Vince Cable sets out employment law consultation to establish ‘culture of dialogue – not confrontation’

In a speech today to the Engineering Employers’ Federation in London, Business Secretary put forward a wide range of items for consultation aimed at reforming Employment Law. He said that the aim of the exercise is to change to:

A culture that establishes dialogue rather than confrontation as the norm between employers and employees. That trusts people to do the right thing rather than relying on regulation to deal with every single issue that arises. And that ensures businesses have the confidence to hire the talented and committed workforce they need in order to thrive.

There are well over a dozen elements for consultation contained in the speech.

Vince Cable stated that his aim is to encourage the hiring of new staff by removing “peverse incentives” that “dissuade responsible responsible employers from hiring new staff for fear of the costs and the time incurred if it doesn’t work out.”

He emphasised that this is not:

an attempt to give businesses an easy ride at the expense of their staff. This is not about introducing a ‘hire and fire’ culture. We are not making a cynical choice to favour flexibility over fairness. Instead, what we are doing here is hacking through the excessive red tape and regulation that prevents too many businesses from creating new jobs in the first place.

In future, he said, “all claimants will be obliged to submit their complaint to ACAS, in order that parties are given an opportunity to resolve their dispute through conciliation before it can be taken to a tribunal.”

Cable proposes a system of “protected conversations” which allow open dialogue which can’t be used as evidence, with a view to allowing early resolution of disputes.

There is a proposal for simplified compromise arrangements to enable two sides to reach a no fault settlement.

There will be a search for a quicker and cheaper alternative to tribunal in some cases – a Rapid Resolution Scheme.

Cable announced a judicial review of the rules governing employment tribunals to modernise their processes.

There is also the suggestion of a system of fees for tribunals:

Introducing different fees for different kinds of claim will encourage potential claimants to fully consider their cases – leading to more realistic expectations for individuals and greater certainties for employers. But I want to make it very clear that for those with a genuine claim, fees will not be a barrier to justice. We will ensure that there is a remissions system for those who need help.

There are a series of proposals for consultation on dismissal, which Cable stressed have the aim of fairness at their heart:

Our objective is to strike a sensible balance between the need to give poorly performing workers reasonable warning that they should improve their performance; and the need to ensure that employers, especially SMEs, have the flexibility to manage their staff if they are not performing adequately in spite of warnings. And to do so without getting tangled up in red tape and bureaucracy.

Those are just some of the consultation items. You can read Vince Cable’s speech in full here.

Paul Walter blogs at Liberal Burblings

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43 Comments

  • Foregone Conclusion 23rd Nov '11 - 4:22pm

    What is the advantage of ‘protected conversations’ for employees? I’m genuinely curious.

  • …………………….Vince Cable stated that his aim is to encourage the hiring of new staff by removing “peverse incentives” that “dissuade responsible responsible employers from hiring new staff for fear of the costs and the time incurred if it doesn’t work out.”……………

    Why is it that the emphasis is to always reduce “employees safeguards” as the answer to business profitability?
    Many of our continental neighbours (including Germany) manage to thrive with greater employee protection.

    As ‘Gareth Epps’ points out “This is nothing short of scapegoating vulnerable employees for the lack of growth in the economy”……
    On this site I’ve heard, many times, that “LibDems are making a difference” Sadly, in this case, it’s true.

  • Why does it seem that nearly every effort by this government to help the economy always seems to hurt those at the middle and bottom while those at the top are still getting away with it all?

    Like it or not, some employers are bullies and treat their staff poorly. This “reform” will just give them further license to do the same; “protected conversations” could result in bullying and threats, but the worker will no longer be able to do anything about it. We already have, I think, the 2nd or 3rd most employer-centred employment laws in the EU.

    I expect this sort of thing from the Tories. They always favour the employers, always have and always will. At the start of the coalition, this would have surprised me but sadly it no longer does so. But you, LibDems, are making the UK an even worse place to live for average people and a better place to live for those with money and power.

    I despair, I really do. Clegg says he is “on the side of alarm clock Britain.” If that’s the case, why is he making it easier for his “alarm clockers” to be sacked and treated poorly?

