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Workers to have their redundancy notice halved to just 45 days: Unions condemn move as 'utter madness'
The consultation period required before bosses can make large-scale redundancies is being cut from 90 to 45 daysMove was welcomed by British Chambers of Commerce which said it would cut red-tapeBut news was met with fury from unions at a time of job insecurity and a faltering economy
23:39 GMT, 18 December 2012
Bosses were yesterday given the green light to make their workers redundant more quickly.
The consultation period required before large-scale redundancies are made is being halved.
The move was applauded by business lobby groups but unions said it was ‘utter madness’ at a time of job insecurity and a stuttering economy.
Cuts: The consultation period required before a boss can make large-scale redundancies will be reduced from next April
At present, a 90-day consultation period is needed before a boss can make 100 or more redundancies. From April, it will be cut to 45 days under regulations to be drafted early in the new year.
A company will be allowed to consult for a longer period if it wants to, but 45 days will become the new minimum consultation period.
The rules for smaller companies making 20 or more redundancies will not change, remaining at 30 days. There are no rules for firms making fewer than 20 redundancies. Employment Relations Minister Jo Swinson said it was sensible to change the law ‘to respond to an ever-changing employment landscape’.
She said: ‘There is a strong argument for shortening the minimum period which is backed up by hard evidence.’
'A shorter consultation period will reduce uncertainty for staff and allow businesses to focus on the future more quickly'
Neil Carberry, CBI director for employment
The plans come at a time when official figures show the number of people working in the private sector has hit an all-time high of 24million. But there are still 2.5million unemployed.
The British Chambers of Commerce welcomed the change, which it believes will help to cut the red tape that businesses say strangles their ability to grow.
Dr Adam Marshall, director of policy, said: ‘In the 21st century, requiring a business to spend a quarter of a year consulting on how to restructure is unnecessary, frustrating and potentially disastrous.
‘The new rules will encourage firms to focus on quality consultation with staff and enable timely but fair decisions. This greater flexibility to change direction more swiftly reduces uncertainty for employees and customers and may help to prevent further job losses where the survival of the business could be at risk.’
The CBI said it was a positive move and was preferable to allowing the consultation period to drag on for months, which can be unsettling for workers.
Neil Carberry, director for employment at the CBI, said: ‘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.’
Fury: Unite general secretary Len McCluskey described the 'regressive' measure as 'utter madness'
But trades unions reacted with fury to the proposal. Britain’s biggest union, Unite, insists the current 90-day rule gives bosses, their workers and unions the best chance of trying to protect jobs through negotiation.
'This is one of the most regressive, anti-job measures ever taken by any government'
Unite general secretary Len McCluskey
General secretary Len McCluskey said: ‘This is one of the most regressive, anti-job measures ever taken by any government.
‘To be taken in the depths of this financial crisis when the economy faces a triple-dip recession is utter madness.
‘Scything back the consultation period for larger scale redundancies, from 90 days to 45 days, is akin to hanging a massive “exit here” notice across Britain’s businesses.’
Bronwyn McKenna, assistant general secretary of Unison, said: ‘The recession has led to fear in the workplace. The Government is adding to those fears by cutting short the opportunity for meaningful talks to take place.
‘Any worker facing redundancy needs time to plan, to mitigate the impact on them and their family finances. Making arrangements to cover mortgages or rent, sort out bills, re-train and apply for new jobs all takes time and this cut will leave families facing financial hardship.’