Vince Cable calls sacking plans in Beecroft report 'the wrong approach'


Speaking in May this year Vince Cable criticised proposals to make it easier for firms to fire staff

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Business Secretary Vince Cable has condemned proposals to make it easier for firms to sack under-performing staff as "the wrong approach".

A report commissioned by the prime minister is also expected to call for shorter periods of consultation over compulsory redundancies.

But Mr Cable told the BBC it was not the job of government to "scare the wits" out of people.

Many Tory MPs back the plans as a means to boost the UK's businesses.

The economy re-entered recession in the first quarter of this year and the coalition government is looking for ways to encourage growth.

The report, which was published on Monday, was compiled by Conservative-supporting venture capitalist Adrian Beecroft.

Its proposals include:

  • An end to a mandatory 90-day consultation period when a company is considering redundancy programmes. Instead it will suggest a standard 30-day period and an emergency five-day period if a firm is in severe distress
  • A cap on loss-of-earnings compensation for employees who make successful discriminatory dismissal claims
  • Reform of the rights that workers are allowed to "carry" to new employers when their companies are the subject of a takeover
  • Scrapping provisions in the Equality Act which make employers liable for claims from employees for "third-party harassment", such as customers making "sexist" comments to staff in a restaurant
  • Shifting responsibility for checking foreign workers' eligibility to work in the UK from employers to the Border Agency or the Home Office

The study follows David Cameron's call for British industry to be freed from "red tape".

Changes to employment law, it is argued, would improve the supply of suitable staff to firms, who would be less afraid of having to make large payouts or face legal action when laying off those who are no longer needed.

The theory is that firms would hire more staff and the change would make the UK a more attractive place to start and grow a business.

The plans, which have not been accepted by the prime minister, have been portrayed as a source of tension between Conservatives and Liberal Democrats.

The Beecroft Report had been due to be published later in the week, but this was brought forward after leaks of what the government called an out-of-date version.

Business minister Mark Prisk told the Commons that action was already being taken on 17 of the 23 Beecroft recommendations.

Mr Cable told the BBC: "Most of it is pretty uncontroversial, but there's one bit which is this so-called 'no-fault dismissal', which some people describe as a hire-and-fire system.

"I don't see the role for that. Britain has already got a very flexible, cooperative labour force. We don't need to scare the wits out of workers with threats to dismiss them. It's completely the wrong approach."

But Mr Cable's department has issued a call for evidence to see whether firms with fewer than 10 employees would favour the no-fault dismissal rule.

When asked whether there was a difference of view between himself and Downing street, he said: "I think we're all on the same page."

'Right direction'

Mr Cable has reportedly spoken several times via telephone to Labour leader Ed Miliband since the coalition came to power.

Mr Miliband refused to be drawn on the claims, adding that he had conversed with "lots of people lots of times".

However, his comments on the Beecroft proposals echoed those of the business secretary: "We need an economy based on long-termism, investment and training. We need to get away from an economy based on a short-term, take-what-you-can, fire-at-will culture."

But Conservative MP Damian Collins said: "It would be terrible if smaller businesses were holding back on recruiting because they're worried about whether they can sustain the income they need to keep those people on over the longer period of time."

The prime minister's spokeswoman said the government wanted to "support business, encourage growth, while at the same time ensuring that employees rights to work were not weakened".

She added: "The PM is not wedded to one set of proposals or another, but he does believe he should look at what can make the process (on employment) easier."

Adam Marshall, director of policy at the British Chambers of Commerce, said: "Of course employment rights are important, but should be weighed against opportunities for the unemployed who are looking for work."


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  • rate this

    Comment number 176.

    This is a fascist dictatorship in the making, break this rule, break that rule endanger life cut corners and if you do not THE SACK and if you do and kill someone YOUR to blame, under the rules these bosses want flaunting
    This is ABOUT bullying and nothing else, work overtime or get of the job, even if you are breaking the rules
    And if you stand up them YOUR SACKED AGAIN

  • rate this

    Comment number 175.

    If the recommendations had been stronger enforcement of trial employment, more access to groups such as ACAS for settling problems in work and encouragement to train staff before writing them off as useless, THEN I would be more inclined to think that this was about helping managers, rather than simply making life easier for them.

  • rate this

    Comment number 174.

    There needs to be a clear balance for both employers and employees. Red tape should be cut wherever possible. However, if employees no longer feel secure in their jobs they will soon stop spending (what little they do). This intern will drag the economy down.

  • rate this

    Comment number 173.