  • Thanks Paul for giving this subject a thread of its own. As we discussed on the previous thread, this is a sop to the Tory right wing and bosses lobyists. How on earth will making it easier to sack people create more jobs? This is absolute nonsense. It will have the effect of making people less secure in their jobs, create a climate of fear and ordinary working class people will batten down the hatches, save more and spend less…just in case.

    Vince is dithering about taking action against excessive board room pay, but quick out of the blocks to hammer the working classes. Get your priorities right Vince. Working people need more security at work, not less.

  • These proposals can only pass with Lib Dem parliamentary support. It would be the ultimate crossing of the Rubicon that would forever make a future coalition between Labour and the Lib Dems impossible.

  • “Like it or not, some employers are bullies and treat their staff poorly. This “reform” will just give them further license to do the same; “protected conversations” could result in bullying and threats,”

    It’s relatively straightforward to allow “protected conversations” to be used in claims relating to bullying etc but not unfair dismissal relating to illness & performance. Whether that’s a good idea I’m less certain – but I can see some advantage to helping employers tackle poor performance without concerns that they will be handing an employee a legal cause of action.

    The plans I’ve seen reported that “micro-businesses” can fire staff without risk of an ET if they pay compensation are basically an abolition of unfair dismissal in smaller firms. That’s far beyond what even the Tory right has been suggesting.

  • Executive pay bloated by 4000% in 30 years and Vince attacks the meager workers rights we have in this country. Vince who wanted to take down Murdoch, Scrutinise excessive boardroom pay…he failed on both fronts. He can be proud of himself now sticking the boot in ordinary workers and scapegoating them for the lack of jobs.

    Lib Dems wake up. This cannot pass without your parlimentary support. remember who dreamed up this” solution” to the lack of jobs….a venture capitalist ..!

  • Gareth Jones 23rd Nov '11 - 7:56pm

    At first sight I thought this was one of the Lib Dem losses in the internal power plays of the coalition but perhaps we should all look a bit closer:

    “David Cameron got “Beecroft lite,” some say, but some Tories may come away from all this thinking this is a “caffeine-free, diet, zero, skinny Beecroft” and the Lib Dems have frustrated what they see as vital reform yet again”

    http://blogs.channel4.com/gary-gibbon-on-politics/beecroft-lite-did-cameron-really-get-much-of-what-he-wanted/17384.

  • Andrew Suffield 23rd Nov '11 - 8:43pm

    At first sight I thought this was one of the Lib Dem losses in the internal power plays of the coalition but perhaps we should all look a bit closer

    Yeah, this is a consultation, not an Act. Get a grip, people.

  • Andrew Thomas 23rd Nov '11 - 8:54pm

    I really don’t think this is the reforms needed. If anything I would argue that workers are actually under protected in the United Kingdom. If employees feel increasingly more vulnerable in their jobs they will spend less which could have a detrimental effect on the economy as a whole. I don’t think this consultation is in the spirit of the majority of people who support us and particularly not the majority of our membership.

  • The Government needs to do something for businesses – fine – almost everyone would accept that. But why oh why is this government wasting time and effort on tribunals at this time? How often does the end of someone’s employment result in a tribunal? Very few people take employers to tribunals as it makes it far more difficult for them to get employment subsequently. As an employer you really have to mess up to get into that situation. If you had to come up with a list of things that are holding back SMEs, tribunals would be so far down the list that you’d need a list 100 pages long for them to even feature.
    Self evidently there are bigger fish to fry, the general state of the economy, the failure of banks to invest in smaller businesses, lack of Government support for growing exports, the fitness of school leavers and graduates for the workplace, the high cost of doing business in the UK, whether that be the cost of transport, or fuel. Messing around with Tribunals at this time is like rearranging the deckchairs on the Titanic – its tragic. I just wish we could mercilessly sack one of the blue sky thinkers that dreamt this up and get on with what matters, but perhaps the government is too scared of being taken to a tribunal.

  • I understand that this is only a consultation but it’s sort depressing, because there is a distinct possibility that the economic right have been proved wrong. We’ve been consulting with and pandering to these crackpots for 30 years and, well, look at the results.

