02/10/2012 - Solidarity Trade Union slams government employment law reform proposal

Proposals announced by the Government business minister Vince Cable, including a cut in the amount that employees can claim for unfair dismissal payouts, have been heavily criticised by Solidarity Trade Union.

Cable also wants to bring in settlement agreements, in which staff agree to leave without being able to go to a tribunal, but get a pay-off in return.

Although proposals which aimed to simplify the dismissal process for micro-firms and small businesses would not be made law.

Cable said "Small companies want the confidence to hire, but we don't want fear in the workforce. Our starting point is that Britain already has very flexible labour markets. But we acknowledge that more can be done to help small companies by reducing the burden of employment tribunals, which we are reforming, and moving to less confrontational dispute resolutions through settlement agreements."

The Department for Business Innovation and Skills (BIS) launched a consultation on 14th September on the potential to cap unfair dismissal compensation claims from the current level of £72,300 to a maximum of 12-months’ salary with a reduced upper limit. Even so, figures show most cases are settled at around £5,000-£6,000 while just 6 per cent receive more than £30,000 and 1-2 per cent receive the maximum payout.

Also launched this week is a consultation on the reinstatement of settlement agreements under which staff agree to leave and reach a financial settlement with employees without having to go to an employment tribunal, giving judges powers to sift through tribunal cases before they reach court to allow them to dismiss weak cases without the need for a hearing.

The suggested changes come on top of others made in April, which limited unfair dismissal claims to British workers who had been in a job for two years, rather than one as before.

Sarah Veale from the TUC "The clue is in the term 'unfair dismissal'.

"If people have been unfairly dismissed, this means the employer has done something wrong and it's right that the tribunal should then decide what sort of compensation the person deserves,"
she said.

The proposals are part of the government’s Employment Law Review, which was launched in 2010 alongside the Red Tape Challenge, which aim to rid business owners of unnecessary bureaucratic procedures and reduce employment law red-tape.

Patrick Harringon the General Secretary of Solidarity commented:

"Once again this is Vince Cable and the ConDem government siding with the bosses against British workers and sending out a message that rogue employers can fire staff unfairly in the knowledge that any compensation will be peanuts.

Solidarity slammed the proposals believing they would increase insecurity and not jobs and while Cable admits that there is no benefit in `sacking at will' his capitulation on British workers' tribunal protections is proof of his pandering to the large anti-working class wing of this government.

British workers already have the worst protections in Europe. This government is utterly misguided in its belief that making workers more vulnerable will power our economy to recovery." 

Vince Cable should be ashamed for his part in this assault on the rights of the millions of decent working people of this country. This is a government that has not one clue about how to create jobs, but is certainly skilled at spreading insecurity and fear in the workplace.

By Ian Bell