Monday, 21 May 2012

Ready... aim...

The vaunted Beecroft report, sketchy details of which were released late last year, is due for publication in 2 days' time after an FOI request was submitted by the Labour Party's Business team.

It appears that today the full report has been leaked, as often happens with these things. (Those pesky leaky Government departments, eh?)

The report has been drafted by Adrian Beecroft, a venture capitalist and supporter of the Conservative Party, who appear to be attempting to grant him policy-making rights in return for large donations to the Party. The aim is, apparently, to 'encourage employers to boost economic growth'- the means seem to boil down to making it easier to dismiss employees.

The crux of the report seems to be the caim that we can make swingeing cuts through the dreaded 'red tape' that supposedly plagues British employers (despite the UK having some of the least restrictive laws on employing people.) Beecroft takes a view on ending the mandatory 90-day consultation period for redundancy consultations, favouring a 30-day period or even emergency 5-day period if a firm is in 'severe distress', as well as proposing reform of TUPE rights that workers are allowed to "carry" to new employers when their companies are the subject of a takeover. Add to this a cap on the level of loss-of-earnings compensation for employees who win claims for unfair dismissal and a shift in responsibility for checking foreign nationals' eligibility to work in the UK from employers to the UK Borders Agency, and Beecroft is shaping up to be a contentious and controversial document indeed.

And then there's Compensated No Fault Dismissals, the proposal that appears to be creating more of a ruckus than any other suggestion Beecroft has to make. On the surface this will remove the existing legal barriers to firing unproductive, 'coasting' staff and will shorten the process, saving time, money and resources. However, Beecroft fails to acknowledge that if staff are 'coasting', there are already performance management and legal measures a business can take to liberate employees from their roles if they do not improve. 

Compensated No Fault Dismissals, far from being cute and fluffy and... well, compensatory, threaten to give unscrupulous employers the right to dismiss employees because they dislike them, regardless of length of service or ability. Beecroft recognises this risk himself, and merely states "While this is sad I believe it is a price worth paying for all the benefits that would result from the change." (He's talking about people losing their jobs because their face no longer fits, and experiencing the devastation unemployment can wreak on individuals and families, by the way. It's not merely "sad", but a tragedy for many.)

Reaction to the key recommendations has been mixed, with Labour and Liberal Democrat politicians aghast at proposals that have been variously described as "the wrong approach" by Business Secretary Vince Cable, who has also called the proposals "a nonsense" and condemns any idea that they will stimulate economic growth. Labour's Chuka Umunna damns the "ability to fire at will" which would affect "over 3.6 million employees in the private sector" and has tabled an Urgent Question in the Commons today to ask the Government to establish their intentions regarding Beecroft's report. 

Watch this space. I believe things are going to get interesting.

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