Harsher penalties for employers needed
If acting general secretary of the National Union of Public Workers (NUPW) Roslyn Smith had her way, employers who disobeyed an order to reinstate or re-engage an employee would be made to pay a hefty penalty.
Section 37 of the Employment Rights Act states that where an order for reinstatement of an employee or his re-engagement is made and the employee is re-engaged or reinstated but the order is not fully complied with, or if the employee is not reinstated or re-engaged, then the Employment Rights Tribunal shall award compensation to the employee, payable by the employer. The amount of that award would be influenced by several factors.
However, Smith has insisted that is not sufficient.
She said it was “miniscule” and was not enough of a deterrent.
“The employer would argue that reinstatement could increase tension at the workplace. There was an article by an employer who said that the worker is unruly and they really don’t want to take them back. But we are saying that if that is so there should be some kind of penalty added to that employer for that outcome,” the NUPW official said.
“We are saying that an employer should not be allowed to breach a person’s rights and get away with a mere monetary penalty. When a worker is given a lump sum what then happens to that worker? They need a regular salary . . . I would suggest that the penalty for not obeying an order to reinstate should be significantly more than what currently exists. I would recommend that workers should receive a minimum of two years wages. This would act as a deterrent so that employers would think twice before they act and ensure that they are acting on good grounds.”
Smith further argued that the chief labour officer should hear unfair dismissal cases while the Employment Rights Tribunal should handle appeals against decisions in these cases.
The existing legislation requires the chief labour officer to act as a conciliator in unfair dismissal cases.
“I find that the conciliation, which tries to get the parties to come to a meeting, does not work . . . I would prefer to see a situation where the chief labour officer hears the evidence and be allowed to make a decision. The Employment Rights Tribunal would then act as an appellant body. This would significantly improve what is now on the statute books,” she said.
“At present the chief labour officer is like a toothless bulldog on a short leash. The legislation binds him too tightly,” Smith contended, adding that the Labour Department was doing the