  • Radicalibral 23rd Nov '11 - 10:49pm

    I would say in response to Andrew Suffield it needs to be self evident the difference between genuine consultation on a subject and a consultation where the party has in fact already made their mind up. Hopefully with this proposed “discussion on change” being put forward by a Liberal Democrat the former rather than the letter should be the case. I would just make 2 further points on this issue.
    Firstly, regarding this issue of 10 employees. Let us not forget that until only recent times employees with below a minimum number of employees were completely exempt from employment legislation. So why was it decided for the benefit of employees that situation should not be allowed to continue? Should we be running our economy in this country on the basis of “Constructive Non Intervention”. I would argue NO unless everyone expects against the background of the corrosive attempt by the private money lenders to destroy the Euro one country at a time that even the German Economy with its strong manufacturing base, and direct employee involvement in the smooth running of their industry is also expected to succumb, then its economy proves there is no need to do this.
    Secondly, can I please express my annoyance even with Vince Cable who has been the latest to misuse the English language. A decision to change employees rights is “NOT!” the same thing as getting rid of “Red Tape” in business. The 2 issues are totally separate and not connected. Can Lib Dems activists please keep on reminding those involved in Government of the difference. Thank you!

  • Maybe if more Tories had been employees, rather than just employers and inheritors, they might have a different attitude. This has been depressing me today, and I hope we can kick it into the long, long grass, far, far away. Terrible idea, terrible politics. The economic policies we’re signed up to may be necessary to cut the deficit and keep the markets at bay, but this just stinks of corporatism and comes straight from the greedy, empty heads of those who opposed the minimum wage.

    Disappointing that the main voices of opposition to this have been the unions, who would oppose this Government no matter what it does and are so prone to hyperbole that I’ve all but given up listening to them.

  • “At first sight I thought this was one of the Lib Dem losses in the internal power plays of the coalition but perhaps we should all look a bit closer:
    “David Cameron got “Beecroft lite,” some say, but some Tories may come away from all this thinking ….the Lib Dems have frustrated what they see as vital reform”

    Look, it’s all too easy for Cameron to game these events. Start by deliberately floating a totally crazy idea you have no intention of pursuing, like the complete abolition of unfair dismissal. Then make a big show about how the Lib Dems have forced you to compromise and abandon your big wonderful idea. Get your right wing bloggers to trumpet that the Lib Dem tail is wagging the dog. Then, while the Lib Dems are basking in self-satisfied self-congratulation, quietly bring in precisely the policies you were always planning to bring in.

    “it needs to be self evident the difference between genuine consultation on a subject and a consultation where the party has in fact already made their mind up. Hopefully with this proposed “discussion on change” being put forward by a Liberal Democrat the former rather than the latter should be the case.”

    Completely wrong interpretation of events. The Lib Dem patsy has to be wheeled on to the stage and forced to make the proposals, precisely because that is what binds the Lib Dems into the process of making the changes which the Tories want.

  • Matthew Huntbach 24th Nov '11 - 12:01am


    There is a proposal for simplified compromise arrangements to enable two sides to reach a no fault settlement.

    Well, it may be “no fault” on paper, but it’s the ex-employee who ends up without a job, and leaving with a “compromise agrement” cab be spotted a mile off however much it is hidden on a CV, and these days it’s the kiss of death if one was kicked out of one’s last job – even if there is some bit of paper saying it was a “no fault” thing.

    I am APPALLED at the rot that has been written by the wealthy and powerful about this, as if the only reason a boss would want to get rid of an employee is because the employee was a lazy good-for-nothing person. So, here are some reasons why a boss would like just to be free to sack someone and not have to justify it even though that person is a productive worker:

    1) It’s the boss who’s the unproductive one, and he hates being shown up by someone supposedly below him who is actually much better than he is – so sack that person.

    2) The boss is doing some dubious things on health or safety, damaging the environment, avoiding tax illegally, or actually committing theft. The employee is saying “No, you can’t make me do that, it’s against the law” – so sack that person to shut him/her up.

    3) The boss has told the young woman who works for him “if you want to progress in this organisation, you have to sleep with me”. She said “No” – so sack her.

