A new return to Victorian values

Radical plans to make it easier for employers to sack their workers could soon become a reality. Yet they remain hugely controversial

It is the most radical shake-up of employment law for decades – but even the Business Secretary admits there is no evidence it will boost the economy. The controversial Downing Street plan to allow employers to fire three million workers "at will" was kept alive by Vince Cable yesterday, albeit with no ringing endorsement from the Liberal Democrat cabinet minister.

Mr Cable has watered down a proposal backed by David Cameron for all firms to be able to sack poorly performing staff without the risk of being taken to an employment tribunal. If that does go ahead after a review, it will only apply in small firms.

The plan was put forward by Adrian Beecroft, a Conservative Party donor, and championed by Steve Hilton, Mr Cameron's strategy adviser. But it ran into strong opposition from the Liberal Democrats, who regard it as a throwback to "Victorian values" and an idea based on grumbling from businessmen rather than any firm evidence.

The issue sparked an unlikely power struggle between the two Coalition parties in the run-up to next Tuesday's Autumn Statement by George Osborne.

Mr Cameron seized on it as a way of illustrating the Government was ready to take tough, unpopular decisions to secure growth. But Nick Clegg was unwilling to rush into a free-for-all which he feared would make workers feel even more insecure about their jobs, further depressing consumer confidence.

The issue was thrashed out by Mr Cameron, Mr Clegg, Mr Osborne and Danny Alexander, the Liberal Democrat Chief Treasury Secretary. The compromise is that the proposal would not cover all companies but only firms employing 10 or fewer people. This allows the Prime Minister to say the idea is still on the agenda and the Liberal Democrats to argue they have diluted it.

Yesterday Mr Cable admitted he "did not support" the plan for no-fault dismissal. Denying he had "caved in" to No 10, he added: "My view is, 'Where is the evidence that this will help?' I don't see it." Although business groups are enthusiastic, Mr Cable believes the Government has already addressed the problem by deciding that, from next April, employees will only be able to claim unfair dismissal after working for a company for two years, instead of one. Privately, senior Liberal Democrats hope the "fire at will" plan will die a natural death.

Mr Cable insisted his wider shake-up would not create "a hire-and-fire culture". He said: "What we are doing here is hacking through the excessive red tape and regulation that prevents too many businesses from creating new jobs in the first place."

The Business Secretary appeared lukewarm about another controversial proposal on which he invited views – reducing the notice period employers must give for 20 or more redundancies from 90 days to 60, 45 or 30 days.

After a lobbying campaign by business leaders, Mr Cable also promised to streamline the way employment tribunals work, a measure aimed at reducing the number of cases by a quarter. The Ministry of Justice is expected to announce next week that workers will have to pay fees running to hundreds of pounds to lodge a claim. Those seeking compensation of more than £30,000 will pay higher fees but would be refunded if they win their case and people on low incomes will not have to pay.

Cameron's working solution

David Cameron called for parents to be allowed to bring their children to work next Wednesday as the Government draws up contingency plans for the one-day public-sector strike.

More than two million workers are due to walk out in protest over cuts to their pensions. Thousands of schools are expected to shut.

The Prime Minister told the Commons: "When it is safe for people to take their children to work, organisations should allow them to do so." He condemned the planned action as the "height of irresponsibility" when an "extremely reasonable" pensions offer was on the table.

Downing Street confirmed that plans were being drawn to limit the strike's impact, but declined to discuss details.

How the workplace will be affected

* Workers will be only allowed to claim unfair dismissal after two years' service from next April, instead of just one year as the rules currently state.

 

* To deter trivial claims, employees will have to pay fees to take a case to an employment tribunal.

 

* Greater use of conciliation to reduce by a quarter the number of cases going to tribunal, saving employers £40m.

 

* The Government plans to invite views on whether firms employing 10 people or fewer should be allowed to sack workers without them having to answer potential claims of unfair dismissal.

 

* Consultation on bringing in "protected conversations" between employer and employees to discuss poor performance or retirement.

 

* The Government plans to consider reducing notice period for redundancies from 90 to 60, 45 or 30 days.

News
Susan Sarandon described David Bowie as
peopleSusan Sarandon reveals more on her David Bowie romance
Sport
Arsenal supporters gather for a recent ‘fan party’ in New Jersey
football
Sport
sportDidier Drogba returns to Chelsea on one-year deal
Arts and Entertainment
The Secret Cinema performance of Back to the Future has been cancelled again
film
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Life and Style
Balmain's autumn/winter 2014 campaign, shot by Mario Sorrenti and featuring Binx Walton, Cara Delevingne, Jourdan Dunn, Ysaunny Brito, Issa Lish and Kayla Scott
fashionHow Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film
filmFifty Shades of Grey trailer provokes moral outrage in US
News
BBC broadcaster and presenter Evan Davis, who will be taking over from Jeremy Paxman on Newsnight
peopleForget Paxman - what will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Life and Style
fashionCustomer complained about the visibly protruding ribs
Voices
The new dawn heralded by George Osborne has yet to rise
voicesJames Moore: As the Tories rub their hands together, the average voter will be asking why they're not getting a piece of the action
Sport
Dejan Lovren celebrates scoring for Southampton although the goal was later credited to Adam Lallana
sport
News
newsComedy club forced to apologise as maggots eating a dead pigeon fall out of air-conditioning
Arts and Entertainment
Jo Brand says she's mellowed a lot
tvJo Brand says shows encourage people to laugh at the vulnerable
Life and Style
People may feel that they're procrastinating by watching TV in the evening
life
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Senior Risk Manager - Banking - London - £650

£600 - £650 per day: Orgtel: Conduct Risk Liaison Manager - Banking - London -...

Commercial Litigation Associate

Highly Attractive Package: Austen Lloyd: CITY - COMMERCIAL LITIGATION - GLOBAL...

Systems Manager - Dynamics AX

£65000 - £75000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: The client is a...

Service Delivery Manager (Software Development, Testing)

£40000 - £45000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A well-established software house ba...

Day In a Page

Evan Davis: The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing to take over at Newsnight

The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing

What will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Finding the names for America’s shame: What happens to the immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert?

Finding the names for America’s shame

The immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert
Inside a church for Born Again Christians: Speaking to God in a Manchester multiplex

Inside a church for Born Again Christians

As Britain's Anglican church struggles to establish its modern identity, one branch of Christianity is booming
Rihanna, Kim Kardashian and me: How Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Parisian couturier Pierre Balmain made his name dressing the mid-century jet set. Today, Olivier Rousteing – heir to the house Pierre built – is celebrating their 21st-century equivalents. The result? Nothing short of Balmania
Cancer, cardiac arrest, HIV and homelessness - and he's only 39

Incredible survival story of David Tovey

Tovey went from cooking for the Queen to rifling through bins for his supper. His is a startling story of endurance against the odds – and of a social safety net failing at every turn
Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little