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Cath Everett

Sift Media

Freelance journalist and former editor of HRZone

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News: Employers believe ‘protected conversations’ will lead to bullying

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A worrying two thirds of employers believe that the government’s ‘protected conversation’ proposals will lead to abuse, acting as a smokescreen for threats and bullying that would otherwise constitute a breach of contract.

However, a mere 13% of those questioned in a survey undertaken by law firm Pannone said that they would refrain from taking advantage of the new legislation themselves.
 
The proposals, which are currently going through parliament and are expected to become law next year, put forward the idea of ‘settlement agreements’, which enable employers to hold so-called ‘protected conversations’ without apparent fear that what is said will be used against them later in unfair dismissal claims.
 
But Jim Lister, Pannone’s head of employment law, warned organisations to proceed with caution. This was because, even under the new proposals, there were circumstances such as discrimination or making improper comments, in which the details of discussions could be taken into account.
 
A key problem was that what constituted ‘improper’ had not been defined in law and could be open to interpretation.
 
Unsurprisingly, therefore, some 96% of respondents indicated that they were concerned about having a protected conversation in good faith only to find that it was taken into account at a later date.
 
Lister agreed. He pointed out that there was a danger of the proposed legislation “spectacularly backfiring against the very employer it is seeking to protect” and, therefore, advised organisations to “tread very carefully”.
Author Profile Picture
Cath Everett

Freelance journalist and former editor of HRZone

Read more from Cath Everett
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