17 June 2012
As Prof. Simon Deakin states in his own review of this important book, it is time to call a halt once and for all on the simplistic, illogical and above all, misinformed illusions that suggest that employment rights, fairness at work and, frankly, social justice somehow constitute an intolerable burden on businesses.
While (with undue modesty) the preface suggests that this is not a 'text book', and that it is as much about politics, history and sociology as the law, it should, however, be ESSENTIAL reading for any student, academic or practitioner in the field of employment law - perhaps also for those very reasons.
Unfortunately, the received practice in many law schools is to teach Employment law as though Employment Tribunals were a normal, readily accessible route (perhaps with the additional, benign intervention of ACAS) for obtaining just remedy for problems arising in the course of the employment relationship (unfair dismissal, equal pay, discrimination, etc.) within a fully functioning and transparent jurisprudential mechanism.
As Prof. Hugh Collins also comments elsewhere, it is, however, a profound mistake to imagine that the case law of employment tribunals or employment appeal tribunals is the 'whole story' of employment law disputes and injustices, or even representative of the kind of issues that arise. It is in fact the tip of the iceberg.
The 'justice' of the employment tribunal, above all, for successful applicants, almost never entails reinstatement in their jobs, and the financial compensation, given the considerable trauma of loss of employment, as against the very low median levels of awards, for someone facing loss of income, domestic upheaval, and perhaps also the end of their career - especially in the current economic climate, generally amounts to little, or probably only token justice or redress in real, practical terms.
From the point of view of the "shadow of the law", this book goes to heart of what is wrong with the processes, the issues of access to justice generally, why this protection is particularly (and even more) under threat now, the origins of the 'employment tribunal' and the detail of what exactly needs to be fixed.
Make no mistake, this is an important work of scholarship for Employment lawyers but which also deals, as any such work should, with the inextricably related concept of social justice, and its enormous importance for social, political and economic policies.
At the time of the Beecroft Report and current trends in government-led policies in this domain, our law-makers really need to read this work, take note and take action.
There is also much to be considered regarding objective standards and quality of management and corporate governance. Quis custodiet ispos custodes? This book asks, and, to a large extent also answers, all of these questions. From the practical point of view of employment law in crisis, no academic or practitioner in the field can possibly be happy with the current state of affairs.
Further authority and insight is clearly contributed from David Renton's background as both a former professor of history and sociology, and currently as a barrister with Garden Court Chambers.
I recommend this book unreservedly.