The Coalition Government is using the problems in the economy as
an excuse to attack employment rights. They claim that 'red tape'
is holding back business and they see workers rights as 'red
Here is an overview of the changes to
employment rights that are currently being introduced by the
Reducing Redundancy Consultation
The Government has recently announced that the
redundancy consultation period is to be reduced from 90 to 45
Currently, workers are entitled to a 90-day
consultation if there are proposals for 100 or more redundancies.
If there are to be more than 20 but fewer than 100 redundancies
there must be a 30-day consultation.
Usdaw argued against the reduction to a 45-day
consultation period. In the Union's experience the 90-day
consultation period had been beneficial to employers, employees and
the local community alike, in particular in cases of large-scale
The new 45-day consultation period means that
meaningful consultation as well as opportunities for redeployment
will be limited.
Fixed term contracts which have reached the
end of the fixed term period will be excluded from collective
consultation obligations. Usdaw is concerned about the removal of
consultation rights from fixed-term contract staff as this
increases job and financial insecurity for vulnerable groups of
There will also be a new non-statutory Code of
Practice to address the issues involved in redundancy
consultations. The Union had argued for statutory Acas Code of
Practice. Although a new Code of Practice will be drawn up, it will
be non-statutory. This means it is voluntary and merely relies on
employers to do the right thing, with some employers likely to
Unfair Dismissal – Qualifying Period
Extended To Two Years
The qualifying period for protection from
unfair dismissal increased from one to two years in April 2012. The
increase affects those who started with their employer on or after
this date. The one-year qualifying period still applies to those
who started before this date.
The qualifying period for an employee to be
entitled to a written statement from their employer setting out the
reasons for dismissal also increased from one to two.
The increase to a two-year qualifying period
means that millions of new workers are not only losing out on
unfair dismissal protection but also have unfairly restricted
access to justice if they are dismissed by their employer.
There is a real worry that the rise to two
years will increase job insecurity and lead to a return to the
hire-and-fire culture last seen under the previous Tory
Employment Tribunal Fees – Workers To
Pay Fees For Access To Justice
The Government has announced that employment
tribunal fees that must be paid by workers in order to bring a
claim to tribunal will be introduced in mid-2013. The minimum fee
cost will be £390 and only people in receipt of certain benefits
and some workers on low income will be exempt.
Usdaw has always opposed any restrictions on
workers access to justice and supported a proposal at the 2012
Trade Union Congress calling on the TUC to step up their campaign
against Government proposals to erode rights at work and to secure
full commitment to this programme from the Labour Government.
Cutting Criminal Injury
On 27 November 2012 a revised Criminal
Injuries Compensation Scheme came into force. This means that the
vast majority of innocent victims of violent crime is no longer
eligible for any compensation or will receive a drastically cut
Usdaw has campaigned hard against the cuts on
behalf of its many retail members injured every year in armed
robberies and assaults at work, the majority no longer eligible for
any financial support.
Employee Shareholder – A New
The Government is looking to introduce a new
employment status whereby employers can buy-out a number of key
This proposal for a new 'employee-shareholder'
status would allow employers to insist that new starters sign up to
this new type of contract and waive important employment
rights. Employers will also be able to offer this type of
contract to current employees.
Under this new 'employee-shareholder' status,
in exchange for at least £2,000 worth of shares in the business,
employers would be able to buy out the following rights:
- Unfair dismissal.
- Statutory Redundancy Pay (including the right to claim from the
Redundancy Payment Office).
- Time to train.
- Right to request to work flexibly - except parental leave
- Longer notice periods (8 to 16 weeks) to return early from
The first £50,000 worth of shares would be
free of capital gains tax.
Usdaw supports the idea of workers having
shares in their business. But the Union does not believe that
workers should have to sign away basic employment rights to be
stakeholders in their own business.
The Government has recently published the
results of a consultation exercise into the new employment status.
The proposal has received very little support, with only five out
of 209 responses welcoming the proposals.
Despite this feedback, the Government is
continuing to push this proposal through Parliament.
In addition to the above changes, the
Government is considering further changes including:
The Coalition Government is proposing the
introduction of so-called settlement agreements. It means that
employees would agree to leave their employer for a pay-off, but
give up their right to go to a tribunal in much the same way as the
current compromise agreements. Under the proposals, the 'without
prejudice' rule would be extended so that employers can offer a sum
of money and a settlement agreement even though there is no
pre-existing dispute. If the worker accepts the 'settlement
agreement', it will be legally protected and cannot be used later
as evidence in any court case or tribunal. Even if the worker does
not accept the 'settlement agreement', these conversations cannot
be admitted as evidence in unfair dismissal cases unless the
tribunal in convinced the employer has behaved improperly.
Usdaw believes that settlement agreements will
encourage employers to evade normal procedures aimed at improving
conduct or performance. Instead, it will provide employers with in
easy route to pushing employees into resigning.
Limiting Compensation For Unfair
The coalition Government plans to revise the
limits on compensation that can be awarded when workers are
The Government intends to place a cap of 12
months' pay on unfair dismissal compensation. This will be
limited at three times median earnings, roughly £77,646. The no
limit to the compensation award for discrimination cases will
Usdaw believes that the existing compensation
limits should be kept in place as there is no evidence that the
current level of maximum compensation for unfair dismissal puts
employers off taking on new staff.
Maximum compensation awards should not be
linked to annual earnings and tribunals should retain their
discretion to award higher compensation to reflect lost future
earnings and pensions.
There is also a real risk that reducing the
maximum tribunal award will have the knock on effect of reducing
the payments made under settlement agreements.
Furthermore, those who are already on low pay
will have their maximum level limited at the lowest level.
Part-time workers would be particularly affected.