Commenting on the package of employment law changes announced by the Business Secretary today (Wednesday), Dr Adam Marshall, Director of Policy at the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), said:

“Employment regulations often create uncertainty for businesses and act as real barriers to confidence, growth and job creation. The BCC has long called for a reduction in red tape and a shake-up of the employment tribunal system, so we welcome the government’s reform proposals, which respond directly to business concerns.

On a new dismissal route, highlighted recently by the Beecroft report:

“Vince Cable is right to say that dismissal procedures need to be slimmed down. In a recent survey of firms, over 70 percent told us that dismissal rules are burdensome to their business*.

“It may seem counter-intuitive, but giving companies greater flexibility to hire and fire will provide them with greater confidence to take people on. The BCC originally proposed a compensated, no-fault dismissal route two years ago. A reform of the ACAS code on dismissal would make it simpler, clearer and easier for companies to navigate what has been a very complex and risky process to date.

“The government must not delay. Putting in place a new dismissal route will ensure that even our smallest companies have the confidence and certainty needed to hire people, manage their workforce, and boost growth.”

On reforms to the employment tribunal system:

“Businesses currently feel like the employment tribunal system is stacked against them. One in five businesses has been threatened with a tribunal claim in the last three years. Mandatory ACAS involvement and new claimant fees will make the tribunal system fairer by ensuring that baseless claims are weeded out, and the pressure to settle is reduced. Our research shows that 37 percent of cases are settled before a hearing because it is the cheaper and easier option for employers, and this has to change.

“The proposal to investigate a fast-track scheme for simple claims could also help. With the assurance that all claims will be dealt with in three months, this is an attractive proposal to both claimant and employer alike. Once these reforms are in place, firms won’t have to waste time and money and can focus on running their business and delivering growth instead. It will also mean that the system is freed up for those with genuine grievances.

On compromise agreements and ‘protected conversations’:

“In addition to tribunal reforms, simplified compromise agreements and ‘protected conversations’ between employers and employees would help companies create jobs and deliver growth. The removal of the Default Retirement Age was a mistake, and has left a vacuum that ‘protected conversations’ can help to fill. Employers need to be able to speak with staff about their future plans without fear of tribunal action. On that basis, we would urge ministers to implement these proposals without delay.”

On Criminal Records Bureau checks:

“There is no need for an individual to get a new £44 check every time they start a new role, especially since so many contracts today require CRB clearance. From the employer’s perspective, CRB checks mean cost and delay. In many cases, companies spend time and money training up people only to find that they cannot take up a contract because of CRB-related issues. Checking an individual once, updating that check regularly, and allowing it to be used across multiple employers, is more efficient for job-seekers and businesses alike.”

On the reduction of consultation periods for collective redundancy:

“In a world of modern communication, employers and employees do not require 90 days to consult on redundancy. The government is right to consult on shortening this period, and we urge them to move to a statutory 30-day consultation period as soon as possible in 2012.”