Beecroft proposals on UK employment law cause controversy
The UK Government published the Beecroft Report ahead of schedule this week, following the emergence of a leaked copy.
The Government had been due to publish the report later this week but following a leak in the Daily Telegraph, it took the decision to publish early.
Further controversy has come to light as there were some proposals and wording in the leaked version (Beecroft #1) that were subsequently omitted from the official published version (Beecroft #2) which has undermined many of the proposals and strategies contained within the document.
The Beecroft report was commissioned by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS), as part of a challenge to reduce red tape in UK Government, and to identify areas of employment law which could be simplified in order to accelerate growth and create jobs. The report, drafted by the venture capitalist Adrian Beecroft, was first drafted in October 2011. The focus at the time, although the report was not published, was on “compensated no-fault dismissals”. The theory behind this is that employers would be able to “fire at will” and be more willing to employ if they knew they could “get rid of staff” with ease.
The leaked version of the Beecroft Report covered a lot more than just compensated no-fault dismissals, including (amongst other areas) exemptions for small businesses, discrimination law, tribunal processes, flexible parental leave, simplied immigration system, TUPE changes, collective redundancies and pensions.
It is the compensated no-fault dismissals which have taken over much of the headlines, leading to a public spat between Vince Cable, who calls some of the plans “bonkers”, and Adrian Beecroft, who in turn has hit back describing Vince Cable as “a socialist who found a home with the Lib Dems”.
However much of the employment law industry also responded negatively to many of the proposals in the report, with some describing the report as “simply a list of all the employment laws that Adrian Beecroft and people he talked to don’t like” (legalweek.com).
The final version of the report was published on Monday evening, but it would appear that “a funny thing happened on the way to the printers” as some of the more controversial elements of the report were removed in what will be known as Beecroft #2. These included:
- removal of the Executive Summary, which included the quote “The downside of the [compensated no-fault dismissal] proposal is that some people would be dismissed simply because their employer did not like them. While this is sad I believe it is a price worth paying…”
- Right to request flexible working. The section in Beecroft #1 covering this has been removed in the official version; it had proposed that the extension to all workers be abandoned
- Flexible parental leave. The section in Beecroft #1 has again been removed. In the leaked version Beecroft had called for flexible parental leave to be scrapped or deferred.
- Employment of children. Adrian Beecroft had suggested in the leaked version that regulations govering the employment of children be removed – but instead this section has been removed for the official publication.