Sainsbury’s chief executive Justin King slams George Osborne’s proposal to allow workers to waive employment rights to receive company shares

  • @robhastings

The chief executive of Sainsbury’s has opened fire on George Osborne’s proposal to allow workers to waive their employment rights to receive shares has come under fire from, warning it would only worsen the public’s opinion of industry.

Justin King, who serves as a government adviser as well as holding one of the biggest roles in British business, cautioned that the policy is “not what we should be doing”.

“The population at large don’t trust business,” he said. “What do you think the population at large will think of businesses that want to trade employment rights for money?”

Speaking at the IGD retail convention in London about plans which would see workers voluntarily give up their entitlement redundancy pay and their ability to protest against unfair dismissal in exchange for company stock, he added: “It has the danger of creating a further concern that businesses only want to do bad things.”

The proposals are considered unlikely to be taken up by big companies, being aimed more at new firms and small to medium sized businesses who could award workers with shares valued between £2,000 and £50,000. But Mr King, who is a member of Number 10’s Business Advisory Group, said they “should not be our agenda”.

“If the Government believes it does have some money to spend, then it should look at National Insurance,” he said. “Our agenda, if the government want to help us, should be making employing people easier and less costly.”

Trade groups gave the idea a cool reception. The British Chambers of Commerce said it “could be a useful option” but was “unlikely to be a game-changer,” while the CBI labelled it a “niche idea and not relevant to all businesses”.

The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development said that “creating a two-tier labour market” would do little to help employers or their workers. “It is highly doubtful whether inviting employees to sign away basic employment rights will deliver the motivated, driven, high-performing workforce that small firms need,” said the organisation’s employee relations adviser, Mike Emmott.