Relief as Europe puts full stop on employment law

UK
employers can breathe a sigh of relief after ministers agreed at the Nice
Summit of the European Council that there will be no extension to employment
legislation.

While the
Social Policy Agenda, which aims to increase employment levels to 70 per cent
of 16- and 64-year-olds, was confirmed at the summit, the UK Government
successfully opposed moves to introduce common standards on individual cases of
dismissal, wage levels and workforce consultation.

Fortunately
for employers, the Government has maintained its resistance to the draft
legislation on information and consultation tabled by France, which currently
holds the rotating six-month EU presidency.

If the
draft directive became law, middle-sized businesses would be obliged to consult
their workforce on mergers, major re-organisations and redundancies.

Employers
would be hit hard, claimed Robbie Gilbert, chairman of the Employers’ Forum on
Statute and Practice.

He
envisaged a scenario in which a court could veto the contractual consequences
of a company’s organisational restructuring if staff consultation was
inadequate. Employers might have to re-employ staff it had made redundant, for
example.  

Gilbert
said, “The big issue is that just because the draft directive hasn’t been
passed now does not mean that it has gone away. There could easily have been
some horse-trading by a pre-election Labour Government.”

Trade
unions demonstrated at the summit for better consultation rights and the TUC
released a report Don’t Keep Us in the Dark to coincide with the event. It
claims that all too often employers are keeping their staff in the dark over
job cuts and closures and calls for the UK Government to end its opposition.

Employment
minister Tessa Jowell claimed that the agreement on the Social Policy Agenda
was a watershed for the EU. She believes that there is a growing consensus
across Europe that tackling social exclusion does not just concern social policy
but employment issues as well.

By mike
broad

www.europa.eu.int

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