Fair Job UK on the Telly

On Andrew Doyle’s Free Speech Nation, GB News on Sunday 28th April 2024, Co Founder of Fair Job UK, Steve Chilcott discusses the devastating impact EDIC (Equity, Diversity, Inclusion and Climate) training has had on the British Workplace with Andrew Doyle and introduces Fair Job UK’s services.

Steve Chilcott, Co Founder of Fair Job UK discusses how EDI Training is causing huge problems in the UK workplace on Andrew Doyle’s Free Speech Nation 28/4/24

The burden of HR is becoming impossible for the small to medium business sector.

I remember sitting in my father in law’s office. I was a spotty 30 year old executive so this would have been around 2001. We were discussing HR, the bane of his life. He ran an oil and gas Engineering Recruitment Business and was bemoaning that he increasingly had to work with HR teams rather than the managers he used to supply to and there was a serious gap in the technical and market knowledge of the HR recruiters who typically had never even seen an oil rig or well, let alone understood how they worked. This was one of the periods in the industry when corporate procurement teams decide that staffing can be commoditised so they write large contracts with the likes of Capita and…well… we all know what happens. Eventually they realise this doesn’t work before going back to basics only for the same to creep in over the next 5 to 10 years. Over the thirty or so years of my career I have seen this cycle rinse and repeat again and again.

Anyway, at the time, he pointed to a shelf on the wall of his office – there, in all their glory, was a dust covered series of bound volumes of papers from Croners. This was the HR bible for small businesses. If you needed any help or advice, you’d simply reach for Croners and the answer would be there. Every month, Croners would post out update pages and you would swap out the old ones for the new.

My father in law only opened Croners when he was hiring someone or managing sick leave. Mostly they remained closed, only ever opened monthly when his PA would swap out the old for the updates.

Then, around 2010, when the Equality Act came in we started to see an increase in the amount of time, but also the amount of expertise required to navigate HR. Croner’s volumes were no longer sufficient.  A new breed of service provider emerged – the freelance HR Consultant, offering services to small businesses. Since then the burden has continued to increase. The paradox here being that the laws and administrative functions required to comply with them have pretty much all been designed for larger employers with the in house specialists to manage. The paradox being that the majority of British workers work in Small to Medium Enterprises (SMEs) which are under 250 and unlikely to have such expertise in house.

Now none of this is necessarily unusual, anyone running a small business knows that  the lobbying power of big business has seen a huge increase in the burden of bureaucracy, this was a particular feature of the EU. It is in the interest of big business to increase the burden of statutory administration, knowing that smaller competitors cannot afford to implement it. Sadly, Parliament has proven remiss in protecting the Small Business Sector and those entrusted to represent us have been less than on top of this. The culmination being the open favouring of big businesses over small during the lockdowns and the largest transfer of wealth in history.

So back to HR in small businesses. We know that the introduction of Equity/Equality Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) policies, driven by activist organisations and ESG policies has backfired on the British Economy. The figures are in supported by the Dynata Survey data from the Free Speech Union  and the Department For Business and Trade report in March 2024 .

However, employers continue to push these policies and demand compliance from their workforce. As I highlighted in my article last week, this is having serious real world consequences to the tune of several hundred thousand losing their jobs for essentially having the ‘wrong opinions’. ESG initiatives have EDI baked into them – if a large business wants funding from somewhere like Blackrock, then they need to agree to implement ESG as a condition of the funding. This inevitably means driving EDI and other ‘initiatives’ down the supply chain. Supply paper clips to a FTSE250? Well you now need to show you have a raft of policies in your business, no matter how small, including EDI and EDI training. It’s the same in the public sector and it is all very well for Kemi Badenoch to highlight the problems with this but NHS trusts and others in the public sector are pushing the same to their suppliers.

This is how EDI is pushed into small businesses. It’s usually done by buying ‘off the shelf’ training or bringing in an EDI consultancy, usually staffed by activists,  which then quickly trains the staff in ideologies like Critical Race Theory and Radical Trans Allyship. As the government report quoted above highlights, training EDI is extremely complex and it is very easy, through lack of time or resources, to get it wrong and for it to backfire horribly on your business leading to the devastating number of sackings and other negative outcomes. This is how 65% of British workers report that they have been trained in EDI despite most British workers working in SMEs.

How on earth are Small Businesses meant to navigate all this without time and resources. Furthermore, if they have inadvertently damaged their business by, with the best intentions, implementing EDI which has destroyed employee and colleague relationships, how on earth can you fix this?

