Courtesy of the Torygraph (believe it or not): here are the proposals (drawn up at Cameron’s request by Adrian Beecroft, a venture capitalist, in conjunction with government officials and lawyers), for mor or less doing away with an employee’s right to claim unfair dismissal. This comes on top of the already enacted increase in the qualifying period of an employee’s service in order to bring an unfair dismissal claim, from one year to two.
We’re told that Vince Cable the Lib Dems are resisting these proposals, but we all know what their “resistance” is worth.
Beecroft comments on unfair dismissal:
Four approaches are possible. First, the whole concept of unfair dismissal where discrimination is not involved could be removed from UK law (apart from a few provisions where employees are protected from dismissal under the EU-derived rights under the Working Time Directive, Fixed Term/Part Time Directives and T.U.P.E). There is no EU concept of “unfair” non-discriminatory dismissal, so there are no other EU constraints on what the UK can do in this area. Second, the period within which an employee can be dismissed without being able to claim unfair dismissal could be extended beyond two years. The exact period might depend on the size of the business concerned. A longer period could be allowed for smaller businesses that find the specialised processes for dealing with unfair dismissal harder to understand and follow than do larger businesses which can justify employing an HR specialist. Third, the process for proving that an employee is no longer up to the job could be streamlined. The burden of proff on the employer could be reduced, making it harder for the employee to cliam to a tribunal that the process was flawed. Reducing the burden of proof would also address the problem of employees that dismissal was for discriminatory reasons rather than performance reasons since if it is easier to prove that dismissal was for underperformance it is harder to say that it was for discriminatory reasons. The steps currently proposed to change the system, including the obligation to suggest ACAS conciliation, fees for employees starting the employment tribunal process and greater use of cost orders for frivolous complaints are all sensible steps in the right direction.
However if it is felt to be politically unacceptable to simply do away with the concept of unfair dismissal I strongly favour a fourth approach which allows an employer to dismiss anyone without giving a reason provided they make an enhanced leaving payment. New legislation would precribe that it is not unfair dismissal if the employer simply states that he is not happy with the employee’s performance and then consults, gives notice and pays a defined level of compensation linked to the employee’s salary and length of service. I am proposing for two reasons that the compensation should be that speicified in redundancy situations. First, these will typically be higher than those specified in the employee’s contract of employment, thus providing compensation for the no fault nature of the dismissal. Second, if the payments were different from redundancy payments there would be financial incentives for game playing as to which sort of dismissal was chosen. This type of dismissal could be known as Compensated No Fault Dismissal.
As well as this attack on the right to claim unfair dismissal, Beecroft also proposes:
• Delaying laws which will force companies to provide pensions for their workers from this autumn. The report states: “It is unclear why introducing from 2012 a measure that will costs employers £6 billion per year, individuals £7 billion per year and government £2 billion per year is sensible in the current economic climate”.
• Stopping the planned spread of flexible working to allow all employees to request changes to their standard working week. It recommends a new voluntary code of conduct rather than laws.
• A watering down of the TUPE rules that mean that a supplier taking over another’s firm’s contract and workers must respect the existing terms of employment for workers. This is a particular issue when private firms take over roles previously conducted by the public sector.
• Scrapping plans for firms to introduce equal pay audits.
• Allowing larger firms to make so-called “collective” redundancies where more than 100 workers are dismissed with only 30 days notice. This notice period is currently only available for smaller firms, which means that larger firms have to pay people an extra 60 days worth of wages.
• A new online immigration system which allows employers to check a potential worker’s legal employment status. At the moment, firms have to keep paper records for up to two years after an employee has left.
• “A modest amount of one-off work by the Home Office…would eliminate any risk of well-meaning employers fearing or facing prosecution for honest mistakes,” the report suggests.