Business backs simplified

THE 90-day consultation period before firms can begin large-scale redundancies will be cut in half, the government announced yesterday.

The news was welcomed by business groups, who said it would reduce uncertainty for staff and reverse the so-called gold-plating of EU employment rules.

Employment minister Jo Swinson also unveiled plans to exclude workers on fixed term contracts that have “reached the end of their natural life” from collective redundancy negotiations.

“We have listened to stakeholders and there is a strong argument for shortening the minimum period which is backed up by hard evidence,” said Swinson, a Lib Dem.

“The process is usually completed well within the existing 90-day minimum period, which can cause unnecessary delays for restructuring, and make it difficult for those affected to get new jobs quickly.”

“Our reforms will strike an appropriate balance between making sure employees are engaged in decisions about their future and allowing employers greater certainty and flexibility to take necessary steps to restructure,” she added.

The changes will be made through secondary legislation and are expected to be in place by April 2013.

Alexander Ehmann, head of regulatory policy at the Institute of Directors, said: “Removing those employees on expired fixed-term contracts from this legislation is welcome, as their original inclusion was a particularly egregious example of the unnecessary gold-plating of European legislation.”

Neil Carberry, CBI director for employment and skills agreed: “The priority for businesses is meaningful consultation. A shorter consultation period will reduce uncertainty for staff and allow businesses to focus on the future more quickly.”

TUC general secretary Brendan Barber said the change would not benefit workers: “The idea that an employer will change their mind about taking someone on because the statutory redundancy consultation period has been reduced from 90 to 45 days is close to absurd.”