A ‘Brexit bonfire of employment law is not needed’, say employers

There is no need for a Brexit bonfire of employment law, says a new report

Employers do not think ‘a Brexit bonfire of employment law’ is necessary, according to new research. However, while there is broad support among employers for the UK’s employment right’s framework, the majority do want ‘fundamental change’ when it comes to employment tribunal fees.

As negotiations over the country’s departure from the EU begin, the study Employment Regulation in the UK: Burden or Benefit?, by the CIPD and law firm Lewis Silkin, asked over 500 employers about the UK’s employment rights framework, including EU originated legislation.

Employers were asked whether they viewed more than twenty different aspects of employment law as necessary or not. The list included unfair dismissal laws, rated as necessary by 93% of businesses, as well as national minimum wage (87%), parental rights at work (82%), agency workers’ laws (75%) and the Working Time Regulations (74%). All twenty-eight areas of employment law surveyed were rated as necessary by a majority of employers.

The research also found that one in five (19%) employers believe the number of tribunal claims have decreased as a result of the introduction of employment tribunal fees, with just three per cent reporting an increase and a third (34%) of employers want the existing level of employment tribunal fees maintained.

However, the majority view is that employers want fundamental change, with 15% saying the fees should be abolished, 11% agreeing that they should be substantially reduced and 19% supporting a single £50 fee for all claims.

The CIPD says that the research shows that in many ways, the rhetoric around employment law simply ‘does not match the reality’. It points out that while much has been written about the need to roll back important aspects of employment law framework, it is clear that businesses recognise the value of employment protection.

Rachel Suff, Employment Adviser at the CIPD says: “Many of these regulations exist to protect workers against exploitation, ensure they are paid a fair wage and prevent discrimination in the workplace.

“As we debate the future of employment regulation, both in the general election and in Brexit negotiations, it is vital that we don’t make sweep changes to employment legislation that businesses may not want.”

The research did find that while all of the regulations are considered necessary, there are many that are not well drafted and potentially difficult to apply. For example, the agency workers’ laws were rated as necessary by three quarters (75%) of businesses, but just a third (36%) said that they are well drafted and easy to apply and while whistleblowing laws are seen as necessary by 83% of businesses, only half that proportion (41%) think they are well drafted and easy to apply.

James Davies, Divisional Managing Partner and Joint Head of Employment at Lewis Silkin LLP, says: “In the UK, we continue to enjoy the benefits of employment laws which achieve a balance between worker protection and business flexibility for which there is much support. Employment regulation and successful businesses are not mutually exclusive ideas.

“It is also clear that, however well intentioned, there are a number of existing regulations which business feels need revisiting to ensure that they are clear, more straightforward to implement, and truly fit for purpose.”

The research also finds that more than half (52%) of employers go beyond what’s required when it comes to employment law, while 44% say they meet the minimum requirements. When asked what areas should be the focus of future legislation to improve protections, more than a third (36%) say well-being issues, such as workplace stress, and a nearly a third (30%) say technology should be the focus.

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