at work. He’s faced several warnings, but failed to improve. Alison then has the responsibility of proving objectively that Joe is failing to fulfil the requirements of his role. If she were to simply reel off a list of anecdotal evidence about Joe’s flaws then this could well fall short of justification for dismissal, after all, she never liked him anyway. However, by supporting her case with evidence garnered from impartial measurement, Alison can demonstrate, in a completely unbiased way, why Joe is going to be let go.
Lance Mortimer – Performance Coach at Silent Edge, and author of the recent research into competency frameworks – has posited that the impact of the AWR will be felt across the business sector. “It comes down to this”, he observes, “The world of employment has changed significantly. Employees can’t just be dismissed on a feeling. You need to be able to evidence reasons why”. As a consequence of this legislation, objective measures are now more important than ever to the protection of both employer and staff.
2012 is to be a memorable year for Britain; a year of impressive display, and shared appreciation. But perhaps our greatest source of pride ought to be our commitment to equity and fairness. At a confusing and tumultuous point in history, it is this straight-forward, non-partisan approach that will protect both the powerful and the most vulnerable in society and ensure the preservation of fair play.