Employment rights reforms could put mandatory retirement back onto agenda
The papers today are full of reports that the government is going to back some of Adrian Beecroft’s proposals to curb workers’ rights. The Independent reports that Vince Cable is unveiling a number of measures, including increasing the qualifying period for workers to be able to claim unfair dismissal from one to two years.
Seemingly, the Business Secretary is also set to confirm that the government will introduce ‘protected conversations’ between an employer and a worker to discuss issues such as poor performance without this being used later in any tribunal claim.
The Indy also carries a sceptical editorial arguing that there is “little evidence that [such measures] would result in any meaningful economic improvement” and warning that they would be “unacceptably open to abuse”.
As Brian Groom points out in the Financial Times, this proposed overhaul of employment laws is highly politically contentious.
Many Liberal Democrats are said to believe that the removal of workers’ rights will only heighten fear in the workplace at a time of rising unemployment and, in turn, suppress consumer demand.
Vince Cable says that he has “seen no evidence to suggest that no fault dismissal would be a good idea,” but why then is he launching a consultation on it? The answer surely can only be found in the horse trading of coalition politics.
Wherever this discussion leads remains to be seen but it would be alarming if “protected conversations”, the increase in qualifying periods for claims and the facilitation (or encouragement?) of no fault capability dismissals were to effectively set the clock back with regard to the legitimisation of mandatory retirement.
Incidentally, it will be recalled that whilst the default retirement age has been repealed, employers who can show legitimate underlying aims can opt to retain mandatory retirement ages, providing such measures are deemed a proportionate response to the aim identified.
Such employer justified retirement ages (EJRAs) have proved few and far between, for understandable reasons, but a search by TAEN reveals the interesting fact that two of them are from our leading universities.
While the prospect is enticing of learned academic advancing legal arguments to electrify (or induce torpor in) the employment tribunals of our university towns, it could be that the legal changes mentioned above would make the EJRAs redundant – to use the word advisedly.
Over-reaction is never desirable, but it seems a significantly less secure future is in prospect for older workers wishing to work into their later sixties.
The old trick of “give a thing and take a thing” could be one result of the changes mooted this morning. Mandatory retirement could be with us again under a different name, not perhaps so widely practiced, but nonetheless a significant uncertainty if these changes proceed.