Government plans to review redundancy laws meet with criticism from profession
Moves to put pressure on companies to consult with staff before announcing redundancies have received a cool reception from HR directors.
Trade and Industry Secretary Stephen Byers revealed plans to review UK arrangements affecting collective redundancies to the House of Commons.
Byers said the CBI and the TUC will be asked to comment on current laws and whether more should be done to promote effective consultation with employees.
But HR directors pointed to the problems caused by global decisions that demand significant restructuring at short notice.
Bruce Warman, personnel director at Vauxhall, which has announced 2,000 redundancies following its decision to close its Luton plant, said employers face a minefield of conflicting laws.
He said. "There are different regulations in different countries which can conflict." He explained that stock exchange rules in other countries, including the US, clash with European Works Council rules on consultation - leaving HR directors caught in the crossfire.
"The reality of business is increasingly tough. This review may be an opportunity to debate whether redundancies can be implemented in a more acceptable way," he said.
Mark Childs, director of global compensation and benefits for Fidelity Investments, said, "Most employers feel the current balance is about right. The Government is feeling a two-way pull. It does not want to be surprised by foreign companies announcing business closures. But it is under pressure from domestic firms not to put them in a position where they have to consult employers before they talk to investors."
By Ben Willmott