    4) The boss’s mate finds out that the new employee is someone he sacked for one of teh reason above last year, warnibng that oerson “I’ll make sure you’ll never work again”. The boss doesn’t want to get on the wrong side of his mate – so sack that person (again).

    I could go on and on – I am sickened to the core that a Liberal Democrat minister can’t see all this and so wants to go along with moves to make it easier to sack people without having to give reasons.

  • @Matthew Huntbach:

    Good post. The coalition’s narrative on this, and their narrative on all employment issues, has been nearly 100% support for employers over employees. The argument has nearly always been framed in terms such as “lazy workers” or “petty wrongful dismissal cases”, etc. There you have it: the reason the economy is crap is partly because of those dastardly rank-and-file workers and their employment rights (or Red Tape to the Coalition)! To my memory there have been no attempts to portray some employers as bullies, petty egoists and themselves incompetent, and we all know there are some of those out there. It’s all about “red tape” (which always favours the worker, so must be done with!) and encouraging “wealth creators” (again, as if workers themselves create no wealth).

    And if that is not enough, it is 100% accepted by the media and government that if we tax the rich they will threaten to withdraw their labour and “go elsewhere”, but when the teacher strikes for nothing more, but to keep what she has been promised it is the “height of irresponsibility” and sacking her should be made easier.

    I despair, I really do.

  • How did these people ever manage to convince us they were any better than the Tories?

  • Richard Bowden 24th Nov '11 - 1:38am

    I write as someone who was a proud Lib Dem supporter since childhood, coming from a family of active Liberals & Lib Dems, but who has been unable to support them since the formation of this coalitions. I am also an active trade unionist Shop Steward & safety rep.

    I’m completely disgusted that the Lib Dems would have anything to do with these proposals, let alone have Vince Cable putting them forward. The concept of making it easier to sack employees is fundamentally at odds with liberal values of fairness. It will lead to further misery & exploitation of workers, particularly vulnerable workers, & increase an atmosphere of fear & subservience in many organisations. Ideas like this are a step on the road back to a Victorian like state of wage slavery for most people.

    These proposals won’t make employers more likely to create jobs, only more likely to sack troublesome workers or those who they feel it’s too difficult to accomodate – e.g people with health issues. If we want to create more jobs then we need to promote growth & make it easier for businessess to get credit, not tear up people’s civil rights.

    In any case exploited, fearful workforces don’t make for productive, dynamic organisations & aren’t part of a healthy economy or society. Look for a contrast to Germany which has better job protection, more involvement by workers & unions in the running of their employer’s & has a stronger economy than Britain.

    And lastly, why should contracts of employment not be afforded the same status as other contracts? If other contracts are broken the parties can take legal action immeadiately. So why should workers who’ve had their contracts of employment broken by their employer not have rights to claim unfair dismissal in the first year of service, as is the current law, never mind these draconian new proposals from Cable?

    The LiB Dems in government need to realise that the majority of people in this country did not vote for these sort of policies & that in particular they are very at odds with their own supporters, who are generally against such blatantly Thatcherite policies. Where is either the Liberalism or the Democracy in the way their carrying off??

  • Simon McGrath 24th Nov '11 - 6:23am

    Perhaps we could actually consider the issue of whether lowering employment rights in small firms will lead to more jobs and then, if it does whether we think is is worth it.
    I don’t know the answer but perhaps some actual evidence would help.

    Certainly if you look at youth unemployment in the very heavily regulated countries like France, Spain and Italy it is very very high as the regulations serve to protect those with jobs against those who don’t.

  • Any reduction in unfair dismissal rights should be in exchange for a much longer mandatory notice period.

  • Having read more about the proposals and watched more news coverage. It.s pretty obvious that this is not really a consultation. Yet again it’s a right wing government standing up for the big guy and it’s coalition protectors meekly complying in a sham compromise.. So now on top of footing the cost of propping up a useless banking system, being expected to work longer and harder for less pay, joe public is supposed to accept that they can pretty much ne randomly sacked. Isn’t it funny that we believe that “top” people need to be rewarded generously for their “hard work” but everybody-else needs to be beaten into submission to make them competative.
    It’s a perverse morrally repugnant land grab by failed economist and their faithful, who as dogamtic, rigid and muddle-headed as old Marxists.,

  • @Matthew Huntbach

    …”wants to go along with moves to make it easier to sack people without having to give reasons”

    Could you please point me to the text in Vince Cable’s speech which says that he wants to make it eaier to sack people without having to give reasons?

