NFU Blog

Sanctions on employees – a dangerous trend

I attend many conferences around Europe on behalf of NFU. So I’ve listened to my fair share of panel discussions, keynotes and speeches during spring. Some of them were very interesting, others missing the point. But what is most interesting, even more than a good key note, is when you manage to recognize a trend. A policy trend or a ‘new’ way of speaking about a topic raised by several policy makers at different conferences and seminars during spring.

I had a moment a couple of weeks ago when I discovered a possible ‘trend’. Not a very positive one, but an issue that is controversial and raised in different forums by high ranking policy makers. The issue I reacted to was that concerning sanctions for individual employees in the finance sectors. On different occasions during spring I hear policy makers suggest overall much tougher sanctions for staff in the finance sectors and one even promoting imprisonment for mis-selling by sales staff. So I ask myself, is that really the right way forward? Is that really going to solve the problem?

NFU holds that a sanction, as a basic rule, should be directed towards the company and only in exceptional circumstances be directed to an individual employee. Mis-selling as an example can often be traced back to working conditions. We know that the sales pressure on employees has increased and that employees have to try to live up to impossible sales targets as they are measured in their work every day. Add the downsizing of banks and layoffs to the equation and you have a situation where fewer employees are expected to manage higher targets and a pretty tough working environment.

So when we discuss mis-selling, we must focus on the responsibility of the management of an institution. Whom if not the management is responsible for and can influence the company culture? I doubt that so many do mis-selling out of pure spite but I do think that it happens because employees are under too much stress and are continuously pressured to sell more, which in the end does not benefit either the consumer or the sales person. This is an aspect which I often miss in the discussion about consumer protection in Europe.

NFU means that it must be avoided that individual employees are held responsible for a violation, which is encouraged by a tacit policy or practice in the company or a practice that the employees have felt pressured to take on. So when I hear policy makers talk about individual sanctions for mis-selling it appears to me that they have missed one very important aspect, that of the responsibility of the management.

Ella Sjödin, Head of EU Affairs


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