Redundancy consultation period halved: Mood music more discordant
Authors: Stephen Bevan
19 December 2012
On the day when Comet, the electrical retailer, finally collapsed into administration, the government announced yesterday that it is going to halve the consultation period for larger-scale redundancies from 90 days to 45 days. Almost 7000 Comet employees in 236 stores will have lost their jobs and, in this case at least, it appears that no amount of consultation would have saved jobs. However, in many organisations the requirement to consult and to seek ‘suitable alternative’ employment for those whose posts are at risk can frequently result in jobs being saved through redeployment or retraining.
Ironically, both the government and the TUC agree that most consultations take less than the full 90 days already and that it can be the quality and effectiveness of the consultation that matters rather than how long it takes. However, the main point about this announcement is not whether it should be 30, 45 or 90 days but whether the cumulative ‘mood music’ of government announcements about employment security and labour market flexibility is at all helpful in promoting good workplace relations, building confidence among the employed workforce (who are also consumers) or creating the new, high quality jobs which we so desperately need.
The conclusion that I reach is that making it easier to sack people, while popular with the business ‘lobby,’ only creates a negative difference in both job creation and consumer confidence. Having lived through a few recessions myself, it’s entirely predictable that employment regimes tend to get tougher or even more draconian in times of labour surpluses. I know people who have been told by their employers “if you don’t want to do this job, there are 50 more people out there who will” just as their overtime has been cut or they are ‘asked’ to take sick leave as holiday. Eroding employment rights at a time when the labour market is a buyer’s market is all very well, but, the same people egging on the government to deregulate even further are likely to be among the first to complain about skills shortages and hard to fill vacancies once it becomes a seller’s market, as it most surely will.
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