Employment law reforms are attack on workers, unions claim

 

Employment law reforms announced today by Vince Cable will allow company bosses to “exploit and bully” workers, unions claimed.

The Business Secretary confirmed that controversial “fire at will” proposals have been abandoned but firms are to be given stronger legal protections to pay off under-performing staff.

Workers also face a drastic cut in how much compensation they can win in unfair dismissal cases as part of the shake-up aimed at getting businesses hiring again.

Chris Keates, general secretary of the NASUWT, said: “Whilst the 'fire at will' proposal has been watered down, the remaining proposals represent an unprecedented and unacceptable attack on the employment rights of teachers and other ordinary working people.

”The Liberal Democrats should be ashamed to be associated with the introduction of measures which give employers licence to exploit, bully and discriminate against their workforce.

“However the Coalition seeks to spin this announcement, this emphasises the contempt for working people which pervades the Coalition's policies.”

Mr Cable confirmed that “no-fault dismissal” proposals made in the David Cameron-commissioned Beecroft Report are being dropped after a lack of support for the idea among the business community.

The Liberal Democrat has made no secret of his opposition to the recommendation, which many Tories backed, but aides were keen to stress the controversial proposal was being ditched because there was “no significant evidence” that it would help employers and insisted Conservative as well as Lib Dem ministers were behind the move.

The Business Secretary wants to bolster settlement agreements - where employers can offer under-performing employees a pay off - so they become more widely used to resolve disputes.

Under the proposals if the worker accepts the deal it will become legally protected so it cannot be used later as evidence in any court case or tribunal.

Officials insist the move is fair to employees as they are not obliged to take the offer and also incentivises bosses to come up with a good package, which can include a binding promise of a favourable reference.

Mr Cable will also consult on plans to change the limit on unfair dismissal payouts to a maximum of 12 months' salary or set it at an even lower figure.

He wants to reduce the current £72,300 cap significantly in the hope of encouraging small businesses to start hiring more staff.

The Lib Dem believes the current cap deters firms, particularly small businesses, from hiring because they fear they could be landed with a big bill.

Department for Business, Innovation and Skills' figures show most cases are settled at around £5,000-£6,000 while just 6 per cent receive more than £30,000 and 1-2 per cent receive the maximum payout.

Also among the reforms are plans to giving judges powers to sift through tribunal cases before they reach court to allow them to dismiss weak cases without the need for a hearing.

Paul Kenny, GMB general secretary, said: “The steps being taken here by government, and the 'noises off' about it being easier to sack people, will have a much more profound effect on workers than employers. It will increase feelings of job insecurity and reduce the confidence of workers as consumers to commit to spending.

”Therefore it will have a dampening effect on consumer demand which will in turn further weaken the confidence of businesses who consequently will not take on workers.“

TUC general secretary Brendan Barber said: ”We are very pleased that Adrian Beecroft's proposal to allow employers to fire employees at whim has been ignored. This would have set workers' rights back decades and created huge insecurity in workplaces throughout the country.

“However, reducing payouts for unfair dismissals will let bad employers off lightly and deter victims from pursuing genuine cases. This will feel like another slap in the face following the Government's decision to bring in fees for employment tribunals.

”For all the Government's talk that helping businesses to sack poor performing workers will make them more productive this is little more than a smokescreen to erode hard-won rights. Making it easier for bad employers to get away with misconduct is not the way to kick-start our economy and will not create a single job.“

Mr Cable said he was ”trying to strike a balance“ between helping employers and protecting employees.

”People would feel intimidated if they knew that they could be fired on the spot without good reason and that is why we have said no to those proposals,“ he told ITV1's Daybreak.

”We don't want people to feel insecure, but at the same time small companies have got to feel confident that if they take somebody on they're not going to get caught up in a very elaborate, legalistic, time-consuming tribunal system.“

Shadow business secretary Chuka Umunna said: ”Ministers should be making it easier to hire, not easier to fire people. We are in a double dip recession due to this Government's failed economic policies, not because of the protections people have at work. Instead of adopting a credible plan for growth, this Government is attacking the rights of every employee in this country.

“Sacrificing people's rights at work is not the way to bolster consumer confidence and get our economy moving again.”

John Walker, national chairman of the Federation of Small Businesses said: “We welcome today's announcement because almost half (42 per cent) of our members say employment law is the most difficult area of compliance.

”It shows a balanced package of measures which will help to reduce the fear of taking on staff for small firms.

