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

News
i100
News
people Emma Watson addresses celebrity nude photo leak
News
Katie Hopkins appearing on 'This Morning' after she purposefully put on 4 stone.
peopleKatie Hopkins breaks down in tears over weight gain challenge
News
peopleHis band Survivor was due to resume touring this month
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Robert De Niro, Martin Scorsese and DiCaprio, at an awards show in 2010
filmsDe Niro, DiCaprio and Pitt to star
News
i100
News
In this photo illustration a school student eats a hamburger as part of his lunch which was brought from a fast food shop near his school, on October 5, 2005 in London, England. The British government has announced plans to remove junk food from school lunches. From September 2006, food that is high in fat, sugar or salt will be banned from meals and removed from vending machines in schools across England. The move comes in response to a campaign by celebrity TV chef Jamie Oliver to improve school meals.
science
Life and Style
Red or dead: An actor portrays Hungarian countess Elizabeth Báthory, rumoured to have bathed in blood to keep youthful
health
Arts and Entertainment
James Dean on the set of 'Rebel without a Cause', 1955
photographyHe brought documentary photojournalism to Tinseltown, and in doing so, changed the way film stars would be portrayed for ever
News
people'It can last and it's terrifying'
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Life and Style
fashionModel of the moment shoots for first time with catwalk veteran
News
i100
Sport
Tom Cleverley
footballLoan move comes 17 hours after close of transfer window
Sport
Alexis Sanchez, Radamel Falcao, Diego Costa and Mario Balotelli
footballRadamel Falcao and Diego Costa head record £835m influx
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

Front-Office Developer (C#, .NET, Java,Artificial Intelligence)

£30000 - £45000 per annum + benefits+bonus+package: Harrington Starr: Front-Of...

C++ Quant Developer

£700 per day: Harrington Starr: Quantitative Developer C++, Python, STL, R, PD...

Java/Calypso Developer

£700 per day: Harrington Starr: Java/Calypso Developer Java, Calypso, J2EE, J...

SQL Developer

£500 per day: Harrington Starr: SQL Developer SQL, C#, Stored Procedures, MDX...

Day In a Page

Chief inspector of GPs: ‘Most doctors don’t really know what bad practice can be like for patients’

Steve Field: ‘Most doctors don’t really know what bad practice can be like for patients’

The man charged with inspecting doctors explains why he may not be welcome in every surgery
Stolen youth: Younger blood can reverse many of the effects of ageing

Stolen youth

Younger blood can reverse many of the effects of ageing
Bob Willoughby: Hollywood's first behind the scenes photographer

Bob Willoughby: The reel deal

He was the photographer who brought documentary photojournalism to Hollywood, changing the way film stars would be portrayed for ever
Hollywood heavyweights produce world's most expensive corporate video - for Macau casino

Hollywood heavyweights produce world's most expensive corporate video - for Macau casino

Scorsese in the director's chair with De Niro, DiCaprio and Pitt to star
Angelina Jolie's wedding dress: made by Versace, designed by her children

Made by Versace, designed by her children

Angelina Jolie's wedding dressed revealed
Anyone for pulled chicken?

Pulling chicks

Pulled pork has gone from being a US barbecue secret to a regular on supermarket shelves. Now KFC is trying to tempt us with a chicken version
9 best steam generator irons

9 best steam generator irons

To get through your ironing as swiftly as possible, invest in one of these efficient gadgets
'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes': US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food served at diplomatic dinners

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes'

US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food
Radio Times female powerlist: A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

Inside the Radio Times female powerlist
Endgame: James Frey's literary treasure hunt

James Frey's literary treasure hunt

Riddling trilogy could net you $3m
Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

What David Sedaris learnt about the world from his fitness tracker
Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Second-holiest site in Islam attracts millions of pilgrims each year
Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

The big names to look for this fashion week

This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing