08 March 2013
It turns out the left was right all along on the problems perceived by employers with employment law, but it is quite a surprise a Tory-led government is the one to finally admit it.
New research commissioned by the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills – The Employer Perceptions and Impact of Employment Regulation – has shown that where labour law is considered to be burdensome by employers, it is often because it has been misunderstood.
The study showed, for instance, that some employers were over-complying with regulations they did not understand – particularly when it comes to dismissing staff – and their experience was thus leading them to the impression that employment law was far more penalising to employers than it ever has been. This finding is reminiscent of Professor Ragnar Lofstedt’s recent review into health and safety, which was also commissioned by the government, and which also discovered the ‘burden’ employers reported was created by their over-compliance with regulations that were found to be perfectly reasonable when followed correctly.
But don’t get your hopes up yet, the research does not represent a sudden embrace of reasoned logic within the Coalition’s otherwise ideologically-driven policy proposals. When Professor Lofstedt published his report, the government willingly misinterpreted his recommendations, deciding to bring in harsh cuts to the health and safety regulations that the review found to play important roles in protecting workers, in order to appease misinformed employers that considered them to be a burden, rather than simply educating employers to follow the law correctly.
The response to the new study on employment law from Jo Swinson, Employment Relations Minister, reveals a similar approach this time around. “Through the government’s Employment Law Review we are reviewing existing legislation with the aim of providing clarity and certainty for business to give them the confidence to manage their workforce effectively,” she said, sounding perfectly reasonable until you look at what the government are actually doing.
As well as some attempts to improve employer education, the government are taking advantage of business perceptions of burdensome regulations by making ideological choices to get rid of the ones that protect the livelihoods of workers.
Just some of these are:
- Making it more expensive and more difficult for workers to seek justice through an employment tribunal if they are unfairly dismissed
- Attempting to remove employers’ civil liability for their workers’ welfare – which has been enshrined in law for 114 years
- Providing businesses with the ability to offer their workers shares in their companies instead of fundamental employment rights like redundancy pay and protection against unfair dismissal
- Making it unlawful for health and safety experts to proactively inspect workplaces including docks, airfields and some manufacturing companies. Instead, inspectors must wait until someone has been injured or killed to access the site
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