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

Sport
A 'Sir Alex Feguson' tattoo
football

Arts and Entertainment
Liam Neeson said he wouldn't
tv

Liam Neeson's Downton dreams

Voices
voicesApple continually kill off smaller app developers, and that's no good for anyone
Voices
On the last day of campaigning before the polling booths open, the SNP leader has written to voters in a final attempt to convince them to vote for independence
voicesIs a huge gamble on oil keeping the First Minister up at night?
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Whishaw is replacing Colin Firth as the voice of Paddington Bear
tv

Thriller is set in the secret world of British espionage

Life and Style
life

News
ScienceGallery: Otherwise known as 'the best damn photos of space you'll see till 2015'
Travel
travelWhy Japan's love hotels are thriving through an economic downturn
Life and Style
fashion

Bomber jacket worn by Mary Berry sells out within an hour

Life and Style
Alexander McQueen A/W 2014
fashionPolitics aside, tartan is on-trend again this season
Arts and Entertainment
Rapper Jay Z performs on the Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury in 2008
musicSinger sued over use of the single-syllable sample in 'Run This Town'
Sport
Joel jumps over the board...and into a giant hole
footballFrom joy to despair in a matter of seconds
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Pointless host Alexander Armstrong will voice Danger Mouse on CBBC
tv

Much-loved cartoon character returns - without Sir David Jason

Arts and Entertainment
Meera Syal was a member of the team that created Goodness Gracious Me
tv

Actress to appear in second series of the hugely popular crime drama

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

Volunteer your expertise as Trustee for The Society of Experimental Biology

Unpaid Voluntary Position : Reach Volunteering: Promising volunteer Trustee op...

Email Designer

£30000 - £35000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is curr...

Psychology Teacher

£110 - £130 per hour: Randstad Education Reading: Psychology Teacher needed fo...

Food Technology Teacher

£85 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Cheshire: Randstad Education are curren...

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week