Employment legislation and small businesses – the problem

We hear an increasing volume of complaints from small business owners that the implementation of the vast amount of legislation and statutory processes concerning the employment of workers is taking up more and more time. Furthermore, it is hugely complex and the consequences of an error, even an innocuous one, can have serious implications.

No one wants to go back to the bad old days where job security and employees’ rights were pipe dreams. However, the dominance of big business, NGOs and Corporates in the corridors of power means that the practical application of these laws, and the legal processes once they are initiated, are more aimed for those with the resources of large, specialist HR departments and the legal budgets to match.

The worrying ruling of Nolan vs Fairchild earlier this month, gives a case law that seems to suggest that the interactions between colleagues, employer and employee are to be micromanaged, the consequences of getting this wrong could result in an Employer losing a future Employment Tribunal. A misplaced comment, or angry remark when tired could trigger this. Read Professor David McGrogan’s detailed analysis of this here .

What was interesting about this case was the unspoken attitude of the Judges. There seems to be a blithe assumption that those who employ others are a combination of millionaire exploiter robber baron strawman and have access to vast resources and expertise to defend their corner. Yes, Employee Liability Insurance does provide some of the latter. But it doesn’t provide the cover for the impact of fighting a Tribunal on a very small business. The stress, the very public examination of your character, the time lost from the day job, the disruption in the workplace with other employees; none of this is covered.

We have already discussed that any decision to fight any Employment Tribunal should be carefully considered and professionals consulted. That, although it can gall every nerve in the body, occasionally settlement is the lesser of two evils. We have already recommended that it is a general rule, as it is in all business matters, to nip things in the bud long before they get anywhere near a court of any sort.

The problem is that ensuring you have all the ‘i’s dotted and ‘t’s crossed viz Employment Law and the Equality Act and others and ensured that all colleagues and managers understand their obligations, is a serious and taxing task for anyone, let alone someone who is just trying to run a guesthouse or local shop.

It is absurd that a tea room should have to contest an Employment Tribunal under the same terms as an NHS Trust, but that is where we are. Of course employees should have a recourse to justice but the method of that justice must be appropriate for the resources and size of the employer. Dragging Employers halfway across the country to contest a tribunal when the technology exists to do this over video is simply absurd.

There is a gap between how Employment Law is administrated and the actual employment market it is there to administer. As Napoleon said 200 years ago, we are still a ‘nation of shopkeepers’ most people work in SMEs – businesses under 250 people. Yet our machinery of Employment Justice is set up for large employers and the majority of those working within it have little or no experience of running a small business themselves.

Until this matter changes, SMEs will just have to muddle along. We can help with this. Get in touch for more information.

EDI has broken my business

Increasingly we are seeing situations where the implementation of well meaning Equality/Equity, Diversity and Inclusivity policies and training is destroying workplace harmony and the relationships necessary to run any successful employer. This is a particularly serious situation in small businesses (SMEs in the UK so under 250 employees) where a single activist employee can cause huge problems for the business.

We’ve come across situations where employees have refused to work because they disagree politically with the owner. Where demands to fire colleagues have been made because they are deemed to be racists, homophobes, transphobes or ‘far right’. We have seen large employers appease these mobs and terminate staff for simply expressing opinions they have a legal right to hold and express.

In a small business this can be catastrophic, so, how do you make sure that this doesn’t happen to yours, and, if it does, what do you do about it?

Fair Job UK is an accreditation scheme and HR consultancy. Our members agree to a Pledge and a Code. A Pledge that they will treat their employees in a fair way within the law and a Code of Conduct that employees will agree to honour the pledge and in return, stick to the job and keep the politics out of the workplace. We also have suites of policies to allow you to bake this into your workplace paperwork.

But what do you do if relations have completely broken down? Well, we are here to help, our experts have a lot of experience in managing these sorts of situations and depending how far things have gone, it may be a simple matter of advice. However, should you need legal or specialist HR support we can put you in touch.

Another method we would recommend is Dr Dina McMillan’s video courses Dina is a Social Psychologist specialising in rewinding some of the misconceptions your employees may have about EDI. She does this through easy to absorb video sessions but can also provide bespoke remedial sessions when required.

Access to Dina’s material is part of a Fair Job UK Membership and Pledged Members will get access to a suite of quick videos to help you. Higher level support and training is available for Accredited Members and Dina can also provide bespoke support on request. We cannot recommend here enough.

When and when not to fight an Employment Tribunal

It is unfortunate that those running smaller businesses these days are expected to understand employment law and the Equality Act inside out, and have the funds to bankroll long and extensive litigation with former employees.

