Duncan Lewis

Romford Office

Crime and Civil cases

house 40 staff

Employment reforms and its fallout

Date: (30 January 2013)    |    

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A controversial report on employment by private equity pioneer Adrian Beecroft last year had not included the fact that the number of claims by employees in employment tribunals had fallen from 236,000 in 2009-10 to 186,000 in 2011-12. Even sex discrimination cases for both sexes had almost halved with the median compensation awarded in most types of claims remaining at around £5,000. These figures were at a time of economic upheaval which could not be in accordance with what is expected.
But the descriptive preferred by both government and Beecroft was that business were being throttled by bureaucratic regulations and they argued that economic growth could be secured by a more flexible labour supply and the freedom to take and sack.
However many employment lawyers argue that any reforms by government was bound to raise uncertainty and trigger settlement litigation at the same time increasing the burden on the tribunal system.
The Beecroft report had recommended that the reforms should include changes in rules of unfair dismissal by making qualifying period for unfair dismissal claim starting from two years of employment to gain protection and cases to be heard by one sitting judge minus additional two wing members.
The Department for Business, Innovation & Skills’ Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill (ERRB) is currently at the committee stage in the Lords. Another employee owner scheme is also being introduced by George Osborne under which workers sacrifice rights for shares in their employer. Other reforms include changes in the Employment Tribunals Rules of Procedure known as the Underhill Reforms, which are expected to come in this April; reform of the transfer of undertakings rules (TUPE); flexible working reform; a new ACAS code of practice so on so forth.
Even EU states are reforming their employment laws and under the current grim economic scenario are expected to adopt country specific recommendations on both budgets and structural reforms such as employment policies.
The UK, with its weakest employment protection regimes in Europe, gives less room for maneuvering in respect of EU treaty rights, including those which pertain to equality.
Business perceptions Survey 2012 had found that 55% of businesses believe regulation was a barrier to success though compliance was never an issue and a challenge which attracted and retained customers.
The Law Society’s response to the various consultations on employment law reform was summed up by President Lucy Scott-Moncrieff: who questioned governments say that employers were not expanding because of fear of employment regulation whether it was really the case. The society was concerned that due to reforms unintended consequences could arise.
The Employment Lawyers Association had echoed the same concerns saying law had to be workable and people should understand it and is useful but it said it was not convinced that these reforms were going to be achieved. The employment lawyers recognise that there is room for improvement in the existing regulatory and legislative structure it said.