Liberal Democrat Employment Minister Jo Swinson has announced that the formal consultation period employers must carry out by law when making more than 100 employees redundant will, from April, be cut from 90 days to 45 days.
According to this BBC report, a consultation showed “strong support” for the changes. I can only imagine this must have been amongst employers because, frankly, it would take a special employee to favour doing themselves out of six and a half weeks’ pay.
It is worth pointing out, though, that people who work for very small employers have the right to individual consultation, but there’s no time limit on that. Theoretically, their employer could consult them one week and issue the Notice of Redundancy the next. If your employer is making 20 people or more redundant, then they have to have a more formal consultation but that only has to be 30 days. I’m not sure why you should get such a disproportionately greater period of notice just because you work for a large corporation than the local accountant. Of course, it would have been better to see the consultation period for the smaller companies rise, but in this economic environment, I guess we have to be realistic. I’m also not convinced that you necessarily need the full 90 days to build a strong campaign against the redundancies. In this day and age, it can take off pretty quickly.
While any erosion of employment rights makes many Liberal Democrats, including me, uncomfortable, it’s clear from the Beecroft Report that the Tories would just get rid of employment rights entirely if they thought they could get away with it. Under the measures announced today, the amount of redundancy pay people get is unaffected and they still have a right to be genuinely consulted. In the scheme of things, the farcical new employment-rights-for-shares-you-have-to-give-back-if-you-leave measures and the increase in the qualifying period for Employment Tribunals from one to two years concern me more.
It would be fair to say that Liberal Democrats have ensured that many basic employment rights and grounds for unfair dismissal have been preserved. It’s in that context that the measure announced today should be judged.
* Caron Lindsay is Co-Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings