Employers have expressed relief over the Government’s decision not to
significantly amend the Employment Relations Act 1999.
It was feared the DTI’s review of the legislation would bow to union
pressure and grant a range of concessions, including the extension of union
However, the Act will remain largely unchanged, a move labelled ‘common
sense’ by CBI deputy director-general John Cridland.
Announcing the findings of the review last week, employment minister Alan
Johnson said changes were unnecessary because the legislation was working
successfully in its current form.
He said the Act was delivering better working conditions and promoting a new
climate of co-operation between employers and staff.
"We’ve got the lowest levels of industrial action on record, the
highest employment on record and the largest number of recognition deals. This
legislation is working and is a success.
"Trade unions will take up whatever opportunity arises and they sent us
a long list of demands. Some elements have only been in place for 22 months, so
we weren’t going to change them fundamentally," Johnson said.
The DTI has announced several minor changes to the Act. It has agreed to
provide earlier access rights to unions in recognition cases and establish a
new legal right for workers to use union services.
The review also clarified the right to be accompanied at disciplinary
procedures, which should allow companions to actively participate, rather than
The TUC wanted the Government to make it easier for unions to win statutory
recognition ballots and abolish the exclusion of employers with less than 21
Sarah Veale, senior employment officer at the TUC, said she was disappointed
the DTI had failed to reform any key areas of the Act.
"The truth is, the DTI has gone along with the business lobby and we’re
very disappointed. The Act itself is a step in the right direction but doesn’t
go far enough," she said.
Feedback from the profession
Employment Act review is victory for ‘common sense’
Diane Sinclair, lead adviser on public policy, CIPD: "We very much
welcome this pragmatic approach to the review of the Act. The law has largely worked
well, with fewer disputes than might have been feared when it was introduced.
There’s no evidence that the central features of the Act should be
David Yeandle, EEF deputy director of employment policy: "The
Government must ensure any amendments which are subsequently made to the Act
improve its operation in a practical way and avoid changes that could damage
the industrial relations climate."
John Edmonds, general secretary, GMB: "The Government has capitulated
to the demands of the CBI and has left workers vulnerable by not strengthening
union recognition rights or protecting workers while they are on a legal
John Cridland, deputy director-general, CBI: "The unions may huff and
puff but most people will see the Government’s decision to leave the key
provisions of the act alone as a victory for common sense."