Proposed government rule-changes for collective redundancies: an employment lawyer’s response.

Felicia Epstein is an employment specialist from our London office and member of the Institute of Employment Rights (IER).  As part of the consultation process, she’s drafted a response to Government proposals changing the rules on collective redundancies… 

The response to the Government consultation published by the IER is downloadable as a .pdf file by clicking on the following link: Collective Redundancies Response 2012

What follows is Felicia’s summary…

The 90 day consultation period works in the interests of employers in many cases, and its purpose includes protecting employees. It also reduces the prospect of challenge regarding meeting the requirements of consultation. Any reduction in consultation periods will have a negative impact on the quality of consultation. The reduction will limit the ability of employers and unions to develop alternatives to redundancies, including redeployment and short-term working.As a result, unnecessary redundancies will take place, employers will lose skilled staff, and unemployment levels are likely to rise.

We support the TUC and Unite in their contention that collective redundancy consultation obligations have been of significant benefit to both workers and employers. We also agree that the proposals will limit the opportunities for unions to seek agreement from employers on alternatives to redundancies, and that this will increase job insecurity, damage workforce morale and reduce the incomes of those facing redundancy. Reducing consultation will shift the burden from the business to the government as employees have increased reliance on welfare benefits.

The IER disagrees with the government that the UK law is ‘gold-plated’ and that the legislation is too restrictive. Arrangements regarding redundancy fall short of the practices of other EU member states. Reducing the consultation period will make UK workers more vulnerable to redundancies when multinationals decide to restructure.

The impact assessment document states that even though other countries may have shorter consultation periods, their broader employment rights regimes are much stronger. In the UK there is heavy reliance on the trade unions to ensure that genuine consultation occurs. If the period of consultation is shortened, employees in places of employment without trade union involvement will find it difficult to organise and effect meaningful consultation.

The IER is not convinced that development of a non-statutory Code of Practice or guidance will be sufficient by itself to improve the quality of consultation. This will only be achieved through the adoption of strengthened legislation.

Finally, the IER believes that the government should promote engagement between employers and unions through wider use of the Information and Consultation of Employee Regulations 2004.

 

Editorial, Felicia Epstein,
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