The naked engineer: ET, phone home

Posted on 7 Mar 2013 by The Manufacturer

Hemlock Engineering welcomes the introduction of fees for employment tribunals.

Up at the crack of a sparrows fart this morning – roughly 9.15 – and straight to the gym. Everyone, including Sir Patrick (Hemlock Engineering’s chairman), is big into High Intensity Training at the moment – cuts down the time you need to exercise apparently so more time to spend in the bar exercising the right arm and discussing racing tips. Count me in!

Got into HQ full of the joys of spring, only to be shot off my perch by an announcement from Janice (HR director) about Sir Patrick’s latest initiative. “He wants to put every new employee on zero hour contracts to cut down on employment tribunal claims. He wants to go through it all with you now.”

I winced. Sir P’s had a bee in his bonnet about this since we used the same trick last year to ditch our agency workers and the increasingly tiresome regs they bring along with them these days. I was dreading the meeting on it as I knew I’d be required to sit looking at the small print on the new contracts and discussing the finer points of ‘mutuality of obligation’ long after opening time down at Cavendish’s.

Not a prospect that would sit well with me at the best of times but I was still feeling the need for more than my average dose of daily fortification following last week’s workforce engagement fiasco. The half-term bring your sprog to work day had left some harrowing marks after I failed to convince the fiercer half that I could leave the Junior Terrorists at home with her.

“We used the same trick last year to ditch our agency workers and the increasingly tiresome regs they bring along with them these days.”

The whole experience had led to an uncomfortable conversation with our head of compliance & corporate affairs. A great shame since it made her a lot less compliant or affair-orientated than I’d been hoping for.

Brought back to earth by Janice lobbing figures at me – a role she’s taken on in the absence of Jimmy the Greek who’s waltzed off to quaf Lambrusco in Lanzarote or somewhere foreign.

“We finished the year with twelve ET’s. We won every one of them but it still cost us over £90 grand in legals and costs,” announced Janice just as Dominic, our S&M director (well named by all accounts), wandered in with a plate of oozing Danish pastries – my favourite slimming ones.

“That’s more than your expense account. Bloody disgraceful!” spluttered Dominic, jabbing a pastry pointedly in my direction.

I ignored him – best thing to do with S&M directors I find.

“Trouble is there’s just no disincentive for anyone getting the boot not to go to an ET,” I moaned. “A couple of trumped up allegations – absurd to make in a top notch work environment like Hemlock’s – and there’s a few grand in the bank. It’s a licence to print money and we never get any bloody costs back. Sir Patrick’ll be livid.”

“But that’ll all change if they bring in fees this year,” said Janice cheerfully.

“Huh? Whaddya mean,” I mumbled, simultaneously splattering Dominic liberally with partly chewed pastry.

“Yup, the coalition is actually threatening to do something half-arsed sensible for a change and bring in fees for ET applicants,” reported Janice, wiping a well-aimed piece of Danish from her blouse.

Dominic snorted cynically. “The tossers’ve been talking about it for years and done nothing – time to shit or get off the pot if you ask me.”

“It’s looking a dead cert for this summer actually,” Janice pouted. “Maybe you should start reading some of those HR memos.”

“A good idea from the coalition? And so soon after they told the EU to shove their budget where the sun don’t shine!” I skipped off, sticky-fingered, to meet Sir Patrick.

Any similarity of characters to persons living or dead is completely intentional.