Tom Keighley

Member Article

Employment law reforms spark mixed response

Reforms to the employment law system were set out by Business Secretary Vince Cable today, as part of the Government’s strategy to increase flexibility in the workforce.

Dr Cable announced the measures in a speech to EEF, the manufacturers organisation, following the results of a consultation on resolving workplace disputes, and the Red Tape Challenge review of employment law.

The changes aim to improve the way in which employers hire and fire, but could risk losing staff in smaller businesses their right to claim unfair dismissal.

Government will seek views on a proposal to allow firms of 10 or fewer employees to sack staff without risk of tribunal if they pay compensation.

Unions have opposed the idea, saying it will make it harder for workers to bring cases of victimisation, unfairness and bullying.

Paul Kenny, GMB General Secretary, said: “Lib Dems are making life at work harder for people. On top of cuts that stalled economy recovery the Lib Dems attack the rights of ordinary workers while they have yet to lay a finger on the multi-millionaire elite whose misdeeds and greed led us into this deep economic depression.

“Changing the balance on tribunals to a single legally qualified chair with the voice of business and the shop floor removed will weaken the system.

“It is a retro grade step which will make the tribunals more legalistic not less so.”

In his speech, Dr Cable said: “Let me be clear: we are not re-balancing employment law simply in the direction of employers. Our proposals strike an appropriate balance and we are keeping the necessary protections already in place to protect employees.

“Our proposals are not, emphatically not, an attempt to give businesses an easy ride at the expense of their staff. Nor have we made a cynical choice to favour flexibility over fairness.

“We know that disputes at work cost time and money, reduce productivity and can distract employers from the day-to-day running of their business. Tribunals should be a last resort for workplace problems which is why we want disputes to be solved in other ways.”

Recommendations from the Red Tape Challenge also include a call for evidence on the consultation rules for collective redundancies, and whether 90-day minimum period for more than 100 redundancies can be reduced.

The proposals were welcomed by business groups including the CBI and British Chambers of Commerce.

Dr Adam Marshall, director of policy at the BCC, said: “Employment regulations often create uncertainty for businesses and act as real barriers to confidence, growth and job creation.

“The BCC has long called for a reduction in red tape and a shake-up of the Employment Tribunal system, so we welcome the government’s reform proposals, which respond directly to business concerns.”

This was posted in Bdaily's Members' News section by Tom Keighley .

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