  • Simon, anyone can cherrypick countries to erroneously make a point about UK labour laws, take Germany, stronger employee rights, lower youth unemployment. If I wanted to support the “race to the bottom” party I’d vote Tory.

  • ………………..Could you please point me to the text in Vince Cable’s speech which says that he wants to make it eaier to sack people without having to give reasons?………………..

    Of course not However, euphemisms are….

    ‘Flexible labour markets”…”Red Tape”….. “Deregulation”….
    “remove the perverse incentives in current employment framework that can dissuade responsible employers from hiring new staff for fear of the costs and the time incurred if it doesn’t work out.”
    “that’s why we are doubling the qualifying period for the right to claim unfair dismissal from one year to two years”.
    Collective Redundancies. ……reducing the current 90-day limit to 60, 45, or possibly even 30 days. …..

    The old adage that, “If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, you can be reasonably sure it is a duck.” comes to mind

  • @Jason

    So can you please point to me to the specific item or items put forward for consultation by Vince Cable which could, would or will make it easier to sack people without having to give reasons?

    I accept the increase of one year to two year concerning unfair dismissal tribunal rights (which is in itself disturbing), but is it just that or are there other items proposed for consultation which amount to making it easier to sack people without having to give reasons?

    Perhaps we should also reflect on these sentences/phrases in Vince Cable’s speech:

    “we want to safeguard workers’ rights”

    “I want to stress that our proposals are not – quite emphatically not – an attempt to give businesses an easy ride at the expense of their staff. This is not about introducing a ‘hire and fire’ culture. We are not making a cynical choice to favour flexibility over fairness. ”

    “I want to make it very clear that for those with a genuine claim, fees will not be a barrier to justice. We will ensure that there is a remissions system for those who need help. ”

    “What we need to do is balance our support for job creators to grow their businesses with the need to provide job security in these uncertain times”

    “The aim of increasing the qualifying period is to give greater confidence to employers in recruiting new employees, without undermining workers’ sense of job security at a time when consumer confidence is low. ”

    “This suite of measures will help to make the process of employing a new staff member less daunting, with less time wasted on form-filling and box-ticking merely to please the bureaucracy. ”

    “…while continuing to provide appropriate levels of protection to employees. ”

    “That same principle – helping people to find work and keep it – also underpins our commitment to extend the right to request flexible working, and to modernise maternity leave so it becomes shared and flexible parental leave. These reforms will help millions of people juggle their commitments at work with their responsibilities at home.”

    “Many have to combine working with looking after an elderly parent, a sick partner, or a grandchild. Extending the right to request flexible working to everybody will make that difficult job easier. ”

    “Our plans empower individuals to balance work and home life, helping to keep them in the labour market, and they give businesses a larger pool of potential recruits.”

    and:

    “The package of measures I have announced today carefully balances the needs of employers with the rights of individuals. But we still have to work through the fine detail in the months ahead to make sure we get it absolutely right. “

  • Radicalibral 24th Nov '11 - 1:22pm

    Sorry Paul but any or all the points you make in response to @Jason may be valid but they are completely undermined whilst Vince continues to misuse the words getting rid of “Red Tape”.

  • Paul Walter Paul Walter 24th Nov '11 - 1:44pm

    @Radicallibral

    But that’s a bit vague isn’t it? – especially while we’re at the level of a consultation.

    The examples Vince Cables gives of specific items to be consulted on seem (mostly) relatively reasonable and fair-minded. For example, introducing ACAS as a pre-cursor to the tribunal stage seems an extremely fair minded and sensible step. I mean, it would be a first for even the trade unions to criticise ACAS wouldn’t it?

  • Paul………………..I accept the increase of one year to two year concerning unfair dismissal tribunal rights (which is in itself disturbing), but is it just that or are there other items proposed for consultation which amount to making it easier to sack people without having to give reasons?……….

