DPA Open Meeting - Monday 11 October 2021


14th October 2021

Open Meeting Monday

11TH  October 2021 -  7.00pm  at the Dorford Centre

Employment  Now:     Problems and some Solutions

Speaker:  Sarah Campbell – Citizens Advice 


Dr Margaret Barker, the Chair of Dorchester Poverty Action (DPA),  introduced the speaker and welcomed everyone to the meeting – there were about 25 people present, which is fewer than in previous years but a good result at this post-Covid time.   Track and trace rules are still in place at the Dorford Centre, seats are 1 metre apart and masks required when not seated.  

Dorchester Poverty Action Update:  Over 50 people have been in need of grants since October, totalling over £10,000 expenditure   The £10 Co-op gift cards are still being distributed via health visitors and ten other support agencies – and  £7,000 worth of these have already been bought this year for those in need.  DPA is grateful to the many individuals, businesses, local community organizations and churches, who have in the last 18 months been extremely generous and supportive.  DPA was set up by the local churches in 1989 and registered as a charity in 1994 and Margaret has been Chair ever since but will retire from that post at the end of March 2022.

Sarah Campbell is the Coordinator of the Employment Unit at Citizens Advice (CA).  Since the Covid pandemic in 2020 employment problems had increased so this specialist unit was set up last November. Sarah coordinates 3 specialist advisers, 12 volunteers and has access to a legal team for consultation.  Over 210 cases have been recorded – and of those 108 have been resolved.  Sarah’s talk covered a lot of points, illustrated by case studies. Specific points are as follows:

Issues leading to the Unit’s involvement include redundancy, loss of wages, unfair dismissal, furlough, disciplinary grievances, discrimination and company insolvency. 

Covid had given employers a let out for dispensing with older employees and surplus staff, so there had been a lot of redundancies, particularly for recently employed staff. The two year threshold does give employees who have worked longer than that in one business greater protection.

Many of the cases of employer/employee dispute or injustice are referred to ACAS (the government employment and arbitration agency) and eventually a significant number get to an Employment Tribunal, where the expertise of CA’s specialist advisers provides invaluable support. Clients are always advised to go to the Human Resources officer at their place of work before considering an employment tribunal.   Membership of a Trade Union was another area of support, although the Unions were now weaker and employment law was more fluid.

Sarah demonstrated several Case examples of some of these issues and gave an outline of their outcome, much of it very successful in gaining what was due to the employee, whilst recognizing that some of these situations can be hard on an employer whose business is failing.  

Sarah explained that there was a skills shortage.  The solutions lie in:

  • More training and apprenticeships 
  • Higher pay and more flexible terms, eg. for drivers and care workers
  • Upskilling with support to move quickly from more lowly positions to more skilled ones
  • Employers attracting staff by helping with relocation, and ‘Golden Hellos’ which meant a greater commitment to the firm

Finally, Sarah explained that Citizens Advice (website: https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/) is an entirely free, unbiased service and a local appointment could usually be obtained within five days.  

Margaret thanked Sarah for her excellent talk and questions were taken. The meeting closed at 8.15pm


Other News