No post-Brexit bonfire of employment law needed: CIPD study

New research from the CIPD shows most employers support the UK’s current EU-based employment rights framework. The study dampens fears of the need for wholesale change post-Brexit.

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The professional body for HR and people development’s survey of more than 500 employers, carried out with commercial law firm Lewis Silkin, asked whether they regarded 28 different aspects of employment law necessary.The list included unfair dismissal laws, rated as necessary by 93 per cent of businesses, as well as national minimum wage (87%), parental rights at work (82%), agency workers laws (75%) and the Working Time Regulations (74%). Each one was rated necessary by a majority of employers.The CIPD reports the full findings in its new study, Employment Regulation in the UK: Burden or Benefit?The findings underline broad support among employers for the UK’s employment rights framework as negotiations over the country’s departure from the EU get underway and thwart arguments of excessive legislation.

Positive impact of employment law

The research also finds that more than half (52%) of employers go beyond what’s required when it comes to employment law, while 44 per cent say they meet the minimum requirements.Employers recognise the positive impact of employment law on their employees, with more than two-thirds (68%) agreeing that it increases employees’ sense of fairness and trust in the employer, and seven in ten (69%) saying implementing employment law improves the quality of employees’ working lives.When asked what areas should be the focus of future legislation to improve protections, more than a third (36%) say well-being issues, such as workplace stress, and a nearly a third (30%) say technology should be the focus.

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Rachel Suff, employment adviser at the CIPD, said: “This research shows that in many ways, the rhetoric around employment law simply does not match the reality. While much has been written about the need to roll back important aspects of our employment law framework to free businesses of red tape, it is clear that businesses themselves recognise the value of employment protection."

Broad support for current framework

Ms Suff continued: “Many of these regulations exist to protect workers against exploitation, ensure they are paid a fair wage and prevent discrimination in the workplace and can help improve people management practices. Even the more controversial aspects of employment law, such as the Working Time Regulations, have broad support from UK businesses.“As we debate the future of employment regulation, both in the general election and in Brexit negotiations, it is vital that we don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater by making sweeping changes to employment legislation that businesses may not want.”

Legislation clarity could be improved

The research also find that while all of the regulations are considered necessary, in practice some can be difficult to apply. For example, the agency workers laws were rated as necessary by three-quarters (75%) of businesses, but just a third (36%) said that they are well drafted. Similarly, whistleblowing laws are seen as necessary by 83 per cent of businesses, while half (41%) think they are well drafted and easy to apply.James Davies, divisional managing partner and joint head of employment at Lewis Silkin LLP, added: “This research demonstrates just how much support there is among businesses for employment regulation which is well designed and well implemented. In the UK, we continue to enjoy the benefits of employment laws that achieve a balance between worker protection and business flexibility for which there is much support. Employment regulation and successful businesses are not mutually exclusive ideas.“It is also clear that, however well intentioned, there are a number of existing regulations which business feels need revisiting to ensure that they are clear, more straightforward to implement, and truly fit for purpose.”

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