    You seem to accept that the above “is” a “text in Vince Cable’s speech which says that he wants to make it eaier to sack people without having to give reasons”.
    Related to the above you quote…………………“The aim of increasing the qualifying period is to give greater confidence to employers in recruiting new employees, without undermining workers’ sense of job security at a time when consumer confidence is low.”…………….Please explain how that ‘doubling’ can do anything but undermine a workers’ sense of job security?

    The only ‘concrete’ proposal are in reducing employee safeguards and the whole speech, to an employers audience, emphasises these reductions. The speech is ‘peppered’ with ‘Deregulation’ and, as ‘Radicalibral’ says, “Red Tape” is a catchall.

  • Paul Walter Paul Walter 24th Nov '11 - 2:46pm

    @Jason

    “You seem to accept that the above “is” a “text in Vince Cable’s speech which says that he wants to make it easier to sack people without having to give reasons”.”

    Not just “seem to accept”. I did accept it. Of course. If you can’t go to tribunal from 13-24 months then I don’t see how a solid reason has to be given – unless someone can suggest some other legal recourse.

    “…………………“The aim of increasing the qualifying period is to give greater confidence to employers in recruiting new employees, without undermining workers’ sense of job security at a time when consumer confidence is low.”…………….Please explain how that ‘doubling’ can do anything but undermine a workers’ sense of job security?”

    I am blowed if I know.

    What I am trying to do is to objectively look at Vince’s speech. As you can see I am accepting some of the points made against his speech. But apart from 1-2 year thing, he doesn’t say that he’s going to make it easier to sack people without giving reasons. There are no suggested measures in the couple of dozen he listed which do anything like that. Some people are putting words into his mouth. I’d be surprised if some who are criticising the consultation package have even read the speech.

    I come back to the example I gave. How can involving ACAS before the tribunal step be anything but fair and welcome?

  • Andrew Thomas 24th Nov '11 - 3:20pm

    The increase from 1 to 2 years for a claim of unfair dismissal is more than disturbing, it is an absolute disgrace which as a party we should be completely ashamed of. We have fought thatcherism all my life and now we’re allowing these things to happen. Can we please wake up and install some lines in the sand and quickly.

  • Paul Walter Paul Walter 24th Nov '11 - 3:34pm

    @Andrew Thomas Tend to agree.

  • @Richard

    “And lastly, why should contracts of employment not be afforded the same status as other contracts? So why should workers who’ve had their contracts of employment broken by their employer not have rights to claim unfair dismissal in the first year of service, as is the current law, never mind these draconian new proposals from Cable?”

    In short they are. Unfair dismissal isn’t a claim for breach of contract. Most employment contracts can be terminated with notice (usually 4 weeks but that is also governed by statute) but without a reason (good or otherwise). That’s usually the power under which you leave an employer. What unfair dismissal adds is an extra layer of protection.

    If that notice period isn’t followed it will be wrongful dismissal – for which the remedy will usually only be the pay for the notice period.

    Some contracts have longer notice periods but they are the exception (eg football managers have x year contracts). AIUI in that situation you can’t dismiss them unless they are in breach (hence why football managers get large compensation packages for terminating their contracts – no-one seems to try the argument that a losing run is a breach of contract 🙂

  • Dave Eastham 24th Nov '11 - 5:23pm

    Can someone explain how having ACAS pre-screen all employment claims with the potential to go to a tribunal will reduce “Red Tape”?. (Even if the parameters of any procedural guidelines were to be so hopelessly biased, that the “normal” outcome is a rejection). It is adding to the process if anything. Indeed, have ACAS themselves have the resources to in fact do this?. Anyone who has had experience of the process of making an employment tribunal application will know that there is pretty extensive pre-screening” to go through already. (I say this as a long time, although recently retired, TU rep).

    Vince refers to “Consultation” in his speech to the Engineering Employers Federation (That well known association of Liberal employers. Not.). One would hope that it is a genuine consultation that is sought but the “mood” music from the Press does not give one the impression that it actually is. It is difficult at present, to approach this with other than the idea that this is nothing more than the Tories trying to roll the clock back to the situation that existed under the Tory Government up until 1997. (and perhaps, to the “blue fields” beyond?)

