The Entwistle Payoff

So the current BBC naval gazing is kind of getting old, but today’s public outcry on the reported £450k pay off to the outgoing Director General of the BBC raises the kind of questions that I can’t resist letting pass without comment.

What has driven me to write this post (on my iPhone no less) is the ignorance of the ministers and MPs concerned. The reality being that this particular mess is likely entirely of their causing.

Over the last decade the Employment Tribunal has become so skewed and one sided against employers that dismissing anyone is nearly impossible, particularly anyone who has any claim to continuous service. Entwistle, as a career Beeber, was an untouchable. Moreover, he was clearly a politically expedient scapegoat – being in post for a mere 55 days, he was only as personally responsible as the vast array of Senior Managers drawing huge salaries from a typically top heavy publicly funded institution. His crime was that of too many bureaucrats, avoiding decisions rather than making them.

So to the £450k (an amount that exceeds my career earnings), not a bad hall for a 55 day stint. The Chair of the BBC Trust, Chris Patton, has revealed that the Trust expressed its concern to Entwistle on the Saturday and made it clear that they were considering his dismissal. At this point very few outcomes remained. In such a position Entwistle would find it near impossible to return to a place where he enjoyed the trusts confidence, had nothing happened, over time he would have been forced out, or at least edged out.

Having the threat of dismissal over his head Entwistle could resign and immediately claim constructed dismissal. In the modern world he would have won, and the BBC would have paid out a full severance package, plus loss of earnings, potential damages and legal fees. The mess would have been significant, the BBC would sustain further damage to its reputation, and the costs would have been greater than those of a straight dismissal as he had a contract which required the £450k severance amount.

What happened (probably!) is a confidential voluntary agreement. These are the norm these days, as businesses do not win at tribunal. Instead a business pays off the leaver, letting them resign, so as to avoid a tribunal and its associated costs. By its very nature the existence of the agreement can never be revealed by either party. This lets the BBC remove the man they shouldn’t have appointed, and to move on, without fear of repercussion.

It is modern day piracy and it occurs daily across the country. The only people that get these agreements are, in my bitter experience, the same selfish, manipulative, devious leeches that deserve them the least. That said it is a foolish executive that willingly faces a tribunal no matter how true their cause. Tragically, even winning at tribunal is entirely Pyrrhic, and victory is never guaranteed in the skewed halls of ‘justice’.

So don’t criticise the BBC for being pragmatic. In reality the £450k has saved the public purse a future pay out that would undoubtedly have been worse. Criticise the weak executive for appointing Entwistle in the first place and criticise the government for creating a tribunal system that believes the ‘right to work’ comes independent of a ‘responsibility to work’. Criticise a contract for having a one year severance clause, even criticise the size of the salary for an ‘honourable man’.

As for Mr Entwistle, we should judge him by the amount of money he draws down. I suspect he’ll take every penny, despite being so ‘honourable’. I hope that in a similar situation I’d have the moral fortitude to take what I deserve morally and not what I may be ‘entitled’ too, but how many of us would honestly walk away from such a pay out, after all he no longer has to clean up the mess that’s left.

The way these things work, I suspect Mr Entwistle will appear on some board somewhere in a few months when people stop paying attention.

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