20 September 2012
The Department of Business, Innovation and Skills has released a new report showing the government has gone ahead with several of Adrian Beecroft’s proposals, disregarding the negative response they received from trade unions, the general public and even employers.
The report shows that the Coalition has already passed into law several of the venture capitalist’s recommendations, or taken action similar to that which he proposed, including:
- Extending the qualifying period for unfair dismissal to two years from one
- Amending the law concerning compromise agreements in cases of alleged discrimination, which makes it easier for employers to force a settlement outside of court
- Changing unfair dismissal legislation so that judges sit alone at unfair dismissal tribunals
- Taking witness statements as read at tribunals
- Limiting cost awards at £20k
- Increasing deposit orders to £1k
The above changes were all brought in on April 6th 2012 and further changes relating to Beecroft recommendations may still to be brought in through the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill. These could affect Acas conciliation and settlement agreements in unfair dismissal cases, provide the power to amend the unfair dismissal compensation cap, push through rapid resolutions, allow Employment Tribunal Appeal judges to sit alone and a change to Public Interest Disclosure Act forcing whistleblowers to prove their case is of public interest.
Other proposals have been through the consultation process, but the government has not yet issued a response or provided details on how it will proceed. These include:
- No-fault dismissal legislation, which would make it easier for employers to fire their workers without good cause.
- Weakening third-party harassment provisions of the Equality Act to make employers not legally responsible for protecting their employees from harassment at work by people unconnected to the business, such as contractors and customers.
- Changes to employment tribunals to make the process “simpler and shorter for smaller firms”, details yet to be announced.
- The review of collective redundancy legislation. The government has said it plans to “remove barriers” for businesses in this area.
- TUPE. The government is to continue consulting on a review of this legislation.
Some of Beecroft’s proposals, such as introducing fees and capping awards in discrimination tribunals, will not be pursued, the report states. However, in many cases where recommendations have not been followed this is because they do not comply with international law.
Business Secretary Vince Cable attempted to distance himself from the unpopular proposals when they were initially released, but although some of Beecroft’s recommendations have been toned down in practice, the moves the Coalition have made and plan to make are clearly in the same ideological vein.
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