    Maybe its time we took all this troublsome employment law to task. Lets be honest it is Europe poking their nose in again. We need as a country to be able to dispose of all the unproductive people in the UK. You know the feckless,lazy disabled, old and terminally ill. That way our country will be great again. Welcome to Tory Britain, tally ohhh.

  • rate this

    Comment number 172.

    The point of having a probationary period in any job is to see if the person can and will do the job proerly. If not it's easy to get rid of them.
    Why do we need to make it easier to sack people who have been in their job for much longer, surely they have done a decent job or wouldn't have been kept on after the probationary period?

  • rate this

    Comment number 171.

    "114.Russ Gladwish
    Employment law is quite specific. If someone is not up to scratch you discipline them and if they dont improve you can sack them. If bosses are now too lazy to follow a simple system why should all employee's suffer."

    That might work okay in the private sector. But something is wrong as the last time I looked, the public sector is full of dead wood.

  • rate this

    Comment number 170.

    England has very little to offer anyone now, unless you've paid to have tea with Dave.

    The only thing the workers have left is power in numbers. Predictions of mass walk outs and further action will haunt this government as long as it twiddles with power.

    Cameron is to England, what the Captain of the Concordia was to sailing.

    He has the map upside down, and is sailing close to the edge.

  • rate this

    Comment number 169.

    People asking why employees should be worried if they are doing their jobs. Doing your job nowadays= no guarantee you're doing enough. More competitive industries such as finance and architecture evening and weekend working is expected of you but rarely advertised as such (various legalities); legions of people willing to work 90+ hours per week and if you complain you're out.

  • rate this

    Comment number 168.

    A very dangerous or perhaps a very good suggestion. After all we would lose the House of Commons immediately. For God's sake.

  • rate this

    Comment number 167.

    If the no fault dismissal comes into force. It terms of peoples health it'd be better if they lived off benefits rather than being stressed out with the prospect of loosing their job at a whim.

  • rate this

    Comment number 166.

    Pdibbs: Indeed, and many seem to be against worker rights. "Fire all those bad workers except me!"

    In Spain 1/4 of the workforce are unemployed. If that's where we end up by continuing down their path rather than the German/US investment route, then no matter how hard-working you think you are, that's where you'll be too.

    Then they came for you -
    and there was no one left to speak out for you.

  • rate this

    Comment number 165.

    We'll soon be back to touching our forelocks at the rate the Tories are going. Soon there will be no workers rights.

  • rate this

    Comment number 164.

    Yes, make it easier to sack underperforming people who will then be replaced by yet more underperforming people. Britain, a shining example to the rest of the world for creating irrelevant none jobs, a demotivated workforce and poor customer service.

  • rate this

    Comment number 163.


    "Germany: Effective worker rights produces workers and employers mutually interested in long term development. Success results."

    Germany has a huge immigrant workforce that is effectively exempt under german law from such niceties as the minimum working wage.
    In many cases they are lucky to be on half of the wages paid to germans doing the same jobs.

  • rate this

    Comment number 162.

    Of course they want to terrify us, so we'll accept minimum wage for any job and be grateful for it, and not complain or ask for more. That is, after all, what the Tories think our proper station in life is.

  • rate this

    Comment number 161.


    Following that logic,in the interests of fairness,what about staff having a say regarding the dismissal of poor managers? Plenty of them out there. Shame it didn't happen prior to the banking crisis eh??

  • rate this

    Comment number 160.

    Just why isn't Vince cable the leader of the Lib dems? (not that I'd wish it on him in their current tory facilitator role).

    He seems honest, reasonable and trustworthy and wholly likeable.

    has anyone seen (or heard of) clegg or has he disappeared from his boot licking duties for shenanigans with foggy and compo?

  • rate this

    Comment number 159.

    How do people think the Germans have powered ahead in the last decade? Could it be lighter regulations, job sharing, neutered unions and pay cuts ?
    Yes, indeed it is. Worked though.

  • rate this

    Comment number 158.

    The idea behind these proposals is clear. By intimidating employees further the employer can get more work out of them still for less reward. Already people are doing huge amounts of unpaid work in the form of additional hours out of fear. These proposals give the employer yet more armament to take that further. It's not difficult to get rid of poor performers but needs good management.

  • rate this

    Comment number 157.

    I've just read this article again, and Cameron is really making me sick these days. He has little regard for employees, most employees are good workers - usually doing two or three peoples' jobs as well as their own in these days of so-called austerity. Talk about kick people when they're down. He needs a taste of his own medicine, silly little messenger man.


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