Geroge Osborne revives divisive plan to let bosses 'hire and fire at will'
Chancellor faces battle with Lib Dems over employment rights for millions of workers
Andrew Grice has been Political Editor of The Independent since 1998. He was previously Political Editor of The Sunday Times, where he worked for 10 years, and he has been a Westminster-based journalist since 1982. His column, Inside Politics, appears in The Independent each Saturday.
Thursday 23 February 2012
Controversial plans to make it easier for companies to "hire and fire" workers may be revived by George Osborne in next month's Budget but have provoked a fresh battle with the Liberal Democrats.
The Chancellor is under pressure from Conservative MPs to relax employment protection laws as part of a "go for growth" package to be included in his Budget on 21 March. David Cameron is sympathetic to the backbench demands but they are being strongly opposed by Nick Clegg and Vince Cable, the Liberal Democrat Business Secretary.
There was a similar row last autumn after Adrian Beecroft, a multi-millionaire venture capitalist and Tory donor, proposed in a review ordered by Downing Street that all firms should be able to axe poorly performing staff without the risk of being taken to an employment tribunal. Government insiders said the proposals were being "dusted down" as the Chancellor considers his options. However, a Lib Dem source said: "We are not against reform but we are not going to bring in a hire and fire culture."
Mr Cable and Norman Lamb, the new Business Minister, will shortly issue a "call for evidence" on a watered down version of the Beecroft report. This would limit the "fire at will" proposal to the three million people employed by firms with fewer than 10 workers. But the two Lib Dem ministers will make clear they have no intention of turning the proposal into law by stopping short of a full-scale consultation exercise. Instead, they favour an informal, conciliatory approach to resolving disputes between employers and staff accused of poor performance.
One source said: "In many cases, employers are terrified they are stuck in a difficult situation with an employee and can't do anything about it. We have to tackle that perception, which is quite often myth. That doesn't mean stripping away employment rights. There are other ways of tackling the problem that don't involve taking away the rights of workers."
One option is for a "protected conversation" between bosses and workers about leaving or retiring which could not be used in evidence at any subsequent tribunal hearing. Another would be a process, possibly involving the conciliation service Acas, under which firms draw up a letter telling an employee he or she could be dismissed and offering a small severance payment. The worker could leave quickly with their head held high but could also turn down the offer – so their rights would not be eroded.
Such moves will fail to satisfy Tory MPs who are pressing for more radical action. Liam Fox, the former Defence Secretary, said yesterday: "It is too difficult to hire and fire, and too expensive to take on new employees. It is intellectually unsustainable to believe that workplace rights should remain untouchable while output and employment are clearly cyclical."
- 2 California man brutally beat 82-year-old Sikh grandfather he mistook for 'one of those people'
- 3 School kitchen manager 'fired from Colorado school for giving hungry students free lunches'
- 5 Charles Kennedy 'had better judgement drunk than many sober politicians' says Ian Hislop
California man brutally beat 82-year-old Sikh grandfather he mistook for 'one of those people'
Amber Peat: Body found in search for missing 13-year-old who left house after argument with her parents
School kitchen manager 'fired from Colorado school for giving hungry students free lunches'
Isis executes three gay men by dangling them from top of 100ft building and letting go
Alton Towers crash: Four guests seriously injured as Smiler ride carriages collide
Thousands of teenage girls enduring debilitating illnesses after routine school cancer vaccination
Migrants in Kos: Photos show real tragedy after Brits abroad complain of 'awkward' holidays
British tourists complain that impoverished boat migrants are making holidays 'awkward' in Kos
Michael Gove determined to scrap the Human Rights Act – even if Scotland retains it
Threat to scrap Human Rights Act could see UK follow Nazi example, warns UN official
Church of England 'one generation away from extinction' after dramatic loss of followers
£40000 - £47000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A 3rd Line Virtualisation / Sto...
£26000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A successful national service f...
£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...
£17500 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We currently require an experie...