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Business groups react to ‘radical employment law reform’

The Government has unveiled a series of sweeping changes to employment law, which will make it more difficult for workers to raise a claim against their employer for unfair dismissal, and easier for employers to hire – and fire – their staff.

The plans, billed as the ‘most radical reform package for decades’, include increasing the qualification period for making an unfair dismissal claim from one to two years, cutting the 90-day consultation period on redundancies to as low as 30 days, and a requirement that all claims go through the conciliation organisation Acas, before reaching tribunal stage.

Other proposals include the introduction of a fast-track scheme for more simple claims, a regional pilot scheme for smaller firms to use mediation, and allowing employers to have ‘protected conversations’ with employees about their performance, which would not be allowable as evidence in a tribunal.

The measures are expected to save the Government more than £10m, while employers are expected to benefit by £40m.

A Government spokesperson commented, ‘We need to make the system simpler for employers and employees. This package will make it easier for businesses when taking on, managing and letting go their staff’.

The British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) has welcomed the news. Dr Adam Marshall of the BCC said, ‘Employment regulations often create uncertainty for businesses and act as real barriers to confidence, growth and job creation. The BCC has long called for a reduction in red tape and a shake-up of the Employment Tribunal system’.

However, the TUC has spoken out against the measures, arguing that they will have a huge impact on employees who are already seriously concerned about their future.

The TUC’s Brendan Barber said, ‘Reducing protection for people at work will not save or create a single job. At a time when thousands of jobs are under threat as a result of the Government’s austerity programme, reducing the time that organisations have to consult with their employees whose jobs are at risk of redundancy flies in the face of good sense’.