Unfair dismissal rules altered in regulation overhaul

Posted on 3 Oct 2011 by The Manufacturer

The Department for Business Innovation and skills claim the regulatory changes will benefit business leaders but unions have expressed fury at a percieved attack on worker rights.

Business Secretary Vince Cable and Chancellor George Osborne today announced alterations to unfair dismissal rules in the UK which they claim will save British businesses up to £6 million a year.

Today’s announcement will see the qualification period for the right to claim unfair dismissal extended from one to two years. The change will come into force on April 6, 2012.

The aim of the legislative update is to reduce the burden of red tape on organisations attempting to grow and to encourage ambitious companies to recruit with confidence.

The changes have been guided by the outcomes of the ‘Resolving Workplace Disputes’ consultation, the results of which were published in early 2011. It is anticipated that the alterations will see the number of unfair dismissal claims drop by around 2000 a year. According to government many claims being made under current regulation are unfounded or “vexatious”.

Business Secretary Vince Cable commented: “We have one of the most flexible labour markets in the world but there is more we can do to give British business the confidence it needs to create more jobs and support the wider economy to grow.”

He continued: “Businesses tell us that unfair dismissal rules are a major barrier to taking on more people. So today we have announced that only after working for the same employer for two years can an employee bring an unfair dismissal claim.”

However, despite confidence in this decision from BIS union leaders have expressed outrage at the changes. Len McCluskey (pictured), general secretary at the UK’s largest union, Unite asked: “When will this government understand that there is not a culture of “vexatious” claims? Proper checks and balances are in place to root out those cases. The vast majority of workers pursuing unfair dismissal are found to have valid claims.”

Unite representatives fear that the alterations to unfair dismissal practices will leave workers exposed. Referring to the Red Tape Challenge, a government initiative designed to help reduce unnecessary business regulation in the UK, Mr McClukey said: “At a stroke of a pen, following a fraudulent consultation exercise whereby employers could “vote” for their least liked laws, a key defence against mistreatment is taken away from workers.”

The Red Tape Challenge is still in progress, moving focus every three weeks onto different areas of regulation and different sector requirements. Over the next three weeks over 160 general employment regulation effecting businesses in all areas of the economy will be reviewed.

Comments submitted to the Red Tape Challenge will guide government decisions on whether specific regulations can be improve, simplified or even abolished. Government is particularly keen to receive feedback on the rules governing collective redundancies, employment agencies, immigration checks, the National Minimum Wage and statutory sick pay.