The Government is looking to liberalise employment laws in order to get more people into employment. However, many employees and trade unions are concerned that the proposed measures will have a disproportionately negative impact on workers’ rights.
Disputing such fears, the Business Secretary, Vince Cable, insists that the new policies will create a more balanced working climate. As such, he said that fears over the reforms creating a “hiring and firing” climate were unwarranted.
The Government is convinced that the reforms will support the employment sector by reducing bureaucracy and enabling employers to be more honest with their employees without fear of legal repercussions.
One of the most controversial changes relates to the period that an employee must have been with their employer before they can claim for unfair dismissal, which is to be raised from one year to two years of continuous employment.
After the so-called Beecroft report leaked, speculation arose of the Government possibly scrapping the right of employees to claim for unfair dismissal completely.
The un-commissioned report’s proposal was criticised heavily by the Deputy Prime Minster, Nick Clegg. However, Cable is now intending to ease the running of small businesses, which have fewer than ten employees.
As part of this, the Coalition Government is expected to announce a different unfair dismissal framework for small businesses.
"Essentially, we don't want to create an environment in which there is insecurity and people fear for their jobs. That would not be helpful at all. But we do want to help small companies feel confident enough to take on staff, so there is an issue about balance here."
Trade unions are disappointed with the proposals. Brendan Barber, the TUC general secretary, said: "Reducing protection for people at work will not save or create a single job. It's not employment laws holding firms back, it's the tough economic climate and the problems many companies are having getting the banks to lend to them that's to blame."
The Government is also considering cutting the consultation period on redundancies, from 90 to 30 days. However, Cable said that any decisions will only be taken if evidence gathered supports such a move.
“The whole basis of which we are making policy judgments is evidence. You make decisions based on evidence, and that is the way we are approaching it. We do not want to create the situation in which people feel greater insecurity at work, particularly at times of economic difficulty.
"We also want to create an environment in which entrepreneurs want to start businesses, expand, take on staff and feel confident they can do that. We have to get the balance right but we don't want to create an environment in which people feel insecure at work … That is not what we need."
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