What a month it has been in the world of employment law! Amongst the myriad of announcements whirling around Westminster, a number of headline reforms have been revealed that look to radically revamp the employment law landscape.
First came the Queen’s Speech on the 9th May, which outlined key changes to family friendly employment rights, then on the 15th May the government launched their consultation on reform of the Equality Act on the Equality Act. And it doesn’t stop there; this week employers have been hit by a double whammy of reform proposals in the form of the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill and the publication of the controversial Beecroft report.
The Beecroft report was commissioned by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills back in 2011 as part of the coalition’s “red tape challenge”. It was prepared by venture capitalist Adrian Beecroft and it outlines a number of proposals aimed at stimulating business growth through employment law reform.
The controversial report takes no prisoners, and first in Beecroft’s sights is the law on unfair dismissal. He proposes a range of reforms, from extreme suggestions such as abandoning unfair dismissal protection altogether, to rather more palatable proposals such as raising the qualifying period and streamlining ACAS dismissal procedures.
The report also puts meat on the bones of the oft-discussed idea of “compensated no-fault dismissals”. The report suggests these dismissals would be automatically fair where the employer gives full notice plus statutory redundancy pay.
Other proposals set out in the report include: scrapping the third party harassment provisions of the Equality Act; capping loss of earnings compensation in Tribunal awards; delaying pensions auto-enrolment; reforming the TUPE Regulations; and changing the rules on collective redundancies to reduce the statutory consultation period from 90 days to 30 days.
The government is already steaming ahead with reforms and has issued calls for evidence on a number of these issues. Nonetheless, this particular report has divided the coalition down party lines, particularly in relation to the idea of no-fault dismissals. Business Secretary Vince Cable has spoken out against this proposal on a number of occasions, and former Liberal Democrat Treasury spokesman Lord Oakeshott of Seagrove Bay as “bonkers” and the “economics of the madhouse”.
In short, it seems stormy waters are ahead for the world of employment law. It’s all too much for me- I’m off to lie in a darkened room for a few hours!