News in Brief December 2015 MPs call to scrap employment tribunal fees MPs have called for employment tribunal fees to be scrapped as they argue it is having an impact on the number of claims being lodged at the Tribunal. Figures from Ministry of Justice show that the introduction of the fees in 2013 has coincided with a steep drop in the number of tribunal cases. About 13,500 single-person cases were brought per quarter in the year to June 2013 but following the introduction of fees, the average quarterly figure dropped to about 4,500 between October 2013 and June 2015 - a decrease of 67 per cent. The figures also showed that the number of ‘pregnancy-related detriment of dismissal claims’ halved since the introduction of the fees – and there was also a huge reduction in the number of sex discrimination cases. MP Justin Madders, who has been vocal in his opposition of Tribunal fees said: “...Losing your job can affect your marriage, your health, your home, your finances and of course your family, yet we seem to be fostering a culture where an individual is considered a disposable item, to be cast aside with barely a second thought given.” He also said that while employment rights are ultimately beneficial to everyone – the Tribunal fees undermines those rights and “...actively encourages rogue employers to flout the law.” The Government responded by saying it was reviewing the changes and the impact they had made. Shailesh Vara MP said “if, after the review has reported, the government believe that there are compelling arguments for changes to the fees structure or to the operation of the fee remissions scheme, we will, of course, bring forward proposals for a consultation.” ‘Zero-hours contract workers as happy as permanent, full-time employees’ – CIPD New research by CIPD claims that 65 per cent of zero-hours contract workers are satisfied with their jobs - slightly higher than the proportion for employees as a whole (63 per cent). CIPD claim that zero-hours contract workers are also more likely to see their work-life balance in a positive light than other employees. According to Peter Cheese, chief executive of the CIPD, zero-hours contracts are becoming a permanent feature of the UK labour market and that CIPD’s “research shows that zero-hours contracts employees don't always see their jobs in such a negative light." According to the ONS, the number of people on zero-hours contracts was 744,000 over the period from April to June 2015, up from 624,000 over the same period in the previous year. The TUC criticised CIPD’s report saying that their outcomes were not based on a representative sample. TUC general secretary Frances O'Grady said: "zero hours contracts do work for some people. But let's not forget that they have been used as a way of keeping down wages and employing staff on worse terms and conditions.” While the TUC agrees that a minority of employee groups who are in a position to negotiate their remuneration alongside flexible working patterns are “attracted” to the flexibility of zero-hours contracts, they suggest that there is no evidence that such contracts benefit workers more widely. Capitalising on digital advances in the workplace A new report by Accenture Strategy – ‘Success or stagnation in the communications industry’ - outlined key tips for management and HR to “unlock the value of their workforce in the digital age.” The report suggests that organisations need to “shift the balance” between digital and traditional workforce so that they can compete more effectively. Ryan Shanks, managing director for Accenture strategy (Ireland) and author of the report said: “You might be surprised at the willingness of traditional workers to embrace digital. We've found more than half of employees we have surveyed (57 per cent) see the impact of digital technologies on their work experience as being positive. Only 8 per cent see it as negative.” He also suggests that for innovation to thrive, organisations should encourage small teams to work together, and that executives need to understand where “talent lives and how it can be accessed.” The report also shows that organisations should make better use of digital technologies to support the changing future of work and to succeed in a “digital era”, leaders need to develop distinctive capabilities, and adopt the right culture.