    It seems at this point, to be more ideological than “evidence based”. For instance, extending the time required before establishing “employment rights” to two years. (as it was before 1997). Even in those days, that was only 40% of the rights of the workforce, as the remaining 60% still established employment rights from day 1 under racial and gender discrimination laws etc. etc. I will need to check, but I suspect that proportion may even be higher these days. At which point I ask, is it something ( the extension to two years) that will achieve what it claims “on the tin”?. Namely, increased employment for the workforce as a whole. I suspect not and would be inclined to dismiss the whole thing, as just the usual Tory, lobotomised autonomic ideology.

    Vince in his speech to claims be on the point of consulting. However, in his speech, it is clear that what is to be “consulted” upon, is the implementation of decisions already taken. It seems that Vince has recently taken delivery of a version of the dictionary that many of us would not recognise as being from the UK, let alone the same Planet.
    I think, from his speech that Vince is genuine in what he says; ……“but I want to stress that our proposals are not – quite emphatically not – an attempt to give businesses an easy ride at the expense of their staff. This is not about introducing a ‘hire and fire’ culture. We are not making a cynical choice to favour flexibility over fairness”. Sadly, I don’t, on the evidence seen so far, see that the empirical evidence matches the aspirations.

    Additionally, I have no doubt that Vince is genuine in his belief that it is 40 years since the processes of Industrial Law have been reviewed and he has therefore …..“asked Mr Justice Underhill to undertake a root-and-branch review of the rules governing employment tribunals, in order to modernise them”. Fine as far at it goes, and it can be strongly argued that case law over the years, has resulted in legal definitions of various things, to be almost 180 degrees from what was first intended in the original law. The devil, as always, is in who writes the parameters of the review and the questions set. Will Vince “Consult” on that?. Somehow I don’t think so.

    This is a very bad set of proposals which I for one as a Lib Dem cannot support.

  • Paul, Apologies for delay in response …
    I was, initially, responding to your post…”Could you please point me to the text in Vince Cable’s speech which says that he wants to make it eaier to sack people without having to give reasons?………………..I believe we are now both of the opinion that there is such.

    In addition the proposal to charge employees a ‘fee’ (although I believe each side pays their own ET costs) of £1250?, before any ET is instigated, will enable ‘dodgy’ employers to ‘chance their arm’ over unfair dismissal claims. Citizens Advice described the proposed tribunal changes as “nothing short of a charter for rogue employers”.

    ref…“protected conversations…..”the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development says such a change will result in more, not less, legal wrangles.

    As far as your point about ACAS goes I’m not sure that it will not add to ‘red tape’ as it may well duplicate the ‘Pre-Hearing Review’ area of the Employment Tribunal; in any case ACAS, not exactly the ”darling’ of the right, will need extra resources…So much for ‘cutting quangos’.

    The bottom line must be, “How many jobs will the package create?”…According to the FT… “In a business department survey of small and medium-sized companies, only 6 per cent said regulation, including employment legislation, was the main obstacle to success.”

  • Gareth Jones 24th Nov '11 - 6:44pm

    http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/a-new-return-to-victorian-values-6267115.html

    I think we have to see this as a bigger struggle within the Cabinet. We may have to give some ground over this, even if it is diluted, so we can gain ground elsewhere, such as exec pay or banks lending to ethic groups. The unfortunate reality is this government is going to be right wing; I believe our ministers have done a good job of dragging it towards the centre but it is never going to be a left of centre government.

  • Paul Walter Paul Walter 24th Nov '11 - 6:55pm

    @jason Certainly agree on the “protected conversations”, which is particularly worrying for employees with no union representation. Even at the moment, many employees struggle with the siginificant difference between resigning and being terminated. I knew a manager who had to virtually beg an employee to resign for his own good (the alternative of termination was far worse in that case). To introduce such an extra element of complexity seems very unfair to employees, if only because they are likely to be completely baffled by it – even more than they are now by some of the procedures.

