Osborne to Target Workers' Rights with Review of Employment Law

The Independent (London, England), May 12, 2011 | Go to article overview
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Osborne to Target Workers' Rights with Review of Employment Law


Workers are set to receive less protection against redundancy, dismissal and workplace discrimination as the Chancellor George Osborne tears up sections of employment law so businesses can dispose of their staff more easily.

Mr Osborne announced that the Government intends to erode many long-held employment rights so that companies could have a more "flexible" approach towards their employees.

He said that such an approach was needed to help employers in financial difficulty and push the Government's broader aim of supporting private-sector growth. The Coalition is making more than half a million public-sector job cuts, and relying on the private sector to make up that shortfall in the employment market.

Mr Osborne has proposed imposing a cap on awards given in cases of discrimination and abuse in the workplace on the grounds of race or gender. Employers will also be able to sack people more quickly.

As well as introducing fees and new rules to prevent "vexatious" claims at employment tribunals, the Government wants to review the unlimited penalties currently applied in employment tribunals, simplify the administration of the national minimum wage and reform the consultation period for collective redundancies.

The latter, under which employers must inform the Business Secretary of significant redundancies within 90 days, could see the window shortened to 30 days. Given current rules on balloting for industrial action, that would weaken the ability of trade unions to resist sackings before they happen. For now, there are no proposals affecting strikes and industrial action.

Other rights enjoyed by low-paid staff whose companies are privatised or taken over will also be targeted.

The Chancellor told the Institute of Directors' annual convention in London that he will publish a "detailed timetable for the wholesale review of employment law in this country", to tackle the "costly impact of our employment laws and regulations".

Mr Osborne attacked the trade unions as "the forces of stagnation" who "will try to stand in the way of the forces of enterprise". The Chancellor's words were criticised by the unions and Labour Party. John Denham, the shadow Business Secretary, said: "George Osborne's only idea for growth is to make it easier to cut pay and pensions, dismiss employees without giving time to plan for the future, and make working life more insecure. Successful companies have a workforce that is confident, dedicated and fairly rewarded."

Brendan Barber, general secretary of the TUC, added: "Reducing protections for staff facing takeovers, discrimination or redundancy will make life even harder for vulnerable workers. It is disappointing to see the Chancellor dressing up this political attack as some kind of growth strategy.

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