Are Employment Rights a Commodity to be Bought & Sold?

Written by Karen Bryan

George Osborne 0480amI was flabbergasted to read the UK Chancellor’s proposal for employees to give up employment rights, such as claims for redundancy and unfair dismissal,  in exchange for company shares. It seems immoral that employment rights are being viewed as a commodity that can be bought and sold.

To me, it smacks of  jam today and worry about tomorrow later.

What on earth is the point of owning shares if the company can dismiss you more easily? What if the value of your shares drops and you’ve jeopardised your future earnings for a dubious short term gain?

I do agree that employers and employees working more closely together is a laudable aim. However I doubt that this will be an automatic consequence of employees owning shares in the company for which they work while having fewer employment rights.

Existing employees can’t be forced to give up their employment rights for shares. However new employees may find that they will have to forfeit their rights in order to get the job, as employers will have the option to only offer rights for shares contracts to new staff.

Update 1 September 2013 – This proposal has now become law. However the take-up is, unsurpisingly, expected to be very low.

One Response to “Are Employment Rights a Commodity to be Bought & Sold?”

  1. I own a fairly serious shareholding in my ex-employer (more than Osborne’s proposal). It didn’t improve my work, though iut didn’t detract either. However, I was jittery with it while working there as you should minimise your shareholding of your employer, for the simple reason that if they suffer financial stress your risk of losing your job rises as the value of your shares takes a nosedive. Ask the former employees of Northern Rock 🙁

    I got a lot less jittery about these once I left The Firm, though paradoxically as a shareholder i benefit from some of the things that were making it a rotten place to work!

    I agree with your subtext on selling rights here. Rights of the person should be inalienable, inded not only is this a bad idea because it doesn’t work, but it’s a bad idea because it creates the concept of alienable human rights, and is the thin end of a wedge. What price your vote, your freedom of association, your right to be present when the charges are read out against you. We have taken thousands of years to come up with the principles of equality before the law and for some of this to be sellable is a very bad step along an ugly and slippery path.

    There may be things wrong with employment law, then let Parliament decide, and let this apply to all employees.