Unfortunately, there is a misconception in government and in the courts that private businesses are bottomless wells, this is because laws are often formed on the assumption that an employee works for a major global corporate or a large public sector organisation. The reality is that most people in the UK work in small businesses so there is a gap between the law and the people it is there to serve.

If you add the prevalence of no win no fee employment lawyers who will sometimes encourage claimants on ‘fishing’ exercises to see what change they can get out of a threatening letter to an employer and the number of judges in the Employment Tribunal service who appear to think that their job is to debate the nuances of the Equality Act and defend the ‘oppressed’ worker against the nasty, greedy business owner. One of the issues here is that all to often those who make these judgements have no experience of running a small business or employing anyone, certainly recently.

The reality is that it is all too easy to pick up Employment Tribunal complaints these days. I have lost count of the number of claims I have defended clients from where an employee has been say, fired for Gross Misconduct and then, within a few weeks you get a claim letter from a solicitor claiming discrimination. Laws, written for good reasons, sometimes assume that those using them will only do so when they have an actual case, all to often they are abused by bad actors and chancers.

As the consequences of losing an ET can be existential for a small business, not to mention 2 years of stress and hell, of having your character questioned in Tribunal, of having your finances drained to the point that you literally cannot continue to trade, it is imperative that you do what you can to a) not get into an ET scenario and b) if you do, to consider, very carefully, if this is a fight you wish to have.

So let’s look at a) This is why it is imperative to ensure your employees know exactly what is expected of them, have a sound employment contract and also you have a suite of policies that ensure that they behave in a reasonable manner. The Fair Job UK Pledge and Code are designed to ensure that the employer/employee relationship does not collapse to the point of litigation, to encourage all parties to respect each other’s rights, to ensure that employees understand the pressure and reality of running a small business and to give you access to a third party professional who can diffuse any situation.

b) when to fight and when not to fight. It is a common myth that you will get justice in any court or tribunal. You may be fortunate, however, you may equally be unlucky. Unfortunately justice never pans out like on the telly, even when you have the right of it and the evidence is in your favour, you can lose on a technicality. That loss can be catastrophic. Here’s a question: why do large employers rarely lose Employment Tribunals? I’ll let you into a secret, it isn’t because they they don’t pick up claims, all employers do. It isn’t because sometimes they treat worker appallingly, they do. It is because they ensure that the case never gets to Tribunal by agreeing a compromise agreement between the worker and the employer. This usually takes the form of a payment in return for a settlement where both parties agree not to take action against each other.

Whilst it can hurt the soul to make a payment to someone who does not deserve it, sometimes it can be the less painful of options. When you consider the stress and costs of fighting a tribunal as an employer, it’s ten time worse as a small employer, sometimes discretion can be the better part of valour. This can be against every fibre in your body, when you scream at the injustice, and we understand that. However, we also know the odds and the risks and we can help you make this decision and advise and negotiate on your behalf. The most important thing to do is to talk it through with a professional before you make any decision. That’s what we are here for.

HR is becoming a major headache for small businesses

If you run a small business (in the UK that’s any under 250 employees) then the chances are you are spending an inordinate amount of your time addressing HR issues. This seems to be getting worse since 2020. The problem is that it is very difficult to ignore these issues as the consequences can be existential for your business.

The last 10 years have seen an overspill into the workplace of ideas that used to be kept within academia. Black Lives Matter, Trans Rights, Covid, Discrimination at Work, MeToo and legislation like the Equality Act 2010 have all impacted the workplace. Large organisations have been falling over themselves to implement HR policies to reflect these societal issues. This is creating an expectation, not just with employees but with society in general, that small businesses and employers should do the same. The problem is that small businesses do not have the expertise to address these issues.

On top of this, it is not like large employers get this right. Over the last few years we have seem multiple occasions where large employers have broken the Employment Act or the Equality Act in shoehorning ‘woke’ policies onto employees, undermining their Rights as protected by both laws.

The thing is: there is no requirement to have an Equality/Equity Diversity and Inclusion Policy in your business. There’s no legal obligation to train your staff in it either. Yes, some of you will be supplying to NHS Trusts and other organisations that make such policies a pre requisite of supplying, however, there’s no obligation to implement policies that include radical interpretations of EDI.

FairJob UK is here to help small businesses navigate this minefield. It is completely unfair that small businesses are expected to spend inordinate amounts of time on this and we believe that all small businesses should have access to affordable, robust support to help manage this burden. You are not alone.

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