“It is good news that instant dismissal plans have been shelved. We were against this idea, believing it could create a two-tier labour market and be bad news for worker relations.

”Too many small firms don't take on staff because they fear being taken to an employment tribunal. Other firms fear facing an expensive and lengthy dismissal process. These measures will go some way to addressing the issues, improving the situation for both employers and employees alike.“

Adam Marshall, director of policy at the British Chambers of Commerce, said: ”Employers will be encouraged that the Government is taking steps to reduce the burden of the employment system and create a more flexible labour market.

“Dismissal is always a last resort, but is at times necessary to protect a business and other members of staff. The fear of malicious tribunal claims and an unnecessarily antagonistic dismissal process has a chilling effect on employment.

”We would urge the Government to move swiftly from consultation to implementation on settlement agreements and lower tribunal awards, as these proposals will boost confidence whenbusinesses on the ground can see them in action.“

PA

Arts and Entertainment
Kirk Cameron is begging his Facebook fans to give him positive reviews
film
Sport
premier leagueMatch report: Arsenal 1 Man United 2
Arts and Entertainment
Jason goes on a special mission for the queen
tvReview: Everyone loves a CGI Cyclops and the BBC's Saturday night charmer is getting epic
Sport
Jonny May scores for England
rugby unionEngland 28 Samoa 9: Wing scores twice to help England record their first win in six
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
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

Recruitment Genius: Senior Project Manager

£45000 - £65000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Shopfitter

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join a successful an...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Sales Account Manager

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Digital Sales Account Manager...

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Sales Account Manager

£20000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Trainee Sales Account Manager...

Day In a Page

Terry Venables: Wayne Rooney is roaring again and the world knows that England are back

Terry Venables column

Wayne Rooney is roaring again and the world knows that England are back
Michael Calvin: Abject leadership is allowing football’s age-old sores to fester

Abject leadership is allowing football’s age-old sores to fester

Those at the top are allowing the same issues to go unchallenged, says Michael Calvin
Four years of excruciating seizures caused by the 1cm tapeworm found burrowing through a man's brain

You know that headache you’ve got?

Four years of excruciating seizures caused by the 1cm tapeworm found burrowing through a man's brain
Travelling to work by scooter is faster than walking and less sweaty than cycling, so why aren’t we all doing it?

Scoot commute

Travelling to work by scooter is faster than walking and less sweaty than cycling, so why aren’t we all doing it?
Paul Robeson: The story of how an American icon was driven to death to be told in film

The Paul Robeson story

How an American icon was driven to death to be told in film
10 best satellite navigation systems

Never get lost again: 10 best satellite navigation systems

Keep your vehicle going in the right direction with a clever device
Paul Scholes column: England must learn to keep possession and dictate games before they are exposed by the likes of Germany and Brazil

Paul Scholes column

England must learn to keep possession and dictate games before they are exposed by the likes of Germany and Brazil
Michael Dawson: I’ll thank Spurs after we win says defender as he prepares to return with Hull

Michael Dawson: I’ll thank Spurs after we win

Hull defender faces his struggling former club on Sunday ready to show what they are missing. But he says he will always be grateful to Tottenham
Frank Warren column: Dr Wu has big plans for the professionals yet he should stick to the amateur game

Frank Warren column

Dr Wu has big plans for the professionals yet he should stick to the amateur game
Synagogue attack: Fear unites both sides of Jerusalem as minister warns restoring quiet could take 'months'

Terror unites Jerusalem after synagogue attack

Rising violence and increased police patrols have left residents of all faiths looking over their shoulders
Medecins sans Frontieres: The Ebola crisis has them in the headlines, but their work goes far beyond West Africa

'How do you carry on? You have to...'

The Ebola crisis has Medecins sans Frontieres in the headlines, but their work goes far beyond West Africa
Isis extends its deadly reach with suicide bombing in Kurdish capital

Isis extends its deadly reach with suicide bombing in Kurdish capital

Residents in what was Iraq’s safest city fear an increase in jihadist attacks, reports Patrick Cockburn
Underwater photography competition winners 2014 - in pictures

'Mysterious and inviting' shot of diver wins photography competition

Stunning image of cenote in Mexico takes top prize
Sir John Major: Negative West End portrayals of politicians put people off voting

Sir John Major hits out at theatres

Negative West End portrayals of politicians put people off voting
Kicking Barbie's butt: How the growth of 3D printing enabled me to make an army of custom-made figurines

Kicking Barbie's butt

How the growth of 3D printing enabled toy-designer to make an army of custom-made figurines