Labouring under a ton of new legal practices

HR experts look back at Labour’s record since it took office in 1997


The CIPD said it is disappointed with Labour’s heavy-handed approach to
legislation since 1997. It questions whether many of the regulations have benefited
either the employer or the employee.

Emmott, employee relations adviser at the CIPD, said, "The problem is that
governments are good at legislation – it is easy. The promotion of good
work-based practice, however, is a lot harder and needs a lot more time and

He is concerned that the Government does not provide enough time for proper
consultation with employers.

"The 90-day time limit does not give employers enough time to have
their say," he said. "Although the DTI is saying it will wait three
months after the end of the consultation period before implementing

"The DTI is setting a standard and I just hope it keeps to it."

Emmott also believes the Government should provide employers with more
guidance once new legislation is in force. He said, "Legislation under the
current government tends to be wordy and lack clarity. I know our members are
very concerned that Labour seems to be unwilling or unable to give employers

He called on the next government to place more emphasis on promoting best
practice in the workplace and stop the flow of new legislation.

Employers’ forum on statue and practice

The Government has consistently failed to consult thoroughly before
introducing new regulation, according to the chief executive of the Employers’
Forum on Statute and Practice.

the Government’s record over the past four years, Robbie Gilbert told Personnel
Today that failure to consult properly with relevant bodies has undermined some
of the legislation introduced.

He said, "I would give the Government five out of 10 in terms of giving
adequate opportunity for input from HR practitioners.

"There have been a number of problems – the Working Time and Parental
Leave directives, for example, where the Government had to revisit the
regulations to deal with issues they would have picked up on in the first place
if there had been proper consultation with practitioners."

Gilbert is unhappy with the Government’s approach to consultation on the
Work and Parents Green Paper, where the first policy announcements were made
within 24 hours of the end of the consultation period.

Gilbert said the Better Consultation for Better Regulation campaign, which
the Employers’ Forum on Statute and Practice ran in conjunction with Personnel
Today, was prompted by this failure to consult properly.

But he is hopeful there will be a gradual improvement following publication
in November of a code of practice on written consultation by the Cabinet Office
when Tony Blair admitted real changes in behaviour were needed.

Gilbert has been encouraged by the attitude of the DTI, which he said has
made a real effort to consult with practitioners over the Fixed-term Work

Cranfield School of Management

While the professor of HR management at Cranfield School of Management has
been impressed with the Government’s handling of the economy, he is concerned
that the increase in employment regulation could damage businesses’ long-term

Shaun Tyson said, "Employers will be pleased by the steady economy, low
inflation and growth, but I am concerned that legislation leading towards
part-time working could have a long-term effect on the economy."

He fears that the drive to lower the number of unemployed, particularly
through new paternity and maternity changes, could reduce the flexibility of UK

Tyson is also concerned that it will increase employers’ costs and warned,
"Employees’ new-found flexibility rights could discourage companies taking
on extra labour and expanding their business."

Tyson continued, "Britain’s workforce is more flexible than Germany’s
or France’s but is less competitive than that in the US.

"I fear that the newly implemented legislation, along with Britain not
using the euro, could discourage big companies from coming to Britain."

Employment Lawyers

biggest achievement in power has been to expand employment rights for workers
without becoming as over-regulated as Europe, Russell Brimelow, head of employment
group at law firm Boodle Hatfield, has claimed.

Brimelow points to Labour’s introduction of trade union recognition as an
example of regulation that appeases both employers and trade unions.
"Employers have been pleasantly surprised at how Labour has gone about
employment legislation," he said. But he is critical of the DTI’s
implementation of the Working Time regulations. It needs to be clearer and more
user-friendly, he claimed.

Joanna Blackburn, a partner at law firm Mishcon de Reya, believes the
National Minimum Wage has changed the way employers think.

She said, "In the UK, we have always set our own wages and this piece
of legislation resulted in a significant change to the way employment has been
conducted on a contractual basis."

The Industrial Society

Government has carried out a quiet revolution in the world of work since it was
elected in 1997, according to the Industrial Society. Industrial Society chief
executive Will Hutton believes measures such as the minimum wage, paternity
leave, improvements to maternity leave, legislation protecting part-time
workers and plans to implement the EU directive on age discrimination have had a
big impact.

He also praised the Government on achieving constitutional change in
Scotland, Wales and London as well as the introduction of the Freedom of
Information Act.

Hutton says low-income families on £13,000 or less are up to £3,000 better
off now than in 1997 because of development such as the Minimum Wage and
Working Families Tax Credit.

But he is unhappy about what he sees as the continuing decline in public
services and a lack of tolerance in the Government’s approach to the criminal
justice system, asylum-seekers and people on welfare.

He thinks the UK has also become more competitive over the past four years.

Main employment legislation introduced since 1997

21 May 2001
The Employment Rights (Dispute Resolution) Act 1998

Acas to operate an arbitration scheme for unfair dismissal cases

2 April 2001
Race Relations (Amendment)Act 2000

Places a duty on public authorities to eliminate unlawful discrimination

2 October 2000
Human Rights Act 1998

Individuals given the right to bring proceedings against public authorities
for infringement of human rights.

1 July 2000
Part Time Workers Regulations 2000

Introduces new rights for part-time workers not to be treated less
favourably than full-timers

1 July 2000
Employment Tribunals (Constitution and Rules of Procedure) Regulations

Widens tribunal powers to strike out weak claims

1 March 2000
Data Protection Act 1998

A framework of protection against intrusion into information privacy.

15 January 2000
The Transnational Information and Consultation of Employees Regulations

Gives employees in multinationals a right to receive information about the
business and to be consulted about certain activities.

15 December 1999
Employment Relations Act 1999

Increased maternity leave, and unfair dismissal awards (Oct 2000).
Also introduced unpaid parental leave, time off for dependents, trade union
recognition, right to be accompanied at disciplinary hearings (Sept 2000)

6 August 1999
Disability Rights Commission Act 1999

Set up the Disability Rights Commission to eliminate discrimination against
disabled people and promote equal opportunities.

2 July 1999
Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998

Introduced protection for whistleblowers at work

1 June 1999
Working Time Regulations 1998

Introduced a right to four weeks’ paid leave a year and limited the working
week to 48 hours a week for staff

1 April 1999
National Minimum Wage Act 1998

Introduced a right for most workers to receive an hourly minimum wage

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