  • Radicalibral 24th Nov '11 - 8:58pm

    @Dave Eastham. Whilst your point about the resources needed for ACAS to carry out this role may be well made, it is still quite possible that this change could result in claims which would have previously been sent to the Tribunal taking months even sometimes in some cases years to resolve taking possibly only weeks to be resolved by ACAS.

  • “I want to stress that our proposals are not – quite emphatically not – an attempt to give businesses an easy ride at the expense of their staff.”

    When do politicians make remarks of this nature? I think there are only two basic situations. One, when the real position is at best complicated or obscure, and rational observers generally believe the opposite of what has had to be so “emphatically” asserted. And the other, when it’s an outright lie.

  • Dave Eastham 26th Nov '11 - 9:31am

    @Radicaliberal

    Aplogies for a couple of days delay in replying to you. Been off line. This thread seems to be going cold, as it has now fallen off the front page of LDV but anyway, a question always needs an answer.

    In short, unless the parameters set for any involvement of ACAS in the matter, are set with a presumption of rejection and with no appeal, then no it won’t have the effect you are suggesting. And justice it will not be. Anyway, justice takes as long as it takes as long as it takes. It may go on years but some cases just will take that long. (A particular example from the last period of Tory Government, is the protracted legal wrangling over equal pay for work of equal value, which took ten years plus). Quick and dirty dispute resolution is bad justice and I repeat, the mechanisms in place already screen out plenty of vexatious/invalid claims, without introducing another layer of bureaucracy/red tape. It’s a red herring, to coin a phrase.

    I have re-read Vince’s speech and one of the things that does rather stand out, is that only 6% of employers think that employment rights are even a problem. “A recent survey of SMEs, commissioned by BIS, revealed that the proportion regarding regulation, including employment regulation, as the main obstacle to business success was only 6% – and it has halved over the last two years”.

    This is even less than the reported “barriers” to recruitment of the “Captains of Industry” the 50p tax rate on incomes of over £150,000 a year, as is being reported this morning. Which is apparently regarded as a barrier to recruitment by only 13% of employers.

    Another “evidence free” Tory lobotomised no brain ideological assertion bites the dust here, methinks.

    I have been looking at some of my old case files as a Union Rep from the 1990’s, when employment “rights” were last set at two years. Nostalgia is not the word I would use about them. Bullying, harassment and just plain abuses of personal power by managers in the workplace, are what stands out. Apart from the personal levels of misery, it is just so much waste of time and money. The costs of recruitment of staff (as anyone who has ever done it professionally in their jobs will know) are not insignificant. So why allow such hidden costs in the economy, which are way more significant than employment tribunals, to run out of control by legally encouraging such anti-social behaviour?.

    The ease of “hire and fire” policies and the effect on unemployment rates are not supported by the evidence at all. Out of 30 OECD countries, only in two is it easier to hire and fire and that is the USA (unemployment 9.1%) and Canada. Additionally, in others, such as the Netherlands, where there are more stringent employment restrictions, the unemployment rates are less than 5%. As compared to the UK with 8.1% unemployment. So where is the evidence that laxer employment laws lead to more employment?. Certainly not in the Government proposals.

    But what concerns me even more, is that Vince referred to the report on sickness at work and what can be done to reduce those costs to the economy. There will be a Government response next year. It looks like the idea is to set up a entirely new procedure for assessment of fitness for work, which takes the G.P’s out of the equation. If the final outcome is in anyway similar to the procedures currently associated with the Disability Living Allowance assessments, then I really think all reason will have fled.

    I thought the Lib Dems were in Government to ensure that evidence influenced policy. There seems very little to indicate that this has happened over employment law.

  • Matthew Huntbach 26th Nov '11 - 10:19am

    Paul Walter

    @Matthew Huntbach

    …”wants to go along with moves to make it easier to sack people without having to give reasons”

    Could you please point me to the text in Vince Cable’s speech which says that he wants to make it eaier to sack people without having to give reasons?

    I wrote a replu to this, which I am pretty sure I saw come up, buit now seems to have been “edited out”.

    Others have already made the point – Vince Cable’s speech is full of code-words which we know when Tories use them mean “make it easier to sack people”.

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